I have grown up a tradition of Christianity that did not emphasize or teach much about the discipline of fasting. I remember learning as a child that Friday is nicknamed “Fish Day” because of a long-time practice in some circles of not eating meat on that day. Also during childhood, I was surprised and puzzled when an aunt told me that her family ate only two meals instead of three on Sundays.
A few months ago while reading a book by Indian born Pastor K. P. Yohannan, I was struck by the repeated mention of fasting as a natural activity by Gospel for Asia missionaries. These are not Western Christians going to heathen nations; they are Asian Christians going to hardest to reach places within Asia. These missionaries do not eat well by our standards any day, and yet they fast regularly in order to pray and devote themselves to God’s ministry.
I wanted to take up the challenge. I discovered that it was one thing to not eat, but quite another to be devoted to prayer during that same period, to have a focus and a purpose. I discovered that fasting from food wasn’t enough; to be properly focused I needed to turn off the computer, leave the telephone, and put away self-directed thinking. It is a struggle.
I wonder if times of fasting are especially needed to keep us as Christians from being consumed by the “Eat-Drink-Shop” society around us.