Do people think that they will be left alone on saying, “We believe,” and not be tried? We did test those before them, and God will certainly know those who are true from those who are false. [Quran 29:2-3]
Reality of God
We are not left untested when we simply make an intellectual declaration of faith. A profound effort is still required of us to accomplish our goal. Faith is not sufficient without manifested works.
How does abstinence help this process? First, abstinence helps us focus on the reality of God. Fasting is valuable in our initial effort to connect to the Ultimate Reality and to learn just what the purpose of existence is. It does so by numbing our body’s physical involvements and isolating our soul in spiritual matters, thus requiring our intellect to focus on existence independent of tangibles.
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].
Controlling Our Life
By freeing it from competing physical needs, fasting facilitates our spiritual thought process. Depending on the degree of abstention, fasting frees the body from digestive, sexual, muscular and even mental activities (particularly of a pedantic ilk). With the grace of Almighty God, we can then maintain a proper course for our passage through this life.
Fasting, if we conceive of it truly, must not . . . be confined to the question of food and drink; fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose. There are many bodily functions which are right and normal and perfectly legitimate, but which for special peculiar reasons in certain circumstances should be controlled. That is fasting. [Martyn Lloyd-Jones].
Secondly, fasting represents an act of obedience to the word of God. We are asked to fast in every major religion known to humanity. Having determined to please God, to do His will, we are happy to know, with confidence, that we are pleasing our Creator.
When we undertake a fast – even when our motives are other than religious – we have a certitude that we are doing something good for ourselves. While some fear or reluctance may accompany the initial period of fasting, there is never a sense of guilt, remorse, shame or fault when initiating a fast. Fasting is inherently a “good” thing to do.
Fasting can help in taking back control of our lifestyle. Through fasting, we control physical appetites and gain strength to dominate our rebellious intellect. Gaining control of physical and intellectual activities enables us to focus on establishing our noblest character and loftiest ideals.
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, A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer].