Fasting by Scot McKnight is the latest in the Ancient Practices Series. McKnight is a mega blogger and great theologian. This is the best work I have read on fasting. If you have an interest in the subject this is a must read. Most who write about fasting focus on the benefits one can gain from it. McKnight sees fasting as “the natural inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life.” He walks you through the Bible and shows how when people fasted they did so not in order to gain something but because something happened that to eat would be sacrilegious or not appropriate.
When we read of people fasting in the Bible it was usually because someone died, they were anxious about an upcoming threat, they realized the severity of their sins, or they stood in awe of God. Fasting is a natural response to all of these. When we loose someone we often do not feel like eating. When we are anxious over something our appetite disappears. The fast is natural not forced.
There were those who fasted in order to get something. They appear on the pages of the New Testament and we know them as the Pharisees. Jesus reveals their motives in Luke 18 when one tells God how great of a person he is because he fast twice a week. He believed that fasting meant that he was more godly than others and that God owed him something because of his piety. In Matthew 6, Jesus condemned them for fasting so that everyone could see their piety and said the respect of people would be their only reward.
McKnight acknowledges that their are benefits to fasting and one can draw closer to God through the discipline but warns that must not be our motive. I have fasted in the past and rarely had an encounter with God. This always frustrated me because many have written and taught that if we fast God will respond to us in a way that he wouldn’t otherwise. I would often feel defeated after fasting. McKnight admits that this is normal because the purpose of fasting was never to compel God to listen to our prayers more than he would another. But the purpose is to respond to something that compels us to stop and morn the situation. It could be death, sin, hurt, pain, anxiety, injustice, or any number of things. Fasting helps us internalize the moment, grieve the consequences, and seek comfort from God.
This is the best read in a year for me. I would recommend it to everyone!