Rules for Fasting?

I received an email question from a member of the congregation yesterday with a great question about fasting. Some questions that I received included:

  • What are the “rules” for our Methodist tradition of fasting?
  • Do I not eat at all for the 24 hour day?
  • Do I not eat from sun up to sun down?

My Response

This is a great question. Thanks for passing it along. Here are a couple web resources that may be helpful:

  • http://archives.umc.org/interior.asp?ptid=1&mid=2872
  • http://archives.umc.org/frames.asp?url=http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/wesley/index.html
  • http://archives.umc.org/frames.asp?url=http%3A//www.upperroom.org/askjulian/default.asp%3Fact%3Danswer%26itemid=74814
  • I would also encourage you to read Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster which is a book that you can find in The Well bookstore at church. This book has very practical advice about fasting.

    As a first step, I would encourage you to try fasting once a week on either Wednesday or Friday. These were days that Wesley fasted as a part of his practice of faith. You might try fasting for one meal first and then for two meals. Fasting for two meals would be a 24 hour fast.

    Have you fasted? What spiritual disciplines have you found to be effective for your spiritual growth?

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    4 thoughts on “Rules for Fasting?

    1. I’ve fasted the Good Friday to Easter weekend. But looking back on it, I did it because, well, it’s sort of expected. And, I don’t think it was very.. effective.
      I do think, though, that fasting is a spiritual discipline that goes unnoticed by many.
      And, personally, I don’t limit the fast to just food. I think it will do everyone a great deal to go on a media fast once in a while too.
      thanks for the UMC links. I still have my Foster book from CD class in seminary. You’re the only one from our CD group I really keep in touch with (albeit through the blog).
      But the point of my comment is, I think fasting can only strengthen our spiritual walk.

    2. Joseph – I understand the distinction between doing it just because and actually getting some spiritual benefit out of the practice.

      You are welcome for the links and I think Foster’s book is the best one that I have found on the subject. (Not that I have really been looking for books on the subject though…)

    3. I have been trying to fast weekly with some success. I am finding it impactful differently than I expected. Hunger is not that big of an issue; for me it is the making time and doing it on purpose that hold the benefit. I am currently struggling with what to say when coworkers invite me to lunch. If I say I am fasting that does not seem to follow the scriptural instruction (I always bathe on fast day). On the other hand I feel like it is an opportunity missed when it comes to sharing my faith. I have found skipping breakfast and lunch to work best as my wife thinks I am a freak for fasting. I walk a very fine line with her in this area as she has an eating disorder. I found Foster’s book to be great. It is interesting that I first heard about fasting “today” in a bible study my Church of Christ buddy Lance had invited me. I had been attending a UMC (that I love) for about three years with no mention of fasting. I now know it is in the ordinances of God specified in the General Rules, but it seems to be very much out of style. Bishop Job wrote a wonderful book, “Three Simple Rules” in which he quoted the Ordinances out of the Discipline ’04, but went on to expound on each except fasting. This was very telling as to the current within the church.

    4. Bart – Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts. When it comes to a lunch invitation, I would say that avoiding the invitation in another way other than saying you are fasting. I think that there is a balance between speaking about the experience with others and not making a show of it.

      The influence of your wife is of huge importance 🙂 I know that for sure!

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