Whatley: Fasting as a spiritual practice

Published 6:30 pm Monday, October 2, 2017

Fasting? Are you kidding? In a world of fast foods and sweet tea and the desserts waiting at the end of the table, fasting is not popular.

Maybe we ought to remember that we already fast every day for six to eight hours while we’re sleeping! And if we extend that fasting to our waking hours, our health improves, although you shouldn’t do anything without talking to your doctor.

Healthline.com lists ten benefits of intermittent fasting. If your body is not busy digesting food it can lower blood insulin levels which helps burn fats, increase human growth hormones up to five times normal which burns fat and builds muscle, remove waste from and repair cells and change genetic material in ways that protect against disease and offers a longer life.

On a personal note, because I have a family history of Alzheimer’s Disease, I was glad to read that intermittent fasting in rats delays the onset of dementia. In a study of ten human patients, it was shown to significantly improve Alzheimer’s symptoms and may protect us against other neuromuscular diseases such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

Matthew adds another view of fasting, “Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting 40 days and 40 nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:1-11)

Jesus used fasting to prepare for his wilderness battle with Satan. So John Wesley required his preachers, and asked laypeople, to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays as a regular spiritual discipline to prepare for their daily battles with Satan. But as time went on, he began fasting only on Fridays using an Anglican tradition from sundown on Thursday until Friday afternoon using the Jewish idea of a day from sundown to sundown.

There were seven guidelines: be flexible, decide on a complete or partial fast, choose a day to fast, only fast on one consecutive day, drink plenty of water, switch to another day if there is a conflict and consult with your doctor before you do anything.

Above all, seven plus might be to remember the reason you’re fasting, it makes prayer more powerful and can help us to hear God’s voice more clearly.

Pastor’s viewpoint is written by Charles ‘Buddy’ Whatley, a retired United Methodist pastor and, with Mary Ella, a missionary to the 

Navajo Reservation in Arizona.