Saturday, July 22, 2006

Everything I Know About Fasting--A Really Short Post

Fasting can add another dimension to our spiritual lives. We can be more aware of God’s presence with us, we can have more insights into His workings, we can have more power in our prayer lives. I don’t know how it works, but here are a few tips that I have if you’re interesting in adding this discipline to your prayer life.
Fasting is mentioned in scripture, but we aren’t told a lot about how to fast. Most of our modern day teaching on fasting comes from Matthew 6:16-18 when Jesus said,

“Moreover when you fast, don't be like the hypocrites, with sad faces. For they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen by men to be fasting. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; so that you are not seen by men to be fasting, but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.”

We can see two things from this: 1. Jesus expected that we would fast (His use of the word when) and 2. that we shouldn’t brag about our fasting. I think it’s this number 2 that makes teaching on fasting so rare. We’re so afraid of bragging that no one even admits to fasting, much less gives others hints on how to do it. So, teaching on fasting becomes almost taboo.
I feel the need to say here that I am not a frequent faster. I was when I was single, but I’ve found it more difficult as a married woman who needs to get 3 meals daily on the table for the family. I’m making it a priority to learn how to fast and be Mommy at the same time. So, these tips are some I learned “on the job” in my earlier years.
Tip #1: Determine the length and conditions of the fast at the beginning of the fast, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You won’t be able to maintain a fast that isn’t Spirit-led—and who wants to fast in the flesh anyway? I find it best to write these down, to help myself remember and not rationalize. It’s very easy to feel led to break a fast when you’re hungry, but if you’ve written down a specific day and time to break it, you’re less likely to give in to hunger pangs.
Tip #2: Start small. If you aren’t accustomed to fasting, don’t begin with a forty day water-only fast. Skip a meal. Spend that time in prayer. Gradually work your way up to longer periods of time.
Tip #3: Not all fasts involved the elimination of all foods. God may lead you to drink only liquids, including juice, or He may lead you to give up TV for a time. One of my most common methods of fasting has been to avoid solid foods for a period—anything I had to chew I didn’t eat. Juices, yogurt, puddings, were okay. Once, I ate only white foods. This tip is particularly suited for those who can’t follow a complete fast for physical reasons (nursing mothers, diabetics, etc).
Tip #4: Don’t be “religious” about your fasting, be Spirit-led. I’ve tried many times to have a regular fasting schedule, and never with good results. It may be that God leads you to have a schedule, it’s just never worked for me.
Tip #5: Remember, you’re fasting to spend more time in the presence of God. Don’t get so distracted trying to take your mind off of food that you forget the MAIN THING.
Tip #6: You probably won’t get your “answer” until after you end the fast. I have, personally, never gotten an answer for whatever I was seeking until sometime after the time of fasting had ended, usually a couple of days later. This may be because fasting can make you a little “loopy” and you’re more clear-headed after things get back to normal.
And that, literally, is Everything I Know About Fasting. Please remember that these posts are just my experiences, not taken from scripture and are neither infallible nor universal.
Next post, an awesome and easy chicken soup recipe and back to more missions-type stuff.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Cam - Here's some additional resources for you from a community that prays and fasts literally all the time - you may have heard of them. http://ihop.org/Group/Group.aspx?id=1000000381