Fasting as a Way to Achieve Spiritual Development

Introduction

Fasting refers to the practice of abstaining from food, drink, and certain activities such as sexual intercourse for a certain period of time to pursue certain spiritual objectives. It is a common practice among many religions and spiritual movements that have been practiced for many centuries. It has variants that depend on its objective and individuals can practice either complete or partial abstinence. The main objective of religious fasting is to center one’s focus on god to achieve certain spiritual outcomes. The main form of fasting involves abstinence from food and drink. However, abstinence from any activity or endeavor to center one’s focus on God is a form of fasting. It should be practiced cautiously because going for prolonged periods without food and drink can have adverse health outcomes. Fasting is an important concept of stewardship of people because it involves bringing people together, guiding them, and empowering them to cooperate to achieve certain spiritual outcomes.

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The importance of corporate fasting

Fasting can be conducted, individually. However, engaging in a communal fast is more compelling and efficacious. One of the main roles of church leaders is to bring people together and empower them to communicate with God through activities such as fasting to strengthen the church family (Weems, 2011). God has a purpose for everyone that can be fulfilled by pursuing the vision and mission that the church represents as a united family of God’s children (Weems, 2011). Therefore, participating in a corporate fast is one of the ways through which Christians can pursue the mission and vision given to the church. A corporate fast is an important way for the church (a family of God’s children) to listen to God for guidance and strength (Weems, 2011). Christians save many resources during fasting that can be used for charity work in the church. Leaders should ensure that the resources are used wisely to enlarge and take care of the church family (Christopher, 2010).

Fasting has been criticized by many proponents of certain religious practices. For example, critics of fasting argue that it is a form of punishing the body because food is the only any through which the body attains energy necessary for normal functioning. However, this argument is biased and incorrect. Fasting is a way of redirecting one’s attention to God by avoiding anything that brings pleasure to the body (Christopher, 2010). Fasting is not a dieting strategy as described by some people. Instead, it is a way of developing deep fellowship with God. Christians are called to worship and develop strong fellowship with God to obtain strength, grace, blessings, and peace (Weems, 2011). The concept of fasting is broad because not everyone can engage in abstinence from food. For example, diabetics cannot go for long periods without food. Therefore, they can abstain from other things that prevent them from focusing their attention on God. One of the most effective ways of conducting fasting is to approach it with an attitude of humility and joy. Christians need to realize that they cannot coerce God into fulfilling their needs and wishes (Christopher, 2010). Instead, they should use spiritual practices such as fasting to strengthen their faith, deepen their spirituality, and transform themselves by listening to God.

Options for corporate fast

As mentioned earlier, not everyone can abstain from food and drink for certain periods. Therefore, there are several options available that Christians can choose from to participate in the corporate fast. First, participants can abstain from food either partially or wholly. Total abstinence involves refraining from consuming anything but water and juices. This option should only be practiced by experienced individuals who have mastered the art of fasting. Partial abstinence involves reframing from taking one meal in a day. This can be effective especially for individuals without fasting experience. Another option is abstinence from media. The media is one of the most pervasive distractions that can prevent Christians from focusing on God. Participants who incorporate fasting should avoid consuming or using any form of media such as the internet, TV, and radio for a certain period during the day.

The third option is abstinence from recreational shopping. People who chose this option are required to abstain from any form of superfluous shopping and instead try to concentrate on God’s goodness and mercy. The Bible is awash with examples of fasting by leaders such as Moses, David, Paul, Daniel, and Jesus Christ. Christ set a good example for Christians when He went up to the mountains to fast and pray (Nouwen, 1992). In the bible, fasting is usually linked to repentance because Christians are sinners and in need of God’s forgiveness. It is most effective when conducted in a spirit of humility and repentance. According to Weems (2011), churches are built on a foundation of values and practices that members share and engage in. Fasting is a practice that symbolizes Christian’s exercise of their mission as disciples of Jesus in need of forgiveness and mercy.

What to do when fasting

The main goal of fasting is to create fellowship with God by seeking after His heart, goodness, and mercy. Therefore, the main objective should not be to present our needs to God but to create fellowship. To make fasting efficacious, Christians should engage in certain activities during the fasting period. First, they should pray for the needs of the church, themselves, and other people. Churches encounter several leadership challenges that affect people’s communion with God and other church members (Nouwen, 1992). Participants in the corporate fast should pray for the church as a family unit that comprises God’s children. In addition, they should pray for members of the church who are suffering ad experiencing different types of problems. Christians are called to be mindful of the welfare of their brothers and sisters (Nouwen, 1992).

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Therefore, in addition to praying for themselves, they should remember other church members. Another important activity is reading and studying the Bible. This can be done in two ways namely individually or communally. Communal reading is important because it brings church members together and allows them to create fellowship with God as one family (Nouwen, 1992). Communal bible reading should follow a devotional guide or plan for better results. The third activity is praying to God for guidance. Christians should ask God for guidance so that they can continue to develop and grow the church family. They should also pray for their leaders so that God can give them wisdom and knowledge to lead the church in a good way (Nouwen, 1992). Praying should be linked to using the resources that Christians have saved from fasting to help those in need and strengthen the church family.

Fasting helps Christians to strengthen their resolve to avoid sin and act charitably toward other members of the church family. During advent, it helps them to prepare themselves for the birth of Christ. Fasting helps Christians to understand that the pleasure obtained from material things is fleeting and temporary while the pleasure gained from communing with God is permanent. Only God can fulfill the spiritual longing of Christians and what better way to attain that than through fasting. Stewardship of resources saved from fasting should be incorporated into the goal of fasting because performing acts of charity is a way of experiencing God’s mercy and goodness (Christopher, 2010).

Conclusion

Corporate fasting is one of the ways through which Christians come together as a family of God’s children to pray and strengthen their faith. Church leaders should encourage their church members to participate in corporate fasting during advent because it is an opportunity to create fellowship with God and ask for wisdom as well as guidance. Fasting should be used to pray, save resources, and ask for guidance from God. Today’s churches encounter many leadership challenges that affect the unity and fellowship of the church family. Engaging in advent corporate fast is also important because it is a way for church members to come together and strengthen the bond of brotherhood and sisterhood that they share. Jesus, Moses, Daniel, and David gave a good example of how fasting should be conducted. For example, Jesus always went up to the mountains to fast and pray.

References

Christopher, C. (2010). Not your Parent’s Offering Plate: A New Vision for Financial Stewardship. New York, NY: Abingdon Press.

Weems, L. H. (2011). Take the Next Step: Leading Lasting Change in the Church. New York, NY: Abingdon Press.

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Nouwen, H. J. (1992). In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing Company.

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