My endeavour is to bring out of scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there. I have a great jealousy on this head; never to speak more or less what I believe to be the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding.

Charles Simeon


“WHEN the old Liberals removed the gags from all the heresies, their idea was that religious and philosophical discoveries might thus be made. Their view was that cosmic truth was so important that every one ought to bear independent testimony. The modern idea is that cosmic truth is so unimportant that it cannot matter what any one says. The former freed inquiry as men loose a noble hound; the latter frees inquiry as men fling back into the sea a fish unfit for eating. Never has there been so little discussion about the nature of men as now, when, for the first time, any one can discuss it. The old restriction meant that only the orthodox were allowed to discuss religion. Modern liberty means that nobody is allowed to discuss it. Good taste, the last and vilest of human superstitions, has succeeded in silencing us where all the rest have failed.”

~G.K. Chesterton: “Heretics,” — I. Introductory Remarks on the Importance of Orthodoxy.

The key to discernment isn’t what you think it is. The key is something much more simple than you’ve expected and much more difficult than you can possibly imagine.

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A friend recently asked me some questions about the spiritual discipline of fasting. I’m not an expert on fasting, but I tried to give some straightforward answers to her questions based on my understanding of the Scriptures from a reformed perspective.

I’ll share a modified version of my reply to her, with her permission.

Dear A,

Fasting is certainly a powerful spiritual discipline. Since God is inviting you, it seems, to practice regular fasting and prayer, it’s right that you should look into it.

The Christian tradition provides for varying reasons for fast: repentance for sin (personal or systemic), in order to deepen prayer or the experience of God, in order to intercede for something/someone, etc. Do you sense that this call is related to missions [she spoke about a concern for mission in her letter]? Is it related to something else?

Here are some specific responses to the questions you posed, I hope they’re helpful.

  • “Here’s some things I’m pondering: is there a certain day of the week that is supposed to be used for fasting?”

Traditionally fasts were observed on Fridays and not on Sundays because Friday recalls Good Friday and Christ’s sacrificial death and Sunday is the Christian Sabbath, the Lord’s Day when we celebrate His resurrection.

  • “Does it include not drinking water as well?”

As far as I know, fasting never includes abstaining from water. The body needs water more than it needs food and it can be dangerous to deprive yourself of it. Typically it is food (generally), or certain type of food like red meat.

  • Is there a certain way I should be praying throughout the day, like focus on just one thing?

My counsel is that on a regular basis you devote two periods of time to prayer—one in the morning; one in the evening. This was the practice of the English Puritans. Then, throughout the day cultivate the practice of praying as you encounter people/things/impressions. This way life can become a conversation with God. I always encourage believers to pray Scripture, especially the Psalms.

You can meditate during the day as well—typically by slowly reading/praying Holy Scripture (Psalms).

  • Is there any place in the Bible that talks about how to fast? 

To my recollection, the only passage that really speaks about fasting is the admonition to keep your fast a secret. Inherent in all spiritual practices is our propensity to begin to look at these practices as things that earn us favor with God or that make us better than other believers. Both of these impulses are a type of idolatry and are not good for the soul. See Mt 6:16-18.

  • Does it make the prayers more holy/ what is the significance?

Fasting doesn’t make your prayers more holy; rather, God can use the practice to make you more holy, which is infinitely more beneficial!

Grace and peace,



No visible Church has any right to say, “We are the only true Church. We are the men, and truth shall die with us.” No visible Church should ever dare to say, “We shall stand forever. The gates of hell will not overcome us.” This is that Church to which belong the Lord’s precious promises of preservation, continuance, protection, and final glory. “Whatever,” says Hooker, “we read in Scripture, concerning the endless love and saving mercy which God shows towards His Churches, the only proper subject is this Church, which we properly term the mystical body of Christ.” Small and despised as the true Church may be in this world, it is precious and honorable in the sight of God. The temple of Solomon in all its glory was nothing, in comparison with that Church which is built upon a rock.

J. C. Ryle, Warnings to the Churches