You may have heard a number of times how someone fasted in order to grow closer to God. In most cases they are talking about the giving up of food or meals in order to spend time with God. There is debate among people as to whether fasts are warranted, and there is some concern as to whether or not Christian teens should be fasting at all.
What is Means to Fast
The term "fast" is not biblical or religious in itself.
It is defined as abstaining from food or other items. There are medical fasts, moral fasts, and religious fasts. However, there are many instances in the Bible where people fasted food. Most famously, Jesus abstained from eating for 40 days in the desert when he was tempted by Satan:
Luke 4:2 - "where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry." (NIV)
Yet people do not always fast food or meals today. There are plenty of items we can fast that will help keep our minds and hearts focused on God. Fasting television or the Internet can also be good alternative items to fast, as fasting is very much about why you fast not necessarily what you fast.
Reasons for Fasting
There are plenty of reasons to fast. Sometimes people fast to help them make a decision, and they want to make sure they hear God's direction. Other times they fast to help others, to grow closer to God, or to heal from some hurt. Isaiah 58:5-8 gives us some insight into some biblical reasons for fasting:
Isaiah 58:5-8 - "You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind." (NLT)
When Fasting Won't Help
No matter what the reason is for the fast, it important to understand that fasting is not about blackmail. If you are fasting because you think that God will give you what you want if you give something up, then you are basically trying to blackmail God. Fasting is very much about your intentions. It is also not something to do just for the sake of fasting. It is to be used to draw closer to God and focus on Him, not to get Him to do what you want. It is about you seeking His direction, not getting him to seek yours.
What Goes on During a Fast
When you are fasting, you need to be praying at the same time. The point of a fast is to grow closer to God and get in touch with the Holy Spirit. It is a time to listen and pray. Every time you turn to do whatever it is you have given up, you remind yourself to spend time in prayer and focus on the Lord. It is important that your times away from whatever you gave up are focused on God. Otherwise, you are just going through period of deprivation, not a spiritual discipline.
When you break the fast you need to be careful. If you gave up something like television or MySpace, the transition back to those things may not bee too difficult. However, if you gave up food of any sort, it is important that you take precautions to not overdo it when you return to normal.
Caution About Fasting
If you do decide to fast meals or food items, the first thing you need to do is talk to your parents and even see a doctor. It is not always healthy for teenagers to fast, and you probably will not be able to fast all solid food. Your body is still developing, so you need nutrients. Therefore, you may want to see a doctor before you make a final decision to fast any type of food. Understand that you do not need to fast food items in order to fast, and you may want to focus your fast on other items. Or, if you do want to fast some sort of food, find something that will not jeopardize your health. Do you drink soda every day? Coffee? Maybe one of those items will work. Just be aware that there are health risks in fasting what you eat, and the longer your fast, the more risks involved.