The Crazy Idea of Fasting in '09

Jesus did not say, “If you fast...” but “When you fast...” (Matthew 6:16). This will be new (even over the top) for some of you. So do a crazy thing in 2009. It might change your relationship with God. And your life.

Here’s a tiny bit of help. A bit on how. And a bit on why.

How to Fast

Pick a day of the week or a day of the month and plan to fast in 2009. Plan which meal or meals to skip. Skip them entirely, or do it with only juice or only water. There are no rules. There is only spiritual hunger being spoken and stoked with physical hunger.

Take some of the time you would have spent eating and read some scripture and take time to tell God why you are doing this and what you long for.

Why Fast?

Here are six biblical aims for fasting.

1. For Jesus to come back

Matthew 9:14-15

Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast

2. For help in a new venture in ministry

Matthew 4:1-2

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.

Acts 13:3

Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

3. To avert some danger or threat

Ezra 8:21

Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions.

2 Samuel 12:16

David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground.

4. To express sorrow and loss

2 Samuel 1:12

They mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan and for the people of the LORD and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword

1 Chronicles 10:12

All the valiant men arose and took away the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons and brought them to Jabesh, and they buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.

5. To express repentance and grief for sin

Joel 2:12-13

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning; 13 And rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil.

6. Not for the praise of men

Matthew 6:16-18

Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

(For more instruction and inspiration in fasting see A Hunger for God, Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer.)

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.