Christians of a more liturgical bent are in the middle of the ascetic season of Lent, discipling those “desires of the flesh,” hopefully with a measure of cheerfulness. But you don’t have to have high regard for Lent to appreciate the fact that Jesus didn’t merely command fasting, but instead just assumed his followers would fast. When talking about it in the Sermon on the Mount, for example, he began, “And when you fast.”
Why does Jesus think fasting is a normal part of the life of faith? What difference does it really make? Then there is this: If we were to get good answers to those two questions, how exactly do we do it? What constitutes “fasting”? And how can one do it so that (a) it really does increase our hunger for God and (b) brings some cheer into our lives?
According to Don Whitney, professor of biblical spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, fasting has a unique quality among the spiritual disciplines. “Unlike any of the other spiritual disciplines, we actually feel this one in our bodies.”
It’s this trait that, according to Whitney, serves as a constant reminder of whatever purpose we set out to accomplish through our fast.
Whitney joined editor in chief Mark Galli and guest-host and online managing editor Richard Clark on Quick to Listen to talk about the reasons we should fast, pitfalls to avoid, and whether a fast from social media really counts as a genuine application of the ancient spiritual discipline.1