Most people don’t question the importance of prayer and Bible study in spiritual formation. But fasting–that’s for the Medieval weirdos.
Or, maybe not.
Take pastor, theologian, and founder of Methodism, John Wesley (1703-1791) for example. He wrote, “the man that never fasts is no more in the way to heaven than the man that never prays.”
Dallas Willard–a modern day theologian, professor, and spiritual formation guru–says, “We of course tend to think of ascetic practices perhaps as oddities of human history, prominent only in ‘pagan India,’ perhaps, or in the spiritually degraded ‘Dark Ages’ of Western Europe. But such thinking is far from the truth. It’s an illusion created in part by our own conviction that our unrestrained natural impulse is in itself a good thing and that we have an unquestionable right to fulfill our natural impulses so long as ‘no ones gets hurt.'” (Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, 99)
In our obsession with ‘the easy life’ we’ve tossed aside uncomfortable spiritual practices and buried ourselves under the pillows of cushy Christianity. The kind of religion that promises genuine growth but instead swallows us in a hollow ‘form’ of Christian spirituality.
If we want to act like Jesus we are going to have to get comfortable with discomfort. Not pain for pain’s sake; but self-imposed discomfort. Like an athlete’s painful workout that leads to greater effectiveness on game day.