The following thoughts come from a short testimony I gave about fasting in an OBU Chapel service on March 16, 2018.
I’m not going to lie. I might be the worst person to talk about fasting because I am terrible at it. Fasting takes self-control, self-denial, and strength. I don’t have any of these qualities. In fact, Amazon has this thing called a wish list, and it is amazing. Say I put a $20 item in my wish list. Later when I check it when I should be studying, it will remind me that the item has dropped 25% since I added it to my list, and it’s now $15! Obviously I now have one option: purchase it immediately. I do things like this all the time. I can be quite impulsive.
When I started fasting, I really struggled. I did it with a friend of mine from OBU, and we constantly complained to each other throughout the day-some times rather obnoxiously in front of others. (But it was okay because we never said explicitly that we were fasting, right?) And I would constantly try to convince him that we should eat. I usually knew we wouldn’t, but I felt like I should try.
Now I might still be pretty bad at fasting, but I have learned that it has trained me like many other spiritual disciplines. It is a habitual practice that reorients our thought and rearranges our loves. It gets us into the habit of saying “no.” It gets us into the practice of denying our desires. It teaches us to rely on Jesus not ourselves.
Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciples must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). If we want to follow Jesus, we must first deny ourselves. Fasting is one way that we can develop a practice of self-denial. It is a spiritual discipline and a deeply biblical practice. It should always be done intentionally, and it should always be done with the single mission of spiritual growth.
In my personal life, I have begun to be able to say no to temptations that I have had for years. I have been able to deny myself of worldly desires. I have done it because I have been trained to pray to Jesus and receive the strength to say no. I’ve learned recently what it means to pray in Jesus’ name. When we pray in his name, it doesn’t just mean we say our prayers and then say “…in Jesus’ name. Amen.” Praying in his name may include that, but it’s not exclusively that. We pray in Jesus’ name because it has real power. We pray for specific things in his name because it can bring change. When we fast, we train ourselves to say “No. In the name of Jesus give me the strength to keep going and take my hunger from me.” This is training for the great spiritual battles we will fight in our lives. We must fast, so we can fight.