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A Hunger for God

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There is an appetite for God. And it can be awakened. I invite you to turn from the dulling effects of food and the dangers of idolatry, and to say with some simple fast: "This much, O God, I want you."

Our appetites dictate the direction of our lives--whether it be the cravings of our stomachs, the passionate desire for possessions or power, or the longings of our spirits for God. But for the Christian, the hunger for anything besides God can be an arch-enemy. While our hunger for God--and Him alone--is the only thing that will bring victory.

Do you have that hunger for Him? As John Piper puts it: "If we don't feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great." If we are full of what the world offers, then perhaps a fast might express, or even increase, our soul's appetite for God.

Between the dangers of self-denial and self-indulgence is this path of pleasant pain called fasting. It is the path John Piper invites you to travel in this book. For when God is the supreme hunger of your heart, He will be supreme in everything. And when you are most satisfied in Him, He will be most glorified in you.

240 pages, Paperback

First published July 3, 1997

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About the author

John Piper

433 books3,876 followers
John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.), and the University of Munich (D.theol.). For six years, he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as pastor at Bethlehem.

John is the author of more than 50 books and more than 30 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at desiringGod.org. John and his wife, Noel, have four sons, one daughter, and twelve grandchildren.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 245 reviews
Profile Image for Chris.
301 reviews28 followers
April 10, 2013
In almost every way this is the best book I've read on fasting. Piper really sells the importance of this oft-neglected discipline, particularly for our current satisfaction-obsessed culture.

The only real misstep of this book--and it's a jarring one--is the seventh chapter, in which Piper focuses on the importance of fasting over the issue of abortion. Of course, it makes sense to talk about fasting over a particular issue of world concern. But he doesn't do much to justify the topic's inclusion, and the sudden appearance of a passionate pro-life plea late a book on fasting felt was off-putting, even for someone who doesn't disagree with most of what he said. I can only imagine how others might react to this hot-button topic, hidden like a springy snake in a can and popping into the reader's face with no warning.

Still, despite my concerns about that one chapter, the book is still well worth a read for anyone curious about how fasting might improve their spiritual life.
Profile Image for Zack Migioia.
9 reviews1 follower
June 26, 2009
I would highly recommend this book to any and all Christians.

Fasting is not practiced or taught in most churches today and the Bible speaks very clearly to subject of fasting. It's so helpful to look at fasting as a privilege and joy, rather than a duty and dread. Whether we eat or don't eat, we should be joyful. Joyful eating and Joyful fasting make up the Christian's life.

God rewards those who fast, but it's important to know that it's not in a meritorious way. The reward that comes from fasting comes from the death of Christ and it's because of Christ that we are blessed, healed, strengthened, etc. Fasting, like prayer, is a means that God chooses to bless his children. I would once again recommend this book to be read by every Christian!
Profile Image for Kaley.
183 reviews19 followers
May 8, 2020
Powerful and informative. Thankful for my small group and The Common Rule for pushing me to learn more about fasting!
Profile Image for Jordan Brown.
82 reviews2 followers
March 27, 2019
An convicting read, especially in our culture of comfort and affluence.

Favorite quote:

“If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”
Profile Image for Kyle McFerren.
112 reviews1 follower
February 14, 2021
Honestly, I was pretty disappointed by this book. It felt like the same things Piper says in his other books, just with "and that's why you should fast" tacked on, and some chapters felt like he forgot he was talking about fasting altogether. Oddly enough, for a book about fasting he literally said nothing about how to fast or any practical advice about fasting. I did appreciate his theology and how he got to the heart behind fasting, but overall this book just wasn't what I was looking for.
511 reviews69 followers
September 26, 2020
The more I listen to and read John Piper, the more I appreciate his gift of teaching and preaching. His mastery of bringing various Scripture to bear on a topic is truly wonderful. This book on fasting is no different from his other tomes. What a great encouragement to follow the Lord in this neglected discipline!
Profile Image for Ada Tarcau.
150 reviews13 followers
March 12, 2023
A great book on fasting. It covers so much ground: how christian fasting is distinct from other types of fasting, what is its goal and reward, what it protects us from, what makes it God-pleasing (and what are the dangers of this discipline), how it is both and inward and an outward weapon.

The book is deeply rooted in Scripture (well, the author’s name makes this remark redundant).

It motivates one to take this “hungry handmaid of faith” more seriously and also warns one of the many ways one can go off ways with this practice.

I was particularly struck by the contrast of christian fasting (with its heart of joy, its God-orientation, its “dissatisfied contentment in the all-sufficiency of Christ”, its out-reaching loving energy) with asceticism (that has self-mastery as the reward and pride as the danger and if it is pursued as an end in itself, it can even do us more harm than good, as we end up exchanging gluttony for pride, the animal self for the diabolical self. “Only God can mortify”).

Also, I was awakened to my own need to fast on a regular basis given my insatiability, the deadening effects of innocent delights, the danger of turning gifts into gods, the inclination of using food as an anesthetic for sadness or other frustrating feelings and my indisposition to forgo my own needs and ambitions and reach out for the sake of the needy, my assimilation in the consumer culture that has transformed even fasting in a self-seeking experience of losing weight / feeling great / reaching higher consciousness.

Below i leave a motivating quote from Chrysostom that Piper has used in the book:
“Fasting is, as much as lies in us, an imitation of the angels, a contemning of things present, a school of prayer, a nourishment of the soul, a bridle of the
mouth, an abatement of concupiscence: it mollifies rage, it appeases anger, it calms the tempests of nature, it excites reason, it clears the mind, it disburdens the flesh, it chases away night-pollutions, it frees from headache. By fasting, a man gets composed behaviour, free utterance of his tongue, right apprehensions of his mind”
January 25, 2022
I love this book. It is a must read for every Christian who is desiring to get a greater hunger for the Lord. Piper calls out many things in our lives that can prevent us from desiring the Lord fully. Things we don’t necessarily think about.

But for starts, Piper really lays a good foundation of what fasting truly means. And throughout the whole book, he gives tons of scriptural examples. Plus examples from trust people in church history.

This book is great. If you hunger to have a greater hunger, this is a must read.
183 reviews2 followers
November 22, 2021
I found this book to contain motivations to fast, rather than a theology of fasting, but it was very motivational (as well as challenging), thus succeeding at its aim!
Profile Image for Carissa Carns.
404 reviews20 followers
June 10, 2022
“If you don't feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”

I had been thinking about fasting in the Bible and this book is a helpful resource for developing your doctrine of fasting. Not only addressing the facts of fasting, but how you can worship God through fasting and the heart behind doing it.

I also liked his point to make sure you’re not loving, loving God (ie in fasting, singing, the things associated with enjoying God) instead of actually loving God.
Profile Image for Diana Barrick.
47 reviews
February 9, 2014
I've read so many Piper books that they begin to sound like a broken record in my head. "John Edwards...blah...blah..." I skimmed through this book until I got to his chapters explaining Isaiah 58. Reading these chapters came as an unexpected splash of cold water in the face. I had wanted to read a book on fasting because of this very passage I'd stumbled across in my own Bible study! I went back and reread this book; taking notes and the time to digest (hah!) it all. I loved his explanation of Isaiah since this is what had inspired my further study on the subject in the first place. This book has been a good reminder for me to engage in fasting and to do it with pure heart and motives. I read this as a READS library book for the Kindle and do not own it. Notes are in my S-note, book notes.
Profile Image for Rod Innis.
650 reviews6 followers
December 31, 2018
This was truly a great book. It is one of those books that needs to be reread. I plan to do that. A great quote (there were many) is "Jesus is the light of the world. Living near him is the brightest place in the universe. To find out where he lives, read the gospels and follow his path." The main focus of the book is fasting/going without food in order to hunger for God. An intimate relationship with God is worth it! If you want a more intimate relationship with God, I recommend this book. In fact, I recommend many of the books written by John Piper!
Profile Image for Martyn.
Author 17 books55 followers
February 24, 2023
I’m not sure what happened here. Piper’s understanding of the passages he cites is bizarre. In other works, writers make the clear link between fasting and intense emotional experience. You don’t need to think about fasting because you WILL fast when extreme emotion overtakes you. In the examples Piper cites, he doesn’t seem to acknowledge this link and instead turns the practice into something akin to the works of the Pharisees. Fasting is used as a kind of prayer strong-arming of God or as a way to ‘increase our experience of Him’. Either way, it becomes just another work we can be ‘doing’ instead of being a natural response of the regenerate heart.

I don’t want to be guilty of ‘leaning on my own understanding here’ so I welcome any counter criticism.
Profile Image for Karla Drozd.
8 reviews4 followers
March 16, 2023
a very beautiful and biblical breakdown of the discipline that reveals what are we controlled by, a discipline that is often overlooked and/or misunderstood - the reward we have to seek in fasting is the presence of God himself and not the gifts from God.
one idea that absolutely struck me was that for the Israelites the point of manna was to trust only in the Lord and nothing else (not even God-given food), that sometimes the test is not the withholding of the food, but the giving of the food. that we must see fasting as a reflection of how hungry we are for God, how ready to pick the cross and how eager to sit at the feet of Jesus.
Profile Image for Julia.
684 reviews12 followers
January 7, 2021
Powerful and motivating book on how fasting can express our hunger for God and deepen our understanding of how helpless and hopeless we are without His love and grace. I found the history of fasting through the ages and throughout all religions to be very interesting. The Audible.com version was beautifully read by Cris O’Brien. I tend to speed up my listening speed on many audible books, but this one I had to slow down in order to savor its message. I will definitely be reading this one again.
Profile Image for Christina.
122 reviews
March 20, 2022
I'm rating this five stars because at one point John Piper is like "there's been a renewed love of worship in our time. That's not to say the music now is better than it has been because....lol it's not by any stretch of the imagination." That's heavily paraphrased but it was a good moment. Also this is a good book on fasting, I guess.
Profile Image for Nour.
2 reviews
July 28, 2022
This book caused a personal revival for me and filled many theological gaps that would have been left blank without a solid understanding of fasting.

Questions this book helped me answer:

What is the purpose of fasting? (obviously)
What do you want most and how can you be sure it is Christ?
What should you do when you really wish Jesus was physically in the room?
What is the balance between our role and the work of the Holy Spirit in our battle with sin?
January 25, 2023
Wow. I never had much of an appreciation for fasting, let alone an inclination to do so before reading this book. It has significantly broadened my understanding of what it looks like to fast and it has helped me develop more of a desire and hunger for God.
Profile Image for Zach Barnhart.
159 reviews14 followers
October 13, 2019
In my opinion, one of Piper's best books. A very important but often ignored aspect of our faith that Piper meets with deep biblical consideration.
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,165 reviews7 followers
January 31, 2021
This book had some excellent, scripturally based information. I learned a lot. I thought the way it was organized was sometimes hard to follow.
Profile Image for Jonathan.
73 reviews8 followers
May 11, 2020
This book will dramatically change your view of fasting for the better.
As a Christian you can't afford NOT to read it.
Profile Image for C.
1,089 reviews1,050 followers
July 1, 2020
Helpfully makes the case from the Bible that Christians should fast. It's much more than a biblical defense of fasting; it also examines proper motives for fasting, gives historical examples of fasting, and presents purposes or causes for which to fast. I wish it included more practical guidance on how to fast.

You can download the ebook for free.

Reasons to fast
• We're hungry for God's Word and Spirit in our lives.
• We long for God to be glorified in the Church and among the nations.
• We yearn for Jesus to return and God's Kingdom to come.
• We want God more than want anything in this world.

"The issue is not food per se. The issue is anything and everything that is, or can be, a substitute for God."
Fasting if we conceive of it truly, must not … be confined to the question fo food and drink; fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some spiritual purpose. —Martyn Lloyd Jones
Is Fasting Christian?
John 16:22-23 doesn't mean Christians wouldn't fast after Christ's resurrection. The early church fasted (Acts 13:1-3; 14:23; 2 Cor 6:5; 11:27). When Jesus said His followers would fast when He was taken away, He was referring to the entire church age, when He's in Heaven, away from His church (Matt 25:1-13).

Matt 9:14-17 means that Jesus' disciples will fast, but the fasting they knew in the OT isn't suitable to the new reality of the NT. Jesus didn't call for no fasting, but for new fasting.

Paul's warnings about fasting (1 Tim 4:3-5; Jas 1:17; Col 2:23) aren't objections to fasting, but objections to distortions of fasting.

Even thought God's Kingdom has broken in, it isn't yet fully realized, so we still long for and desire its full realization. This is why we fast.

Paul mentions fasting in 2 Cor 11:27 and 6:5.
Rising early is a kind of fast. And coming to pray when it is hard to get there is another kind of fast. When we make such choices, we make war on the deceitfulness of our desires and declare the preciousness of prayer and the all-surpassing worth of God.
"This is the essence of Christian fasting: We ache and yearn—and fast—to know more and more of all that God is for us in Jesus."

Man Shall Not Live By Bread Alone
Of all the things Jesus could have done to prepare for being tested by Satan, He fasted.
Fasting tests where the heart is. And when it reveals that the heart is with God and not the world, a mighty blow is struck against Satan. For then Satan does not have the foothold he would if our heart were in love with earthly things like bread.
Fasting is a way of revealing to ourselves and confessing to our God what is in our hearts. Where do we find our deepest satisfaction—in God or in his gifts? And the aim of fasting is that we come to rely less on food and more on God.
Fasting for the Reward of the Father
In Matt 6:16, Jesus says, "When you fast," not "If you fast." He assumed fasting was good, and would be done by His disciples.

"The Bible has virtually nothing to say about the physical dangers of fasting … But great are the biblical concerns for the spiritual dangers of this sacred deed."

Matt 6:17-18 doesn't preclude corporate or public fasting. The Bible records several instances of such fasting, including in the NT (Acts 13:1-3; 14:23). He was speaking about the motive of fasting, not whether it's public or private. "Being seen fasting and fasting to be seen are not the same."

Matt 6:17-18 means we should make some efforts (such as personal hygiene) to prevent others from knowing that we're fasting.

Fasting for the King's Coming
Matt 9:15 isn't a command or ordinance, but it is a prediction. It states that fasting will seem normal for those who love and miss Jesus.
Hunger for God is spiritual, not physical. And we are less sensitive to spiritual appetites when we are in the bondage of physical ones. That mans that fasting is a way of awakening us to latent spiritual appetites by pushing the domination of physical forces from the center of our lives.
Profile Image for John.
33 reviews2 followers
December 21, 2021
What are my appetites? What does my heart long for and crave? John Piper’s book covers what the Bible says about fasting, and how and why Christians should do it—to the glory of God.
January 25, 2021
So much food for thought. I read this for a research paper about fasting and must say that I have never thought about fasting in the Bible like this. Will probably come back to the book at a later time again. Much to process and digest.
Profile Image for Daniel Duane.
40 reviews
April 8, 2014
Insightful and profound in tackling the issue of the Christian fast. I love the way Piper looks at Fasting. Fasting is just like prayer. It isn't like something Christians must or are obliged to do. It's something that IS part of Christian Life, just as prayer and worship. Fasting is not an ends of a means. It should accompany prayer and worship. The goal is not to master the flesh, although mastering fleshly desires and passions can be the result of fasting. But Fasting goes much deeper than that. It is a humble cry out to God, "Lord, the World is heavy, it just keeps on weighing me down. It's temptations, it's wealth and notion of prosperity are crashing down upon me. The need for pride, perfection, independence of God, making wrong right and right wrong, and falsehood is suffocating me. I'm so scared of being sucked into this World and being drowned by its system and values Father. Help me Lord, I pray to You. By Your Strength, by Your Power, by Your Wisdom, I WILL overcome the World."

Piper goes on to review the other subtle hypocrisies that may creep into the hearts and minds of us during the fasting period. If we fast with the aim of being exalted for our religious piety, or in exchange of committing other sinful acts, fasting would be unacceptable to God. We fast with God in mind. To will ourselves - our flesh, our minds, our hearts, our souls, literally everything to God. All glory is to be to Him, and Him alone.

Furthermore, Fasting is not a 'good deed'. It's not something we exchange for God's blessing, or we will make mockery out of God. God's Grace alone has saved us. Fasting is something we do to remind us that our First Love, True Bread, Living Water is God, and His Word alone. Only He can satisfy us. Sure, God gave us food to enjoy. But the moment food becomes the the ends to enjoyment and satisfaction, it becomes a god - an idol.

An eye-opening and spirit-moving book. Another thing I like about this book is that Piper gives examples of how fasting was practiced by the great people in the Bible which lead to the moving of God's hand among the nations. Besides, he included in the Appendix writings of Christian Giants throughout history on Fasting. It's high time Christians start fasting and praying in secret and as one body to usher God's Kingdom onto Earth.
Profile Image for John.
813 reviews129 followers
December 13, 2017
I remember John Piper preaching on fasting, years ago, before he wrote "A Hunger for God." I was a teenager at the time, and didn't really have categories in my mind for fasting, and I never latched onto the ideas he was teaching. Consequently, I was not interested in reading this book later, when it was published.

I finally got around to reading it, and now, twenty years later, the book resonates with me in many ways. At first, I was a bit skeptical about what he was trying to argue, but as he progressively developed a Christian doctrine of fasting, I found myself in fundamental agreement.

He writes, "My aim and my prayer in writing this book is 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!'"

He doesn't argue that we must fast, but why wouldn't we? Fasting is modeled throughout the Bible, including after the resurrection and ascension of Christ. He writes of "Christian fasting, is a hunger for all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19), aroused by the aroma of Jesus’ love and by the taste of God’s goodness in the gospel of Christ..."

Fasting doesn't easily fit in to our schedules and lifestyles, but perhaps it is necessary to change our schedules into a cadence that is more suitable for the kind of lifestyles Christ calls us to, rather than the world.

Profile Image for Benjamin.
33 reviews
February 8, 2014
God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. That's the message of this book for why we fast. This is an excellent biblical expository work on key passages on fasting. Not just why and how, but also the dangers and damage of doing it wrongly, in practice or motivation. The first half of this book taught me a great deal and will be used to keep my own path pure when it comes to fasting. Maybe the most poignant passage being how uncommon this discipline has become being that we are too satisfied with created things. The second half was more practical: fasting for the completion of the great Commission and fasting for societal issues. My own reason for coming to this book is for the former purpose. The latter is also important and Piper used abortion as an example, which seems to generate the most talk from this book. Unfortunately, if we dwell on this, I think we miss the point. Two chapters prior, Piper shows how fasting was used in history, and it can be again in areas where change seems impossible for man. I highlighted a great deal of points and Scriptures and will be using it for a while to come to further my study in this discipline.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 245 reviews

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