John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1997. Paper, 238pp. $12.99.
All Christians know that prayer is an important aspect of the Christian life. Yet, prayer is often ignored. Well, if prayer is often ignored, we can well imagine that fasting is ignored to an even greater degree. John Piper is well aware of this fact because of our hunger for the things of this world. He writes that “the greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. . . . the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable and almost incurable” (p. 14). It is with this knowledge of the dangers of the pleasures of life that Piper makes his case for Christian fasting, which he says is “the hunger of a homesickness for God” (ibid).
Piper presents his case for the importance and necessity of fasting in seven chapters: Is Fasting Christian?; Man Shall not Live by Bread Alone; Fasting for the Reward of the Father; Fasting for the King’s Coming; Fasting and the Course of History; Finding God in the Garden of Pain; and Fasting for the Little Ones. Piper’s purpose for writing this book is so that “it might awaken a hunger for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples. Fasting proves the presence, and fans the flame, of that hunger. It is an intensifier of spiritual desire. It is a faithful enemy of fatal bondage to innocent things. It is the physical exclamation point at the end of the sentence: ‘This much, O God, I long for you and for the manifestation of your glory in the world’” (p. 22)!
This book sets forth a challenge to intensify our spiritual lives. We should be warned, a person can not read this book without walking away with a desire to follow the exhortation to fast. Hopefully, this book will be used of God to awaken the church to this important aspect of our spiritual walk. After all, we see in Scripture that fasting was at the heart of the corporate prayer life of the people (see 2 Chr. 20.3 and Ezr. 8.21). God willing, we will see calls to corporate prayer and fasting to the body at Geneva in the near future.