Dallas Willard in Asceticism: An Essential but Neglected Element in the Christian Theory of the Moral Life“ says the following;
“To refer once more back to the New Testament writings, it is clear that ascetic practices were seriously engaged in by Jesus as well as by St. Paul. Both were upon occasion intensely involved, for long periods of time, with solitude, fasting, prayer, poverty and sacrificial service, and not because those conditions were unavoidable. It would seem, then, that those who would follow Christ, and follow Paul as he followed Christ (I Corinthians 11:1), must find in those practices an important part of what they should undertake as His disciples. Certainly this was so in the early centuries of the Christian era.
For some reason, however, it is rarely done now; and outstanding Christian writers of the present time do not normally suggest that the practices of Jesus and Paul should be adopted by us. We are to be like them, but without following techniques which they seem to have found necessary.”
Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever heard any practical preaching, teaching, or instruction on the value of fasting in the church that I grew up in, or frequented for the last 8 years. The implication always seemed that we lived in the age of grace, and that these practices were no longer expected of us. Of course, I have come from the Reformed side of the street…
I’ve always felt that there was something missing, and even though I read and meditate on the Word regularly, I must confess that I’ve not followed the habits of Jesus very closely in this sense.
What do any of you say, think, or do with regard to fasting and other spiritual disciplines? I am convinced that fasting, among other things, needs to be integrated into my spiritual life.
Practical suggestions here are welcome, as are any pointers or materials that may help on this subject.