We fast for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes we abstain from food for medical tests or surgery. Sometimes we fast as a way to “cleanse” or give rest to our digestive system. Sometimes we fast as a form of protest, a dramatic way of saying “this is broken and I can not even go about in a normal day to day manner until this is addressed.” And sometimes we fast for spiritual reasons. Fasting, as a spiritual practice in the Presbyterian Church, faded away in the last century. Recently, it has returned along with an interest in other spiritual disciplines.
Howard Rice’s book, Reformed Spirituality (Westminster/John Knox, 1991) reminds us of the role fasting played for Calvin and the Reforming Church. Calvin saw fasting as a counterbalance to our unending desire for food and luxuries, things that get in the way of our desire for God. Rice is careful to note that fasting is healthiest when it used as way to cut through distractions and return to God as a central focus in our life.