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Is fasting essential to spiritual growth?

Submitted: 2/7/2008
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Question: Matthew 6:16: Moreover when ye fast... Matthew 17:20-21: And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. Given the content of these verses, is fasting not integral to spiritual growth? When Jesus says 'when ye fast', does he not imply that he expects Christians to fast? How long and how often do you suggest Christians to hold full and/or partial fasts? While I personally hold fasting to be mandatory and essential to spiritual growth, I would like to hear your opinion on this matter.

Answer: We agree that fasting is essential to spiritual growth. We cannot say what is appropriate for everyone, but we can tell you what we do locally. We have a three-day time of prayer and fasting once a quarter which we ask the entire church to participate in. This is usually on a Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. We begin on Monday morning and meet at the church building each of the three evenings at 6:00 for a time of prayer, usually lasting about three hours. We end the fast Wednesday evening or Thursday morning. We have no way of knowing whether everyone participates, but we believe that most do.

We also teach the need for each person to have a regular fasting regimen, ideally one day a week. Some are very consistent with this, others struggle. We also teach that each person is responsible for his or her own spiritual growth and should do whatever fasting is necessary to keep moving forward. For some this may mean doing much more than our minimums.

We take the position that any fasting is better than no fasting. Therefore, if a person fasts until 3:00 pm, that is better than not doing anything. If a person fasts only certain foods, again, that is better than doing nothing at all. We believe that when Jesus made the statement, 'When you fast....' He was indicating that He expects His people to engage in fasting by their own volition. He never actually commanded us to fast; He simply spoke as though we would be sharp enough to recognize for ourselves the necessity of fasting.