Spiritual Practice of the Month: FASTING

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Chad Bellamy, 20th Fighter Wing Chapel
Fasting is not a modern concept; in fact, the practice has been around for many centuries.

A linguistical study of the word "fast" reveals its evolution from the original Hebrew word "tsowm," which literally means "to cover or to close ones mouth." By strict interpretation, its meaning is to "not eat."

While the denial of food for a brief period of time is still the central form of practice, other means of sacrifice have arisen. (It is wise to consult a medical doctor when considering the practice of fasting.)

Fasting is part of the faith life of religions old and new all over the world. Certain Christian groups practice a form of fasting during the season of Lent. Within branches of Judaism, an absolute fast is practiced as a sign of repentance on the holiest day of Yom Kippur. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam and is practiced through Ramadan.

In one form or another, fasting reflects the inward search for purification, spiritual vision, penance, mourning and/or sacrifice.

But why would someone intentionally choose to do without something that is hard to do without? The answer is reflected in the common desire of the human heart -- the pursuit of peace within. Spiritual fasting can positively contribute toward inner transformation for both the spiritual-minded and the religious person.

A life experienced is to know that things do not always work out as planned, and when they do not, those disappointments carry the potential for barriers to the spiritual growth. Consider the plumbing in your house, the pipes are designed for the free flow of water to a predetermined destination, but if not maintained over time, the pipes become corroded with all types of debris that should have been flushed out of the system but was not. This inattentiveness will lead to blockage, which almost always ends in complete disruption.

The same is played out in the spiritual realm. Unforgiveness, anger, jealousy, greed and many other emotions have the potential to smother the human within each of us; they are usually inner responses to the undeserved things we have experienced.

Spiritual fasting is a discipline which allows us to "detoxify" or "flush out" the things that impede the flow of a healthy spiritual life. Some of the benefits include addressing or breaking unproductive habits, refocusing more on others and less on yourself, re-enforcing a disciplined life and self-control. For the religious, you may consider refocusing more on Holy Scriptures and prayer.

Time to clean the "spiritual pipes"? Consider the practice of fasting.