Oprah fasted... not for Jesus but for weight control..
I used to think that fasting was an activity that was intended to gets God's attention. A way to shout with ones actions: "Hey! Look at me! I'm not eating, & its for you!" I may have even believed that it was transactional... not that I'd have ever spoken the words out loud, but there was a thought, however small, that would say, "Ok God. Since I am fasting, You HAVE to do what I am praying for. Have to. I am doing my part. Now its Your turn."
Something about the 'spiritual-ness' of fasting used to make me want to make sure that I slipped it into conversation, something that would kind of get mentioned in passing... its not that I was going all "woe is me hypocrite" on anyone... its just that I found ways & means to happen to be places where my lack of eating would be observed.
I tried to fast once a week, Tuesdays. Which meant Monday nights at 11:50 p.m., I was loading up a plate or 3, just to make sure that I wouldn't be passing out from hunger on my 'fast day.' During what would normally have been meal-times on 'fast-days,' I tried to pray - which often meant I tried not to think about eating. Kept having to corral my runaway mind, & to try not to pay attention to my stomach which seemed to be flipping over in a complaint at not having been paid attention to.
A guy that I knew got really into fasting... at meal time he'd just read his Bible & pray... he got a bit carried away with it, so much so that over a period of 3 months, he dropped about 50 pounds... pounds that he couldn't afford to give up. In talking with him later, he told me that somehow he had reasoned to himself that if God likes it when we fast, then he was going to make God really happy with him.
That put me over the edge. Got tired of acting like I understood this - so I tried to study up on it; read through every passage that mentions fasting in the Bible. Talked to people, asking questions. Read books.
What I found out is that people are all over the map in their understanding about fasting... that a lot of people see it the way I used to...its a way to twist God's arm, to play the trump card that He can't ignore.
And what I think I came to understand about fasting is that its not that at all - instead, as a 'personal practice,' its about humility - humbling myself - a reminder that my stomach is not the boss of me. That I don't live by bread alone. And that the reality of the situation was, i was keeping God at arms length & trying to impress Him (& others) with superficial 'stuff' - behaviors & conversations that never went beyond the surface, focusing mostly on my own needs & my own will.
I wanted it to be different.
Isaiah 58 was insightful. And helpful. So was Daniel..