The Origin of Fasting: Reversing Cause and Effect- Shades of Grace | Natalie Nichols

The Origin of Fasting: Reversing Cause and Effect

 The Origin of Fasting: Reversing Cause and Effect

In Fasting for a Spiritual Breakthrough, Elmer Towns writes,

Most scholars believe that the practice of fasting began with the loss of appetite during times of great distress and duress. Hannah, who would later become the mother of Samuel, was so distressed about her barrenness that “she wept and did not eat” (1 Sam. 1:7). 1

In despair and grief, a person cried to God for an answer. Over time, the cause and effect was intentionally reversed. Fasting came to be practiced as an external means of demonstrating and encouraging an internal feeling of grief for sin and for cultivating earnest prayer. The original cause (deep grief and stress) drove people to the effect (not eating). Later, when people desperately needed answers from God, they turned to the effect (not eating) so they could afflict their souls to the point they would pray to God with all their hearts (cause). 2, 3

If we truly want to draw near to God, we must allow fasting and prayer to bring about grief over personal sin. We must allow the effect (abstaining from food) to bring about the cause (grief, remorse, and sincere prayer).

Question: As you fast, are you allowing the effect (abstaining from food) to bring about the cause—remorse over sin and earnest prayer? 



1. Elmer Towns, Fasting for a Spiritual Breakthrough (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1996), 25

2. Ibid., 146

3. Many places in scripture fasting is described as “afflicting” one’s soul or body (Is. 58:3,5 KJV).


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