Coffee being tested in the RAOS laboratory. RAOS, Cooperativa Regional Mixta de Agricultores Orgánicos de la Sierra, is a Fairtrade-certified coffee producer based in Marcala, La Paz, Honduras.

Spiritual disciplines are practices found in the Holy Scriptures that contribute to spiritual growth. These help us develop the discipline and habits to ultimately know God and His purposes. Fasting stands along with the other common disciplines of reading and studying the Scripture, praying, meditating, serving, and giving. These are done personally or as families, congregations, or communities. These practices do not imply that we are holy or godly—but help us to become mature people, increasingly reflecting God in every area of our lives, as explained in 1 Timothy 4:7: Train yourself in godliness..”

Fasting is abstaining from eating or limiting ones food to very basic or frugal amounts for a period of time. The purpose is twofold: to make oneself humble, to experience vulnerability and total dependence on God, and to give further clarity, sharpness, and meaning to our prayers and worship. The second is to evoke empathy with those who are hungry and in need, strengthen solidarity, and to motivate us to share what we have with those who lack resources.

We fast to assist in seeking guidance and direction from God—as Jesus fasted before launching his ministry (Matthew 4:1-11). We fast as a form of confession as Daniel did (Daniel 9). We fast to prepare for a significant event—such as returning from exile (Ezra 8). We fast as an expression of mourning, loss and death (2 Samuel 1:12). We fast to commemorate and celebrate Gods salvation and rescue (Esther 9).

Isaiah reminds us that all spiritual disciplines can be distorted and become worthless. Our lives should reflect the spiritual disciplines we practice in our relationship with others and how we work for justice and righteousness (V 6-7). I personally learned this as the World Council of Churches joined with many other partners together in prayer to overcome famine in 2017 and 2018. This has further expanded into a beautiful tapestry of ecumenical partners across the world joining together in our Weekend of Prayer and Action Against Hunger.

Even these noble initiatives can become shallow if we are not intentional in our work for justice and concrete transformation in our communities. My work to promote the Food for Life Campaign has made me look at my own life more critically—to see that all transformational justice initiatives must also include our own personal transformation.

The first half of the Ten Commandments describes what a right relationship with God looks like, and the second half of commandments describes how to live rightly with others. The spiritual disciplines were never intended to be purely spiritual.

We cannot limit our understanding and relationship with God—only fixing our gaze on the heavens above, oblivious to the cries of Gods creation and image-bearers here on earth. That would be like only following the first five commandments and leaving the next five commandments void. Or like a coin that is only minted on one side—with the other blank. Both will be discarded as they are not fit for purpose. Let us strive for holiness with humility, love and concern for the other, and a deep hunger and thirst for justice and righteousness!

About the author :

Dr Manoj Kurian is the coordinator of the WCC-Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.

He is a Malaysian medical doctor, trained in Community Health and Health Systems Management. After working for seven years in mission hospitals in diverse rural regions in India, from 1999, he headed the health work at the WCC for 13 years. From 2012, for two years, he worked at the International AIDS Society as the senior manager, responsible for the policy and advocacy work.

He is an adjunct faculty at the College of Public Health, Kent State University, USA. Manoj is married and has two children.


The impressions expressed in the blog posts are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.