Prayer and Fasting (part 1)

In his book on fasting entitled A Hunger for God, John Piper wrote, “What we hunger for most, we worship.” I once put that quote up on Facebook, and some friends wrote comments about how it made them think of food! You hunger most for food. We laugh, but that is too true, isn’t it? “What we hunger for most, we worship.”

Some hunger for sexual desires, like Amnon in 2 Samuel 13 who longed so much for his beautiful half-sister Tamar that he became physically ill until he fulfilled his lustful desire and raped her.

Some hunger for possessions, like King Ahab in 1 Kings 21, who longed for Naboth’s vineyard, but who wouldn’t sell it to him and so the king sulked like a child. To give him what he wanted, his wicked wife Jezebel had Naboth murdered and Ahab’s lust for this property was finally fulfilled.

Some hunger for marriage, like King Solomon who according to 1 Kings 11:3, gathered for himself 700 wives and 300 concubines not caring about the fact that many were pagan women who eventually led his heart astray from the Lord.

So Piper is describing what the Bible so clearly teaches: What we hunger for most, we worship. But we need to be careful here, don’t we? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 8:8, “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” So the issue is never what we eat or what we do not eat or whether we fast or whether we do not fast. The issue for Jesus always is our heart, is it not?

So then, why should we consider fasting? Why have Christians for centuries decided to set aside eating a meal (or several days of eating) to dedicate themselves to prayer instead of satisfying their hunger? It is because fasting moves our attention off of the gift of food and on to the Giver.

Again, John Piper states for us the danger of forgetting this distinction and the danger for our souls if we do not stop and examine ourselves and our hunger:

“The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18–20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable. Jesus said some people hear the word of God, and a desire for God is awakened in their hearts. But then, “as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). In another place he said, “The desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). “The pleasures of this life” and “the desires for other things”—these are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God.”

John Piper, A Hunger for God, 14-15

You see, fasting doesn’t commend us to God. But it is a tool for us to test our heart attitudes about God. It does test our love and our hunger for God to see if we love Him more than these other things. Tomorrow I will look at Matthew 6 and describe what biblical fasting is, why people in the Bible fasted, and how we as Christians today should approach fasting and prayer.

One thought on “Prayer and Fasting (part 1)

  1. Pingback: Prayer and Fasting (part 2) | Always Reforming

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