Quick. What do people who fast look like? What kinds of people come to your mind? Do they appear a bit strange? Are they John the Baptist types? Legalists? Health nuts?

Does Jesus come to your mind when you think of fasting and “fasters”? Jesus both practiced and taught fasting, you know. And yet, fasting is the most feared and misunderstood of all the spiritual disciplines.

Many believe fasting turns us into something we don’t want to become and causes things to happen that we don’t want to happen. We fear that fasting will make us hollow-eyed fanatics or odd for God. We’re afraid that it will make us suffer dreadfully and give us a generally negative experience. For some Christians, fasting for spiritual purposes is as unthinkable as shaving their heads or walking barefoot across a fire pit.

Fasting is so misunderstood because of the famine of contemporary awareness of it. Even though there’s more interest in fasting today than during the last half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries, how many people do you know who regularly practice fasting? How many sermons have you heard on the subject? In most Christian circles you will rarely hear fasting mentioned, and few will have read anything about it. And yet it’s mentioned in Scripture more times than even something as important as baptism (about seventy-seven times for fasting to seventy-five for baptism).

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