Fasting for God is common in almost all religions. Since religious doctrines require fasting, most adherents fast because they believe God requires it of them. Many rarely give much thought to the deeper meaning of fasting for God.
Fasting confirms our utter dependence upon God by finding in Him a source of sustenance beyond food. [Dallas Willard].
Children obeying their parents’ commands do so to please them and expecting an eventual reward, or least to avoid punishment. Obedience, respect and to some extent expectation of reward may be the typical reasons to fasting of many Jews, Christians and Muslims during their respective days of required fasting.
Fasting is important, more important perhaps, than many of us have supposed . . . when exercised with a pure heart and a right motive, fasting may provide us with a key to unlock doors where other keys have failed; a window opening up new horizons in the unseen world; a spiritual weapon of God’s provision, mighty, to the pulling down of strongholds. [Arthur Wallis, God’s Chosen Fast].
Another aspect of fasting for God is comparable to a person dedicating an action to a cause. For God and country was, at one time, a familiar declaration in the United States. It implied that the action being taken was to answer a noble call and serve a higher motive, the expectation of reward or compensation being far removed. The motivation came from a spiritual, emotional and dedicated commitment to do what is right. Similarly, a fast may be undertaken for God because it represents a lofty act, a selfless commitment to an act considered meritorious and virtuous.
Prayer is reaching out after the unseen; fasting is letting go of all that is seen and temporal. Fasting helps express, deepen, confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God. [Andrew Murray].
Perhaps the most exalted purpose for fasting is to approach God. This implies that there is something in the act of fasting that elevates a person, bringing him into closer relationship with the Divine Presence. Such a fast aspires to a rapturous awareness, a wondrous perception and an ecstatic encounter with God.
We tend to think of fasting as going without food. But we can fast from anything. If we love music and decide to miss a concert in order to spend time with God, that is fasting. It is helpful to think of the parallel of human friendship. When friends need to be together, they will cancel all other activities in order to make that possible. There’s nothing magical about fasting. It’s just one way of telling God that your priority at that moment is to be alone with him, sorting out whatever is necessary, and you have cancelled the meal, party, concert, or whatever else you had planned to do in order to fulfil that priority. [James I (J. I.) Packer].
The process suggests that something mystical occurs within the individual that renders transient existence inconsequential, unsatisfying and oppressive. At the same time, the divine assumes unique importance and urgency.
The purpose of fasting is to loosen to some degree the ties which bind us to the world of material things and our surroundings as a whole, in order that we may concentrate all our spiritual powers upon the unseen and eternal things. [Ole Kristian O. Hallesby].
Such a fast is undertaken seeking only to gaze on the face of God, to sublimate the thought process so that the crude elements of our human conditions are refined to appreciate God.
Do you have a hunger for God? If we don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because we have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great. If we are full of what the world offers, then perhaps a fast might express, or even increase, our soul’s appetite for God. Between the dangers of self-denial and self-indulgence is the path of pleasant pain called fasting. [John Piper].