On Fasting

“Will you recommend fasting or abstinence both by precept and example?”  This question is one of the traditional questions asked of every person who is about to be ordained an elder in The United Methodist Church.  Of course, the answer we give in response to this question is, “Yes”.  So today, I would like to commend fasting to you.

This week the jurisdictional conferences begin the important work of electing bishops to serve in The United Methodist Church, I would like to urge you, my United Methodist brothers and sisters to spend some time, perhaps even  a day or two, in prayer and fasting as we intercede for those who are making these decisions for our church.

Fasting is an often neglected spiritual discipline in our church these days.  And I have to say that this fact dismays me.  My experience has been that God HONORS fasting and prayer.  The status quo is disrupted and GOD STUFF starts happening.  I don’t quite understand it, but I can testify to it.  I wish I could tell you that God will always answer your prayers the way you want them answered, but I can’t.  Sometimes nothing seems to happen and sometimes something different than you expect happens; but often something amazing begins.

Whenever I commend fasting to friends and colleagues, I invariably hear protests.  “I can’t fast”, the friend says. “I’m on a special diet.”  My answer to that is simple…you have an incorrect view of fasting.  It is possible for almost anyone to prayerfully fast.  Please note that I said PRAYERFULLY—that is the key.  Fasting needs to be led, and directed by the Holy Spirit.  It is gracious, not overly arduous.  It begins with prayer and serves to remind us to pray throughout the day.  I am diabetic, so when I fast it no longer means giving up eating.  For me it may mean giving up meat for a day, or a week.  Or sometimes, I choose to give up watching television and/or abstaining from using my computer.  Once I gave up reading and sound (tv and radio) for a day; and frankly, that was one of the most refreshing fasts I have ever experienced.  That day, I simply walked along the river, observed nature, and listened for God’s voice.  I made some space for God; and I believe I heard God’s clear message.

This is not a sermon or a deep theological reflection.  It is a call to fast. I would simply like to adhere to my ordination vow as an elder in the United Methodist Church by commending fasting by both precept and example.  Please join me sometime this week as you are able and as you are led.


Filed under Uncategorized, United Methodist

4 responses to “On Fasting

  1. Salama Hassan

    Holly,I believe in the power of fasting and prayers too,i often ask my sunday school teacher while i was between 10 and 15,that why fasting?between fasting and prayers which one did God accept quicly,the answer always is that they cant do without the other.I really receive answers to my prayers and as well listen to God speak to me in a laud voice while fasting,It make me undrestand my past and have foreknowledge of the future.I here by recommend fasting and prayers,and i believe,indeed we will solve most of problems we face in our ministry as clergies.


    • Thank you for your testimony, Rev. Hassan. I believe fasting is certainly one of the main reasons the United Methodist Church is growing so rapidly in Nigeria and other growing annual conferences. It is rather like a spark that allows the Holy Spirit to catch fire in our hearts, in our communities, and in ways we do not fathom or control.

      I would love to have my readers offer additional testimonies about the ways they see fasting “work”. I know it is sometimes hard to articulate such things of the spirit; but I also believe we need to bear testimony to this spiritual reality.

      A word of caution, however, Jesus tells us that we should not tell others when we are fasting. We should not brag about it. My way of dealing with this caution is to simply commend fasting others and to share my testimony after the fact. When I am actually fasting, I try to keep it a secret.


  2. Holly, I agree that prayer and fasting is very powerful! In Mark 9:14-29 we see Jesus casting out an unclean spirit that is seeking the life of a child. Later in privite the disciples ask the Master “why couldn’t we drive it out?” Christ tells them, ” this kind can only come out by prayer and fasting.” Empty self of our own desires and agendas – then and only then will we see the awesome Power of Christ flow through disciples – to drive out the demons that torment and keep people in bondage.


    • Yes. My post wasn’t intended to be a major treatise on fasting; but a simple CALL TO FAST. (Perhaps that should be the title.) I hope you will fast and pray as the Holy Spirit leads you–especially with the prayerful intention of interceding for the process of electing the bishops of our church. Thank you for this affirmation.


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