It’s Ramadan, a time of fasting for Muslims everywhere. They are called to abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset for a month as one of the five pillars of Islam. My friend shared that she only fasts for part of it and talked about how hard it is to fast. My friend’s husband isn’t fasting and was told by other Muslims that if he didn’t fast, he wasn’t Muslim. As a Christian, I believe you can be a Christian without fasting. It is not the act of doing or not doing something that unites us to Christ. Rather it is our faith in him.
She started asking questions about Christians and fasting. I found myself wondering how to answer her though. As Christians, it is not a requirement to fast but we are called to fast. Matthew 6:16-18 doesn’t say ‘if we fast’ but rather ‘when we fast’. It isn’t an ‘if/then’ statement. We often turn to Matthew 6 and examine the Lord’s prayer, but when we look at it as a whole and see the big picture, what amazing instruction Jesus gives us. There are three ‘when’ statements he gives us. When we give, when we pray, when we fast. There is power when we are doing all three.
We are told to do it…. but how many of us actually do? I know a number of people who will select something to give up during Lent, but is this the Biblical fasting we are called to do? I think it’s great to unplug, and think we should, but Biblically speaking fasting is defined as abstaining from food and drinks. Are we practicing this in the church though?
Will my skipping food convince God to heal someone, provide something or in any other way lower himself to my level? Absolutely not! I don’t fast expecting it to be some magic formula that if I give up this, then God will do this. I say that and yet while there may not be expectations, there is faith. God tells us he hears us when we fast and pray. There have been times I have felt the need not just to pray fervently, but to pray and fast. To give of myself as I petitioned God’s mercy.