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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Let's consider again what we're doing with this fasting business, and the role of hunger within it.

Fasting or not, we all constantly operate from within a state of multi-plexed hunger. We're hungry for food, for air-conditioned comfort, for sleep, and so on. As such, it can often feel like our lives consist of little more than the habitual oscillation between hunger > satisfaction > hunger > satisfaction, etc., on these various fronts. The problem is that being in a state of hunger so constantly has the effect of skewing our perspective:

Undue Significance a starving man attaches
To Food—
Far off—He sighs—and therefore—Hopeless—
And therefore—Good—

Partaken—it relieves—indeed—
But proves us
That Spices fly
In the Receipt—It was Distance—
Was Savory—

(Emily Dickinson)

Dickinson is here reminding us of a fact that our own repeated experience would certainly verify: our desire for objects is always out of proportion with the degree to which they actually tend to satisfy us. It's generally our "Distance" from an object—our state of unfulfilled desire—that lends us to think the partaking of it will bring us to new levels of "Savory" satisfaction. Once "Partaken," however, reality bites back. Sure, "it relieves" for a precious few moments, but soon the whole cycle starts over again, our memory fades, and the gears of disproportioned desires start churning again in our hearts.

There's one exception. "Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst'" (John 6:35). Jesus had likewise told the Samaritan woman, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again" (John 4:13-14).

One reason we're fasting, then, is to declare (to God, and to ourselves) that, in contrast to physical food and other similar hungers, we have found "Due Significance" in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the one object of hunger for which, in desiring him with all we have, our desires could never possibly be skewed. Over-desire for Jesus is an impossibility. Because he will always and forever prove himself Savory. Fasting is a way to remind our forgetful selves that one of our desires is not like the others.

So let our stomachs growl, and let our hearts churn for Him.

Jesse Peterson
Ministry Fellow at Columbia