the role of the hungry discipline

I was working on something recently and was reminded of the excellent (and quite brief) primer on Fasting by Bill Bright, presently titled Your Personal Guide to Fasting and Prayer and available for free online right here.

Bright was clearly a big fan of Fasting, and he participated in a 40-day fast once a year for a number of years. His regard for fasting pops up in the first sentence of his resource, where he writes that “Fasting is the most powerful spiritual discipline of all the Christian disciplines.”

Regardless of where you put this one on the priority list (or how we determine “powerfulness” of the disciplines), Fasting can indeed be a phenomenal discipline to teach college students… and to practice with them, whether in one-on-one disciplemaking, in small groups, or even ministry-wide. What a chance to seek the Lord, to build community, to step up a ministry’s seriousness, to let God search students’ (and leaders’) hearts, to “fight together in the heavenlies,” and more!

Have you considered the spiritual discipline of Fasting as part of your college ministry’s available arsenal? There are several reasons this one may especially connect with this generation – its “vintage” nature, its tactile nature, the commitment involved. But more importantly, it seems to have been expected by Christ, we’ve got Scriptural direction in the Old and New Testaments, and it has been a powerful part of Christians’ walk with God throughout the centuries.

And chances are your students haven’t had an awful lot of exposure to this staple of Christianity. So… giddy-up!

Bright’s resource is an easy read and extremely practical – down to noting that Bright preferred a mix of white grape and peach juices when undertaking a long fast. Another classic is God’s Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis (several versions available new or used), and I remember that one having some real practical tips, too. And when I walked through a 40-day fast several years ago, John Piper’s A Hunger for God was valuable and impactful.

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4 Comments

  1. Benson,

    Thanks for sharing these resources on fasting! Challenging students – in a culture of comfort – to pursue Christ through intentional sacrifice, effort and abstinence can be a daunting message to bring… but one that will ultimately yield a harvest of maturing disciples.

    Have you seen schools/ministries, on all of your travels, that have integrated the practice of spiritual disciplines in some strong and intentional ways?

    Good stuff.

  2. I haven’t seen too much specifically on this, but I don’t know that I would have – “teaching topics” isn’t something I’ve had the chance to look at as closely as some areas (like structure, purposes, etc.). Also, it’s likely that it often pops up in small groups, and those are areas that are a little harder to investigate.

    But it does seem like I’ve encountered ministries using, for instance, Celebration of Discipline in small groups. So that would be one strategy.

    Spiritual disciplines are one of the “becoming great in the basics” topics, and we need (I believe) to spend a lot of time (and perhaps more time?) on THOSE topics. Sometimes we seem liable to aim for so-called “depth” via complexity, and it causes us to ignore challenging students to depth via commitment to fundamental Christ-following (II Pete 1 is a great go-to for this idea). Of course, we can also be SO topical that we never concentrate on the more basic issues that will help people tackle topics Christianly for a lifetime.

    But I would certainly guess that spiritual disciplines show up within various college ministries. I’m not necessarily always around to see it.

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