Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sawm: How do Christians Fast?



I am fasting today and it struck me that Muslims are not the only people in the world to fast. Christians and Jews are commanded to fast along with Muslims. However, coming from a Baptist Church as a child, I realized that I was completely ignorant of the way that Christians and Jews fast. (Our denomination did not practice Lent or any other organized fast, nor did they encourage us to fast on our own.)

Time to rectify the situation inshaAllah!!!

It seems that there are three basic categories of Christian Fasting:
1. Abstaining from one certain thing: like chocolate or coke or meat
2. Abstaining from all solid foods: Drinking only water (or for extended fasts, drinking water and juice, vegetable broth, decaffeinated tea, etc.)
4. Absolute fasts: abstaining from all water and food

Fasts can be for one meal, one day, one week, 40 days: you are encouraged to fast however much you feel you are being convicted to fast.

  • The purpose of Christian Fasting is to humble yourself before God and to seek his pleasure. (To seek God's "face," as quoted from the Bible)
  • Christian Fasting should be intimately connected with increased prayer and meditation on the scripture
  • Fasting is prescribed in both the Old and New Testaments and Jesus says "when you fast" not "if you fast" in the New Testament.
  • Fasting is a private concern and you should not advertise the fact that you are fasting to others around you.
Some things that seem different than Muslim Fasts:
  • They do not necessarily have set times and procedures for fasting. They fast when they feel like it to whatever degree they feel like.
  • You can be eating or drinking and still be considered "fasting" in some way.
  • You can go through periods when you fast with no water or food, even through the night. You can usually fast up to 3 days without any food or water, but this should always be done under the observation of a doctor.
InshaAllah I will have another post up tomorrow about Jewish Fasting!


Stacy aka Fahiima said...

If you look in the book of Esther and Job (which you might cover tomorrow) people also fasted in groups to show repentance or to ask for God's mercy.

I like that Jesus says "when you fast" not "if you fast". Sadly, many churches don't teach fasting at all.
I really appreciate that Islam has a prescribed time for fasting, because its hard to integrate it into our busy lives.

NeverEver said...

Stacy, inshaAllah I will put that into the post for tomorrow thanks :-)

I know I feel the same way. I had a really warped attitude about fasting when I was younger. I thought it was something crazy that those *other* Christians did. Obviously I didn't read the Bible very well when i was a kid :-P

I really like that part too. Islam has a prescribed time for everything alhamdulillah which makes it easier I think. I also think it is interesting the way the concept of "fasting" evolved as the church grew since there aren't specific new testament directions for HOW to fast. :-)

InkBlotsBlueAbayas said...

There are two prescribed fasts in the Catholic Church. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. You may have only one full meal in that day and you may only eat to keep yourself from becoming ill. Otherwise, its liquid only. Also, there is the giving up of an indulgence during Lent for 40 days (The Sundays do not count, if they did it would be 44) and no meat on the Fridays of Lent. But yeah there really aren't any directions, its kinda vague. It also depends on the Church to which you belong.

NeverEver said...

LK: I knew that some denominations do institute certain kinds of fasts, but it seems like in the NT it is really vague about how it should happen. Thanks for the info about the Catholic church.

Oddly enough, it is sort of taboo in the Baptist church to want to know how other denominations do things. I know most people I knew from my church would only refer to Catholics as Christians under duress... Like if you say "They believe in Jesus too..." and then they sort of sigh and say "Yes I guess in that sense they are Christians." In what sense? There is only one sense. Either you are or you aren't. lol crazy people...

InkBlotsBlueAbayas said...

NeverEver: LOL I have a friend who is Baptist, he says the same thing about his church. They don't consider anyone else to be true Christians. Some other denominations are the same way. But we see this in Judaism and Islam too.

Pásik Kroch said...

fast is in general seen as the part of a spiritual preparation for some important event: for example I do fast 3 weeks before Christmas, plus, of course Lent. And I was taught to fast every Wednesday and Friday:)
tnx to it, I never take a diet.. when people are speaking about austere diets, I just smile:)
what is proper fasting: one has to center more to prayer and God.
what is main difference betwen ramadan and Lent? - for me, it is funny idea when the price of food increases during so called fasting month in islamic countries.
Christian outcome of fast - the money that you spare for meals should be done for charity.
even this one meal daily should be modest - no meat, no large or complicated dishes, smaller quantities (so iftar banquets is for me totally contradicting the "spirit of fasting, just a external demonstration devoid of original meaning)
and if those large iftars caused the rise of food stuff prices, the real meaning of fasting is gone.

NeverEver said...

Pasik, If you don't mind me asking, which denomination are you? I think it is fantastic that some denominations really emphasize fasting and doing good works and charity because I know from experience that unfortunately some others do not.
In Islam too, we should be giving our money for charity and in fact those who are unable (medically) to fast should give to charity the full amount of money that they spend on food during that time.
We are also encouraged to have modest meals. Those who overdo on iftar are plainly ignoring the sunnah and I agree that those "banquets" are rather hipocritical and not at all in the spirit of Ramadhan.
It makes me cringe when I see women take a full plate for iftar, eat a few bites, then throw the rest away astaghfirullah. We should never throw food away... My Allah guide us all ameen

Pásik Kroch said...

I m Catholic, quite traditionally minded :)
and if you want real fasters, go to Orthodox church:)
so, more about catholic fasting:
one meal per day after which you feel fully eaten.
do not eat between 9 and 16 hours.
this one meal should contain no chicken/beef/pork (or only fish)
you can use cheese and milk and eggs....
and no snacks, avoid cakes and chocolate bars and chips and whole stuff.
Orthodox are far stricter - no meat, no egg, no cheese - only vegetables and bread (strict, but very good for health), and as I have said, Advent fasting, Lent plus another 2 or 3 week fast in summer, before Ascension...
"It makes me cringe when I see women take a full plate for iftar, eat a few bites, then throw the rest away astaghfirullah. We should never throw food away... My Allah guide us all ameen"
grr, if my grandmother would see it, she will be, though very mild tempered, to hit this woman by some stick - God blessed us by food, we cannot be ungrateful by throwing out good food. God will punish you for that.
as I have mentioned before - fasting and at the same time throwing out food is completely against the "spirit of fasting".
yes, for example Im famed for my cakes and I use to bake really lot before Christmas, but I try to make such cakes that do not rot quickly...
btw, I saw your recipe blog - it is very nice..hope you get lot of inspiration:)
maybe if you tell me what kind of food you like, I can share some of my recipes

NeverEver said...

i think they should get a good beating with a stick! I can just imagine that now :-) But hopefully it would knock some sense into them.

Recipes would be fantastic!! I love almost any kind of food actually. Alhamdulillah I am not a very picky eater, so I enjoy almost everything.

Recently I have been in the mood to make deserts though (which is weird since I just used the last of my sugar a few days ago) :-P

Pásik Kroch said...

ok, so I will make you a quick review of Central European food :)
do not be surprised - did you ever tried sauerkraut?
or gratined (or gratinated) noodles with ricotta, jam and walnuts?
ehm, hope no diet :)

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