Fasting: The Ancient Practices [NOOK Book]


“Fasting is the body talking what the spirit yearns, what the soul longs for, and what the mind knows to be true.”

— Scot McKnight

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 ...

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Fasting: The Ancient Practices

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“Fasting is the body talking what the spirit yearns, what the soul longs for, and what the mind knows to be true.”

— Scot McKnight

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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781418576134
  • Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/10/2009
  • Sold by: THOMAS NELSON
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 396,487
  • File size: 688 KB

Meet the Author

Scot McKnight is an Anabaptist theologian and is the Karl A Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University. The author of more than ten books and numerous articles and chapters in multi-authored works, McKnight specializes in historical Jesus studies as well as the Gospels and New Testament. As an authority in Jesus studies, McKnight has been frequently consulted by Fox News, WGN, US News & World Report, Newsweek, TIME, and newspapers throughout the United States.

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 7, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Worth reading for content and fringe benefits

    The spiritual activity of fasting is important throughout scripture, yet the fact that it is really a simple physical activity has confused me. What is the point of fasting? When should we fast? And what good does it do? I've always wondered if it was supposed to accomplish something good in the world, or in me, or both. I've fasted in order to hear the Lord speak to my heart, and to build myself up for a spiritual trial, but frankly have never been quite sure I understood fasting.

    The author's position is that "fasting is a person's whole-body natural response to life's sacred moments." By that I assume he means that we lose our appetite because of intensely upsetting events or emotions. I agree that in a severe enough crisis, people are unable to eat, but possibly he means for us sometimes to go a step further than a natural response, to a willful fast.

    I appreciate the discussion of how we in the Western world have divided our selves into the spiritual part (mind, emotions) and the non-spiritual part (body). I have noticed in scripture how a person's devotion and faith were demonstrated physically in those times and places so much more than we do here (North America) and now. In times of grieving or crisis--spiritual or not--we read of some wearing sackcloth, tearing their garments, tithing living animals, and traveling many miles to join in a national religious holy day. In a way I have envied them for their culture which brought a person's religious faith from the inside to the outside.

    In reading this book, I did struggle a bit with the "body" terminology: body turning, body plea, body calendar, body hope. I think the text would have flowed a little more easily if I wasn't interrupting my train of thought to wrap my head around what those terms really meant, and trying to chase away society's current connotations of body image and body contact.

    The idea of fasting as a response to a situation, versus fasting for a result, appeals to me as a purer motive, yet there seems to be no way of getting around the scriptural and traditional practices of fasting for certain outcome. In fact, one of the latter chapters, "Fasting and its Benefits", seemed to conflict with the earlier chapters in the book. So I'm still gathering information and wisdom on my personal attempts to understand the practice, and this book is an important launch for that journey.

    I would recommend Fasting to all who desire to follow completely the Lord's multi-faceted plans for transforming us to be more like Him. I enjoyed some of the fringe benefits of reading this work, such as learning more about devoted Christians from the time of Christ to today, and about ancient and modern religious practices. I even learned a bit about myself, some of it disappointing. But I am grateful for the way Scot McKnight's book very gently and subtly suggests that we take a close look at what makes us grieve, and what we truly yearn for. Any book that does that is of immense value to a believer.

    [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.]

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2011

    Fasting, will leave you hungry for more!

    I recently completed Fasting by Scot McKnight. The book is a part of a series called The Ancient Practice Series. The other books in the series include:
    Finding Our Way Again by Brian McLaren
    In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson
    Sabbath by Dan B. Allender
    Tithing by Douglas LeBlanc
    The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher
    The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister
    The Sacred Journey by Charles Foster

    Growing up in a Southern Baptist church, most of the traditions of the Church were not a part of the experience. I never knew anyone that fasted. With the start of the Lenten season, I found myself curious about fasting. I wanted to know why.

    McKnight's book made this search easy. Fasting is defined as, "Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life." McKnight continues this definition with an easy to understand formula that is woven throughout the explanations in the whole of the book, A->B->C. A, the grievous sacred moment. B, the response. C, results. McKnight also helps the reader understand what fasting is not. "Fasting isn't a manipulative tool that guarantees results."

    McKnight does an excellent job of speaking in a way that any reader can understand. While the book is based on Biblical passages, the reader is not left to interpret them own their own. McKnight also does a great job of taking the reader through all of the things fasting is and all of the things fasting is not. He even goes into the medical implications.

    I think many Christian authors miss an opportunity that McKnight was able to capture. I believe books like this should leave the reader informed, yet wanting to know more. The reader should immediately want to open the Bible and understand the source. McKnight did an excellent job on creating an informative, easy to read and motivating book on a topic that not many would final all that interesting to begin.

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  • Posted March 15, 2011

    Good perspective on a misunderstood discipline

    This book review is on "Fasting," written by Scot McKnight and published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. I downloaded the free ebook from Book Sneeze for my new Kindle and am reviewing the book for them.

    The book is well written, although the author appears to have approached the theme of fasting from a rather "high church" point of view. It is a bit academic sounding, but does convey what I believe to be the essence of biblical fasting, including reasons for, the benefits and problems involved in the much overlooked practice of fasting.

    Mr. McKnight approaches the subject of fasting from what he calls an A->B->C response.
    The author feels that fasting is natural and should be initiated because of the "A" which he describes as "a grievous sacred moment". Something happens in the life of the believer which causes him or her to respond by "B" a natural reaction of fasting. As a result of "B" then many times there is "C" which is a certain benefit sometimes received from the process of A->B.

    The author stresses the fact that the motivation behind fasting should never be the "C" - what we can "get" from God as a result of fasting. He writes: "fasting isn't a manipulative tool that guarantees results." The emphasis is always on the "A" - that something that affects us spiritually to the point of causing a somewhat spontaneous fast because of our concern over the seriousness of the situation.

    The author also uses terms like "body talk," "body turning," and "body poverty" among other to describe the different facets of fasting.

    John Calvin said: "whenever men are to pray to God concerning any great matter, it would be expedient to appoint fasting along with prayer." I think this really sums up the overall point of the author in his book.

    Overall, I felt the book was a good argument for the proper purpose and motive of fasting. As I mentioned before, if you can wade through the "high church" feel of the book, I think you will be refreshed with the principles laid out in this book.

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  • Posted February 28, 2011

    Great Book!

    Scot McKnight

    "Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life." Scot McKnight

    Fasting is not a manipulative tool used to attain that which we desire, but rather fasting should be the result of a spiritual connection to God and our desire for His will in our lives. This book is an in depth look at the ancient practice of fasting. The early Church considered prayer to be a whole body activity. "They were hungry enough for God's leading that they wanted to say it with the hunger of their bodies and not just the hunger of their hearts", says John Piper, regarding the Saints of the Church.

    Scot McKnight has an interesting perspective about the subject of fasting. He compares fasting in the Church of yesterday with the modern Church, describing our modern view of the body

    · As a monster to be conquered;
    · As a celebrity to be glorified;
    · As a cornucopia to be filled;
    · As a wallflower to be ignored

    He then goes into detailed explanation of each of these perspectives, which I found fascinating and very true. The author does a great job detailing the ancient spiritual practice of fasting, outlining fasting as body discipline. He backs his perspective up with quotes from the bible and dedicates a chapter in the book to great men of the bible and their encounters with God through fasting.

    The focus of the book is that fasting is a response to some sacred moment between an individual and God. This book really inspired me to carry on with my practice of fasting, pick up where I left off, but see fasting in a different light.

    "The tendency is to think that God will love as if we change, but God loves us so that we can change. Penitential practices and disciplines (like fasting) enable us to appropriate and make real in our lives the freedom given through Grace." Thomas Ryan

    Suggestions for further reading:

    Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
    To Love Fasting by Adelbert de Vogue
    The Sacred Art of Fasting by Thomas Ryan

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2011

    Fasting by Scot McKnight

    Hello there! I just got another new book from booksneeze- "Fasting" by Scot McKnight. Before we get started, I'm going to tell you that, due to some long law thing, I'm under no legal obligation to give this a positive review, so whatever I say is my true, unbiased opinion. Okay, now that that's settled, let get on with this. This new book, "Fasting" is quite obviously on fasting. Fasting nowadays is a rather obscure, vague thing that only really really super spiritual people do, if anyone does that at all. This book explains exactly what fasting is, why it is important in a Christian's walk with Jesus, and gives some history on fasting- when it was most common, who did it, that sort of thing. Now, just to be clear, usually I order fiction books from Booksneeze, but this one caught my attention because some people in my family have fasted before, and they have said it was a wonderful experience. So I ordered this, thinking to learn more about it. Fasting is something that you don't decide to do, you have to be called by God to do it- otherwise you won't be very successful? This book can be a bit dry at times, but it is a very educational read, and I liked it because it shared some good history along with ways to apply the rules of fasting to today's life style. I enjoyed it?

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  • Posted February 5, 2011


    I was provided with this book in exchange for a review by Booksneeze. (Thomas Nelson Publishers) Is the body relevant when it comes to our spirit and religion? In this book, Dr. Scot McKnight reconnects the spiritual and the physical through the discipline of fasting. The practice of fasting, he says, should not be based entirely off of it's physical effects and should not be done solely for that purpose. It is a practice to be used in response to sacred and life changing moments, just as it was intended. The author gives us evidence of fasting in biblical times, along with information about the benefits of fasting and when we should fast, and what happens to our bodies as a result. This book is excellent for anyone who is curious as to how someone goes about fasting successfully. Many religions throughout history have used this practice as a way to get "closer" to their deities. Many people follow along with the practice not knowing the origins or meanings behind this practice, but strictly to lose weight or gain some sort of health from it. Scot McKnight breaks down the barriers that hold back this knowledge. In the first bit of the book the author talks about how fasting and spirituality go hand and hand and how our bodies are just as important as our souls. He lets the reader know how it can help them build an even closer relationship with their creator and how it can help them get into tune with their spiritual needs. The author talks about how fasting may or may not be healthy for our bodies and how sometimes it can be dangerous if not done correctly. I think this book would be an excellent read for anyone who is considering fasting or just interested in the practice. Overall, I found this book incredibly interesting and even thought of fasting myself. Though I have tried it on several occasions entirely for the wrong reasons, I feel that fasting could not only open our eyes but also be beneficial for our bodies as well.

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  • Posted January 12, 2011

    Fasting Properly

    Fasting by Scot McKnight is part of The Ancient Practices series put together by Phyllis Tickle. This is the first book I've read devoted entirely to fasting; I had only read a chapter here and there on fasting in various books on spiritual disciplines. McKnight's approach is entirely different. He doesn't look at fasting as a way to bring us closer to God or to benefit us, but as away we respond to situations in life. His book is centered around this premise: "Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life."

    I appreciated McKnight's look at fasting and the different situations in which we can use fasting as a bodily and spiritual response. He gives a thorough, biblical (as well as historical) look at fasting--including how not to fast. I plan to use his insight to enhance my life with fasting as a response to grievous, sacred situations.

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.

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  • Posted January 11, 2011

    Fasting by McKnight

    I dont like the book and I dont agree with the authors point of view. Fasting is not a response to grief. i think its a way to offer up a gift of obedience to God. Much as the sacrifice used to be in the days of the Old Testament. The author makes some good points, but anything can be taken out of context; and I just dont like the lines he draws. His sounding point is that we fast in response to grief - of course we dont eat when we are filled with sorrow! Who needs a book to tell them that??

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  • Posted March 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good answers to the "why" questions of fasting

    Historically, the Christian spiritual discipline of fasting has been recognized by its unhealthy excesses. Stories of early ascetics starving themselves in an attempt to curry God's favor immediately come to mind. Horror stories of those excesses have caused the spiritual "baby to be thrown out with the bath water" in Western Evangelicalism over the past several generations. Recently, there has been a renewed interest in the traditional spiritual disciplines, including fasting. With that renewed interest, a bevy of writings has been produced on the subject. Scot McKnight's book, Fasting, stands uniquely above most of those I have read. Most books I have read on fasting focus on using it as a way to get God to do what we want Him to do. In essence, they distill it into a form of divine manipulation-fasting is promoted as the best means to accomplish the ends we desire. In those writings, it is viewed as a kind of "super prayer." McKnight has a much different, and far more biblical, approach. Throughout the book, he teaches the idea that, "Fasting is not a technique we ply that makes things happen just because we ply it.. The heart of the deep Christian tradition about fasting is that a grievous sacred moment prompts the integrated person to fast. Sometimes the resolution comes about, and sometimes it doesn't."

    While I am uncomfortable with much of the author's underlying ecumenism, his view of fasting is refreshing because it is biblical. Although his argument is not bolstered by detailed scriptural exposition (which would have been helpful), it is informed by an accurately informed biblical worldview. Fasting is not a tool with which to manipulate God. Fasting is a whole-body response by Christians who are experiencing grief over a particular situation. Particularly helpful are the author's treatment of dualism and the potential problems with fasting. This is not a "how-to" book on fasting and should not be the only book one reads on the subject, but it is a valuable resource to enable readers to have the right focus. While it is not designed to answer the "how" questions, it does a wonderful job answering the "why" questions. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is either wholly neglected or widely abused. This book will guard the reader against both unfortunate extremes.

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  • Posted February 28, 2009

    What is fasting.

    Scot McKnight
    Thomas Nelson, 2008
    ISBN: 9780849901089
    5 Stars
    Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for, 02/09
    What is fasting.
    While I have been a Christian and attended church regularly for over 40 years, I know little about fasting. Scot McKnight tackles a topic that many Christians avoid. Fasting is not something readily taught in many mainstream churches. The few times my church has suggested fasting, the response was to give up something during Lent such as coffee, chocolate, meat, television, etc. McKnight explains this is not fasting. McKnight shares theological insight and methods, health warnings and "pitfalls." Fasting is a historical practice. It is a response to grief, such as death or the recognition of sin. Fasting is also used along with our prayer requests. Fasting is not to be used as a means of manipulating God. Fasting is a time of intimacy with God.
    Scot McKnight writes in an easy-to-understand style. It is obvious that McKnight did in-depth research before writing Fasting. I recommend this book to pastors and worship teams.

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    Posted December 3, 2010

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    Posted December 13, 2009

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    Posted January 3, 2011

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