OK, I’ll just come out and admit it – the spiritual discipline of fasting is not one discipline that I have practiced very well. As a matter of fact, I can probably count on one hand the times that I have fasted.
I’m sure you’re wondering why. The truth: I love to eat! I’m a munch-er. I’m the type of person that every time I set foot in the kitchen I manage to open the fridge and grab a handful of grapes, or I’ll open the pantry and grab a handful of chips. It doesn’t really matter what it is – I just want it! So I haven’t wanted to deprive myself of something I love to do so much.
For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the term “fasting,” throughout Scripture fasting is mentioned numerous times – by Jesus Himself (Luke 4:2), by Queen Esther (Esth. 4:16), and the apostle Paul (Acts 9:9) – just to name a few. The discipline of fasting requires denying yourself for a period of time sustenance and instead taking that time to intensely focus on the Lord and hear His voice.
The church that my husband and I are members of currently does a 21-day fast at the beginning of every year. It’s certainly not mandatory, but our pastor and the leadership really want us to get our minds set on the new year – preparing ourselves for what the Lord may want for us this year.
Now mind you, the pastor has always stated that this doesn’t necessarily mean we have to give up food – for some people this puts their health at risk. But it does mean that we need to “fast” from what we really love doing. What is pulling us away from time that we can spend with our Lord? What are we so enamored with that we have a hard time living without? TV? Social media? Video games? Or… food???
No doubt about it – it’s food for me. My excuse: But really, Lord, I’m doing OK on the other disciplines aren’t I? Why do I need to practice the discipline of fasting too? So I haven’t done it…
I have been convicted that I should be fasting periodically for a long time. I love my Lord with all my heart, and I know that I’ve been disobedient in this regard. So, slowly but surely I have been adding it into my walk of faith.
The first year during our church fast I decided to give up caffeine for the 21-day period. Boy that was lightweight – caffeine really isn’t that important to me in the first place! Pretty sorry attempt…
The second year I decided to take it up a notch, so my husband and I did the Daniel fast, which is based upon Daniel 1 where Daniel was captured by the Babylonians and was to be trained to serve king Nebuchadnezzar in his court. The king provided for the captives royal food and wine, but “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal rood and wine” (v.8) and asked the prison official watching over him to provide him and his 3 friends with only “vegetables to eat and water to drink” (v. 12). Since God had granted Daniel favor with the prison official, he agreed to do so. After 10 days Daniel and his friends “looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who [had eaten] the royal food” during that same time period (v. 15).
So my husband and I decided to do a modified Daniel fast – eating just vegetables, fruit, whole grains and nuts. We did it, but at the end I really didn’t feel like I had grown closer to God.
So this year the time came again. But for some reason this year as our pastor talked about the fast, my ears came booming open to a few key points: That we need to use these times during our fast, when we’re starting to really crave the thing we’re fasting from, to go before the Lord – sit with Him and listen to His voice. Use the time when you’re normally eating, watching TV, etc. and be with your Father!
It was like a huge light-bulb went off. Of course! The previous times I’d fasted I had not done this. Oh, I might say a quick prayer or spend a few minutes, but I wasn’t really pressing in – leaning into my Father and listening for His voice!
So this year? I decided to fast one meal per day. And during this time what am I doing? I’m praying! I’m turning my hunger pangs over to my Father. I’m quoting Scripture I have memorized if I’m at work, and I’m filling myself with Jesus, who has declared: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35).
And – I’ve done it – only 3 more days to go! You know, when you’re obedient the Lord does bless you. I have felt more in tune with my Father during this year’s fast, and I feel like I’ve been more able to hear Him. So who knows: Maybe next year I’ll skip 2 meals! Oh Lord, more of You and less of me – that is my heart’s desire.