Fasting (The Ancient Practices)

by Scot McKnight

Hardcover, 2009




Christianity has traditionally been at odds with the human body. At times in the history of the church, Christians have viewed the body and physical desires as the enemy. Now, Scot McKnight, best-selling author of The Jesus Creed, reconnects the spiritual and the physical in the ancient discipline of fasting. Inside You'll Find in-depth biblical precedents for the practice of fasting; How to fast effectively-and safely; Different methods of fasting as practiced in the Bible; Straight talk on pitfalls, such as cheating and motivation. Join McKnight as he explores the idea of "whole-body spirituality," in which fasting plays a central role. This ancient practice, he says, doesn't make sense to most of us until we have grasped the importance of the body for our spirituality, until we can view it as a spiritual response to a sacred moment. Fasting-simple, primitive, and ancient-still demonstrates a whole person's earnest need and hunger for the presence of God, just as it has in the lives of God's people throughout history. The Ancient Practices There is a hunger in every human heart for connection, primitive and raw, to God. To satisfy it, many are beginning to explore traditional spiritual disciplines used for centuries . . . everything from fixed-hour prayer to fasting to sincere observance of the Sabbath. Compelling and readable, the Ancient Practices series is for every spiritual sojourner, for every Christian seeker who wants more.… (more)


Thomas Nelson Inc (2009), 180 pages

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½ (24 ratings; 3.9)

User reviews

LibraryThing member StephenBarkley
"Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life" (18).

That statement summaries the entire book. McKnight identified a three step process in fasting:

1. Something "grievous" happens
2. We fast
3. God responds

Our culture is obsessed with short-circuiting
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this movement. We want something from God, so we fast (jumping in at number 2) and expect number 3. In Scripture, fasting always starts with step 1; step 3 is never a given. God will not submit to our manipulation. When we use fasting to get something from God we're engaging in little more than a pointless hunger strike.

The concept is simple, but powerful (as most good ideas are). While not in this book, I wonder whether the pattern is similar in prayer. We've been taught to "pray in the good times as well as the bad", and to not just pray when we're in trouble. A quick look at the Psalms shows us that David more often than not followed the 1, 2, 3, pattern as well.

Back to the topic at hand. This is an excellent primer for anyone interested in exploring the ancient practice of fasting. It's motivational, informative, and places the practice in proper perspective.
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LibraryThing member wakela
Many religions throughout history have used fasting as a way to get closer to their dieties and to atone for sins. Many people follow along with the practice not knowing the origins or meanings behind this practice.

Scot McKnight breaks down the barriers that hold back this knowledge.

In the first
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half of the book, he talks about fasting as it applies to spirituality. How does it help you get closer to God? How does it help you tune into your spiritual being?

In the second half of the book, he talks about the physical implications of fasting. Is it actually healthy for you to fast? Can it cause you health problems if not done correctly?

Even though I am not a Christian, I came away with a great knowledge about this practice that can be applied to my religion as well.
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LibraryThing member texicanwife
This is an insightful look into the ancient Christian act of fasting, and its implications on Christians today.

McKnight remains objective in the many reasons for use of the fast, including for health, religion and spirit. I found this book a delight to read, and was very thought provoking.

In the
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closing statements of the text, McKnight leaves us with this statement which, to me, was the "be all and know all" of the book:
"...instead, we will fast because we will sense God's response to the very conditions around us, and it will leads us to join in the good work of God. I suspect that we will discover that joining God is all we really wanted anyway."
Profoundness in simplicity.

I give this book four stars and my thumbs up award!

****DISCLOSURE: This book was provided by BOOK SNEEZE in exchange for an honest review of the work.
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LibraryThing member atdCross
An excellent study on the purpose and practice of fasting. The author defines fasting as "the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life" (p.xx). Personally, I have never read it thus defined and have found it very, very helpful in gaining a clearer understanding
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of not only the concept of fasting but the attitude in which and how it ought to be practiced.

The author also emphasizes that fasting is inappropriately used to obtain certain desired results, which although in itself is not wrong, nevertheless, "fasting isn't a manipulative tool that guarantees results." He repeatedly affirms that fasing is, above all, "a response to a sacred moment" (p.xxi). He states that "the conversation today about fasting is about what we can get and not enough about the serious and severe sacred moments that prompt fasting" (xxii).

McKnight contends that fasting involves the whole person, the spirit and the body, which our culture for the most part has, unfortunately, separated, considering each to be irrelevant to the other. "Fasting," the author continues, "is the body talking what the spirit yearns"; and, therefore, he describes fasting as "body talk", that is, a way for the "the person, the whole person, to express himself or herself completely" (p.11).

As the back flap suggests, "McKnight's eloquent book makes the connection between ancient practices and modern times clear, and the benefits palpable."
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LibraryThing member deusvitae
A discussion of fasting that respects ancient evidence but is mostly directed at re-establishing the value of fasting as a sacred practice in contemporary Christianity.

The author seeks to make the argument throughout that fasting is "the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred
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moment in life," emphasizing the notion that fasting in the Bible is a response to real or perceived distance from God, some calamity or disaster, one's sin, or things of that sort, and seeks to challenge the proposition of instrumental fasting, the idea that one fasts in order to obtain result x or y. He lays the concept out as A -> B -> C, where A is the sacred moment, B is the fasting, and C is the result. Perhaps C takes place; perhaps there really is no C. But B should not be done to get to C; B happens because of A.

The author might be guilty of a little over-generalization but the general principle should absolutely be accepted. He also insists that fasting involves deprivation of food and drink, sometimes allowing water, sometimes not; other things called fasting today, like "technology fasts," or times when people do not eat certain foods but do others, he considers as forms of abstinence and not fasts, since in the Bible, fasting always involves deprivation of food and drink save water. This is not to say that periods of abstinence are bad or wrong; they're just not fasting. I believe the author does well to make this distinction.

The author begins by exposing our modern culture's dualism between body and soul in contrast to the Biblical view of body and soul as an organic unity. Fasting seems quaint and irrelevant to society precisely because body and soul have been separated; when they are united as they should be, there are many times when the natural response to certain circumstances and events is to renounce food for a time. This is a well-made point.

The author describes the situations in which fasting can be appropriate based on the impulse guiding it: a turning, as in repentance, grief at events, petition for self or others, disciplining the body, orientating to a pattern or calendar, an indication of poverty, to connect with the divine, and as an expression of the eschatological hope. He also discusses the distortions and abuses of fasting as well as its benefits and provides a helpful note about the health challenges that may come as a result of extreme fasting.

This is an excellent resource regarding an underdiscussed and underutilized Biblical practice and discipline, providing a necessary challenge to the dualisms of Western thought and modern Christian belief and practice. Very much worth consideration.
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LibraryThing member johnfgaines
Fasting by Scot McKnight

McKnight addresses the often-misunderstood subject of fasting by insisting that it is “the natural inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life.” Fasting may bring results such as answers to prayers but McKnight labors at length to emphasize that
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results are not the reason for participating in fasting. In fact, focusing on the results that might be obtained leads to misunderstanding of the real value of fasting.

The book is valuable in challenging readers to understand why fasting is a useful spiritual discipline. One should not fast solely as a matter of obligation. One should not fast simply for the assumed benefits one gets from it. One fasts because it is the natural human response to the spiritual need of growing closer to God.

McKnight’s work is not without significant weaknesses. It contains numerous assertions but lacks supporting evidence for the claims made. Not enough is said about Bible teaching about fasting, which is a major flaw for readers seeking Biblical authority for the way they practice their faith. Understanding that this book is part of the Nelson “Ancient Practices” series, it still seems that too much weight is given to the practices of the post-apostolic church.

If pressed to give a letter grade, this reviewer could award nothing better than a B minus. It is worth reading, but leave an unsatisfying sense that it could have been much better.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255
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