by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
Theologian Scot McKnight states
“Some today use the word fasting for not watching TV during Lent, abstaining from desserts, or not watching sports on Sunday. Each of these can be a good discipline for specific individuals, but I do not believe it is accurate to call these things fasting. Why? Because fasting in the Bible describes not eating or not drinking. …To choose not to watch TV or not to eat savory meats on Friday is not fasting but abstinence. ” – Fasting, Thomas Nelson 2009, p.18-19.
Early McKnight quotes Amy Johnson Frykolm, “Fasting… is about three things: attentiveness, compassion and freedom.” p.xx These three are sequential — A then B then C. McKnight says fasting the natural response to “a grievous sacred moment…” death, sin, fear, threats, needs and sickness. The fast results in life, forgiveness, safety, hope answers and health (corresponding to the prior list). Therefore, fasting is all about prayer, that is, talking and listening to and with g-d. I find McKnight’s thoughts interesting in that he says “fasting is a response.” I tend to think of fasting as something I choose to do without being prompted by some grievous sacred moment like death or sickness.
McKnight says fasting is the most misunderstood of all spiritual practices because it involves “body talk” – our bodies are spiritual temples, conductors, or vessels. Our culture has split our spirit/soul from our body. The result is a great disconnect between food and our body, and prayer and our intimacy with g-d.
Fasting in the Bible never lasts much longer than 12 hours.