Monday, Nov. 14
Fasting is not a common practice in today’s world. And the rationale for it has changed. It is now used to protest something or to elicit pity and get help for solving a societal problem. Fasting is also a means of gaining better health or to become fashionably slim. Rarely is it a religious exercise, and when it is, the reason for it often obscure. Fasting has been practiced as far back as we have historical records. It may have gotten started simply because people quit eating when they got sick. It took on a religious tone among pagans when sickness was thought to have been imposed by the spirits. Fasting would placate the spirits. God worshipers used fasting as a plea for divine help. At that point it became associated with prayer. “Prayer and fasting” is a common expression in our New Testament. By N.T. times, though, it was often a mere ritual, a means of currying favor with God—sort of like the way some of us “say grace” at the dinner table. There is a positive side to this, though. There are still people that take prayer and fasting seriously. The crux of the matter is the heart. Nothing other than a heart felt appeal to God will have any effect. God will have no trouble understanding your heart. By the way, Jesus did not do away with fasting. He just wanted it to be from the heart. He had exactly the same admonition concerning prayer. The heart is what matters.