Book Review: Fasting

Fasting by Scot McKnight – The Ancient Practices Series

I finally finished Scot McKnight’s (of the Jesus Creed) contribution to the “Ancient Practices Series,” Fasting.  I consider it one of the best offerings I have had the opportunity to read and studyfasting_scotmcknight yet on this, often misunderstood, spiritual discipline.

Fasting is a discipline and an act that I have had much confusion, and consequently, minimal participation in. In my approaches to fasting, there has always been some little niggle in my soul that I could not get past. Additionally, I wasn’t always sure what the bigger picture was meant to be for the act of fasting. Much of what I had been taught was that fasting super-charged the prayer life, brought a person closer to God, showed God we really wanted Him to move or speak, or do something… This did not and does not sit well with me (like we can command or conjure God to do anything), so for the most part, and for much of my Christian walk, I just didn’t fast. Several years ago my passion for spiritual formation and ancient Christianity was aroused and I began studying the spiritual disciplines. I attempted fasting, but did not have reason or purpose other than motive to follow those who had trod (successfully) the journey of faith before me.  I still didn’t feel right in my soul about this, so my practice was sporadic…not much discipline involved at all.

Fast forward to late 2008.

I began praying that God would teach me about certain disciplines that I did not understand; fasting and prayer were two of the big players in my God pleas. I sensed God’s leading me into an extended fast and complied. What I learned in a personal and experiential way, Scot McKnight shares in several aspects with his work in Fasting. I suppose it would have been nice to have gotten the book and read it before my own experience, but I would have missed out on a lesson from the greatest Instructor of all.

About the book that Scot wrote though, he centers and grounds the act of fasting around the “sacred moment.” Specifically, McKnight, calls attention to the true act of fasting being tied to a “response to grief.” I really appreciated how inclusive he was in describing the breadth of spirituality and fasting in response to these sacred moments of grief. I was even more impressed with appreciation with his honest representation of what the Scriptures teach us about fasting…and doing so with no recognizable bias. I like that.

I finished the book with several “takeaways.” The most significant takeaway for me was recognizing what was happening in me during my experience with the extended fast. I wanted to know God in a significantly more intimate way. I grieved for my own frailty and ignorance because of sin. I wanted to know my Creator in ways that I had read and been taught that others knew Him. I wanted to observe teaching of Jesus regarding fasting and understand why and what it was supposed to accomplish. Because I could not do this on my own, my heart and soul was grieved with knowledge I was unable to participate in a holy act of worship. During my fast, I learned this. Reading this book authored by Scot McKnight, my learned lessons were affirmed. I also learned other aspects of fasting that I can now consider and explore after having gained a foundation of understanding that I feel is based in Biblical and experiential truth. A second, and significant, takeaway is acknowledging the brokenness of our Western influenced spirituality. God commands us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength…yet we separate our bodies from full on worship and consecration to our God. There’s more to this, but I’ll let you explore that on your own as you read Fasting.

One final word picture I loved and I’ll be done…I really liked this:

“Fasting is to union with God what a marriage ring is to a loving couple. As the ring is not what prompts their union, so also the fasting is not what prompts union with god Love prompts the giving of a ring, and it is the love that moves the relationship beyond the ring to genuine union with one another. So I would say that a more complete view of fasting suggests that it is the combination of our yearning to know God and our present state of not knowing God intimately enough that prompts the person to fast with the hope of encountering god. The grievous sacred moment is our lack of intimacy with God.”

As are all of the works I’ve enjoyed by Dr. McKnight, this one is well cited and documented with additional resources and book references. It is a worthy addition to your library and will serve you well if you, like me, were curious about knowing the truth” about fasting.

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