If you’re anything like us, the idea of “fasting” brings up a mix of emotions. Maybe you’re an avid faster and get genuinely excited about the opportunity. Or you’re a reluctant participant, and mostly what you feel about fasting is…dread. Still possible: you’ve never considered fasting, and you don’t really get what it’s all about anyway. 

Fasting in the Bible is mentioned often! It was prevalent in the lives of Old Testament Jewish followers (Joel 2:12, Psalm 69:10), as well as early New Testament folks (Luke 18:12, Acts 13:3-4).

Regardless of where you’re at in your relationship with fasting, one thing we can all agree on is this: if we’re gonna fast, it’s important to understand why we’re doing it. So today, we’re considering these four benefits of fasting. 

1. Fasting Prepares Us to Listen for God

There are a lot of different things we can fast from, but whatever we’re giving up typically causes desire to stir in us—it’s something we want, that we’re not giving ourselves. That desire can be just the wake-up call we need when we get lost in the grind of everyday life. Desire can be a really helpful reminder to listen for God as we go about our day.

Each time we think about what we’re fasting from, that can be our cue to listen for God. Let’s listen to what he might have to say about a work problem, a friend who’s in trouble, or the worries we’re carrying. Because we serve a God who speaks, but whom wenot so different from the people prophets warned in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 7:13)are often too busy to hear. 

2. Fasting Increases Our Gratitude

Fasting can also increase our gratitude. The little way we’re choosing to “go without” might open our eyes to consider all the daily comforts we usually have—consistent and easy access to delicious food, or whatever else we might be fasting from.

As we grow in gratitude for these little daily comforts and conveniences, an awareness of all we do have can create a sense of solidarity with those who go without on a regular basis. As that solidarity grows, we move a little closer to God’s heart, which always bends towards those who are oppressed or disadvantaged (Psalm 140:12). And as God shapes our hearts and makes us more like him, we hope that will help us love him and others better.

3. Fasting Grows Our Self-Control

One of the most straightforward benefits of fasting is that it’s simply good practice in resisting physical temptation. Our stomachs growl, or our thumbs instinctively reach towards the app we decided to give up, and we have an opportunity. When we’re tempted to fall back into our normal routine, we can keep fasting, practicing self-control.

Self-control is definitely a muscle that grows as we work it out, but gritting our teeth to get through a fast isn’t the way to practice it (although it may help). Self-control is a fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), which means it comes from the Holy Spirit’s power, not our own. Instead of relying on our own willpower, let’s practice self-control by asking the Holy Spirit to be the power that carries us through a fast. 

4. Fasting Humbles Our Hearts

Fasting is also an opportunity to realize just how dependent we are. Any swelling pride in our hearts is challenged when we recognize that without a constant provision of food, we literally wouldn’t survive. We have so many basic needs that are met regularly, which is the only reason we have an ability to learn, grow, and live in the ways that we do.

As easy as it’d be to believe that we provide our clothes, food, and other necessities for ourselves, we know that ultimately, everything on the earth was created by God, and is his (Psalm 50:10-12). He even created us, with all the skills and abilities we use to make a living. No matter how our needs are met, God is truly our provider, and we rely completely on him. 

Fast with Wisdom

As you consider fasting, invite the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom about how you can implement it in your own life. Although fasting traditionally deals with going without food, not everyone is in a place where this would be a helpful or healthy choice. Check out our previous pieces on Fasts other than Food for other ideas that could still provide similar spiritual benefits.