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The Family Fast

The Family Fast

Fasting is one of the spiritual disciplines that I hear the least about—except at Easter when people talk of “giving something up for Lent.” But as followers of Christ, Jesus expected that his disciples would fast. While we aren’t supposed to be raising our hands making a big deal out of fasting, it should be something that families make a part of their spiritual lives.

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” Matthew 9:15

Most Christians suggest prayer, Bible reading, and worship as ways to draw closer to Christ and become more like him. These are things most know they should be doing (though statistically even with these disciplines, most American Christians do very little). But fasting is clearly talked about in the Bible and it is a lifestyle that we should embrace.

Fasting isn’t always about food, but fasting food is a vital part of the lifestyle. At its heart, fasting is about denying self and lifting up God’s place in our hearts. About reminding our flesh that we do not live by bread, but we live by the words that come from the Father. (Paraphrase from Matthew 4:4) About laying down our self-life and focusing on God.

Fasting isn’t the same as “giving something up.” It should spark hunger for God in us and there is nothing like actual physical hunger to remind us what real hunger feels like. You won’t get that from staying off Facebook or the Internet.

We’ve been talking a lot about fasting at our house thanks to our church, which embarked on a 21 Day Fast. Exactly what our fast looked like was between us and God, though. Fasting shouldn’t be done under compulsion of any kind so we were free to participate or not participate.

Our oldest teen came out of her Sunday school class, and even though they had not really discussed the church fast, she felt like she wanted to fast for the first time. So we talked about the different kinds of fasts that can be done.

You can give up one meal or a whole day or do longer fasts. You could do a Daniel-type fast and only eat fruits and vegetables. You could do full fasts where you have nothing but water. What it looks like isn’t important, it’s your heart before God that matters.

Sit down as a family and embark on it together!

1 – Study fasting in the Bible. Assign different Scriptures to different family members to study and present.

2 – Decide what each fast will look like so you can support one another.

3 – Decide the length. This is important because when you are fasting it’s easy to talk yourself out of the “how long.”

4 – Talk about “regular fasting” when you make it part of a lifestyle by fasting a meal or a day every week. What would that look like for your family?

Make fasting part of your spiritual discussions. When you start to see the value in it, then it can become part of your regular prayer life. It’s a discipline for sure—and it’s not easy. But it does bear fruit.

Every fast we have done has strengthened us spiritually in one way or another. It’s been such an encouragement to see our teens start to emulate that. The second day of our daughter’s fast, she heard from God in a way that not only encouraged her heart but reaffirmed the value of setting aside food, and focusing on our Father.

Happy Fasting!

By: Jeff and Sarah Sumpolec have been married for 19 years and Jeff has been a therapist in private practice for more than 10 years. They have three daughters together and Sarah writes for and speaks to teens. Visit them

* Keep in mind that anyone with any kind of medical condition or eating disorder should consult with a doctor before fasting.

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