Ask the UMC: What does The United Methodist Church say about fasting?

Fork and knife against white background. Photo by Bjorgvin Gudmundsson / Stockvault.net.
Fork and knife against white background. Photo by Bjorgvin Gudmundsson / Stockvault.net.

There is a strong biblical base for fasting, particularly during the 40 days of Lent leading to the celebration of Easter. Jesus, as part of his spiritual preparation, went into the wilderness and fasted 40 days and 40 nights, according to the Gospels.

Fasting has been a part of Methodism from its early beginnings. John Wesley considered fasting an important part of a Christian's life and he fasted weekly. To Wesley, fasting was an important way to express sorrow for sin and penitence for overindulgence in eating and drinking. He believed it allowed more time for prayer and was more meaningful if combined with giving to the poor. Wesley did advise caution against extreme fasting and against fasting for those in fragile health.

Although fasting usually refers to any practice of restricting food, there is a distinction between fasting (limiting consumption of food and drink) and abstinence (abstaining from eating meat.) Abstinence from meat one day a week is a universal act of penitence. It is important that you check with your physician before attempting a total fast (no food, water only) for more than 24 hours.

Lent is a very personal time of self-reflection, so The United Methodist Church does not have official guidelines on how individuals should observe Lent. Some choose to give up a certain food, however a spirit of fasting can include restriction of activities such as television watching, shopping or social networking. Some choose to give away clothing or possessions, give time by volunteering or increase time spent in prayer. We fast to reorient ourselves away from the distraction of those things and back toward God.

Read more:

Sign up for our newsletter!

SUBSCRIBE

Latest News

General Conference
Nativity set from Peru, photographed at the Upper Room Museum in Nashville, Tenn. Photo by Mike DuBose, United Methodist Communications.

Ask The UMC: Does Christmas have roots in pagan beliefs?

A look at the long history of celebrating Christmas on December 25 and how the early church arrived at that date.
Theology and Education
 Photo by Alex Ramos, courtesy of Pixabay

Ask The UMC: Why do we baptize at different ages?

United Methodists are glad to baptize people at whatever age or stage they come for baptism. There is no time too soon, and no time too late, to begin one’s journey with Christ.
General Church
Bishop Sharma Lewis shares a moment with Bishop Lindsey Davis, her former bishop in North Georgia Conference, during her consecration on July 15, 2016, at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center at Lake Junaluska, N. C. File photo by Burt Williams, Western North Carolina Conference.

Ask The UMC: How are bishops chosen in The United Methodist Church?

United Methodist bishops are ordained elders elected and consecrated for a ministry of servant leadership and supervision.