It’s a good thing I hadn’t yet started my healthy eating posts during the holidays–that would have made me into my least favorite zoo animal, a HIPPO-crite. I can’t wait to write about Made to Crave and to share with you all my printables and downloads. However, this is not the time for either binging or healthy eating.
This is the time for seeking.
My church organization, along with many, aims to consecrate itself with twenty one days of prayer and fasting every January. Let me first say that fasting and prayer are supposed to be private affairs for the most part. However, many times in the Bible, leaders or the Lord called the people to a solemn assembly, one where all the people fasted together in an outward sign of their inner desperation. Here are a few of those times:
“Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16
Esther called the people to fast for two reasons: to obey the Lord more than man’s (the king’s) law and to make sure she was prepared in the day of trouble. She was about to enter the king’s chamber unannounced and ask her royal husband to reverse his own decree. Death was to be the obvious outcome, but she asked her people to join her in calling on a God who could reverse the inevitable.
In in the second chapter of Joel, there is another solemn assembly, one where God asks the fasters to do more than just the physical, but rather to take their hearts in hand and rip those instead, to really be burdened for the current state of their nation:
12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heartand not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.
14 Who knows? He may turn and relent and leave behind a blessing—grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God.
Fasting is not just an Old-Testament thing either. Jesus also said that believers would need to fast once He had left the Earth:
“How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” Matthew 9:15
I will not be sharing my schedule of fasting. That’s between me and the Lord. However, I would like to share some wisdom I’ve learned from practicing the Biblical fast.
1. Fasting means giving up food. It is certainly possible to dedicate yourself to God by giving up television, facebook, or video games, and you should especially remove these things during a fast. However, only fasting without food will put your body in a state to be submitted to the Lord’s will. If you’re like me and ate like a T-rex over the holidays, a little fast wouldn’t hurt even from a health standpoint:)
2. Fasting involves alone time with the Lord. I have friends who fast regularly, and they are very involved in ministry. I also have to work sometimes when I’m fasting. In those situations and others, it is sometimes impossible to avoid people when you’re fasting. However, we should not plan movie nights and get-togethers when we know we’ll be fasting. The worst is when fasting people go out to eat and just stare at you while you eat your food…don’t be one of those if at all possible:) Remember that Jesus went out into the wilderness for forty days to get alone with God. If he needed that time in all his divinity, we need that alone time in all our frail humanity. The point is to concentrate on God, and it’s hard to do that in a crowd of people.
3. Fasting is a hard commandment. Yes, I said it, a commandment. Jesus says when you pray and when you fast and when you give (Matthew 6). We can’t just pray and ignore the other two. Jesus doesn’t say, “If”. He says, “When,” meaning he just expects that we will do it. In fact, He says that some demonic forces are only driven by the double-team combination of prayer AND fasting. You can fast. You will be tired and maybe woozy. So was Jesus, but He did it anyway. Start with a meal, but don’t stay there. Build up to a day and then several days, as the Lord leads you. Fasting is a discipline that you will have to develop, but it is possible, and the rewards are worth it.
4. Fasting goes with prayer. Download my Spiritual Disciplines Tracker if you’d like a way to track your consistency. As my husband says, fasting without prayer is just the most miserable diet you’ve ever been on. You want to use this time of submitting your body to also seek the Father.
5. The fast isn’t an excuse to go on a healthy diet. This tip is sensitive. As I’ve been on Pinterest recently, I’ve seen several people collecting Daniel Fast recipes. Last year, I saw a cookbook of the same topic in the bookstore. If the point is to sacrifice and focus on the Lord, just make sure you aren’t trying to take the easy way out. The Daniel Fast is not easy by any means (research it here), but I am just encouraging all of us to check our motives. The fast will mean to the Lord what it means to us.
Here are some more tips:
- Switch to water and cut back on eating in the days leading up to a fast. I know that when I’m starting a diet, I want to binge the night before, but when you are transitioning to no food, trust me, it’s not wise. Preparation is key, especially since the fast will release stored toxins into your blood stream after the third day.
- Drink plenty of fluids during the fast. Some people are sticklers for drinking just water. If you’re on a one-day fast, water is great. If you get into more days and start to feel weak, don’t feel guilty about adding in some juice. Just stay away from Starbucks:) It’s easy to give up on a fast when you feel weak, but juice can help you to keep going.
- Carry plenty of minty gum. As the toxins are released, your breath will get rank. People around you will so appreciate your efforts not to kill them with your dragon breath:)
- Don’t look or act depressed so that people feel sorry for you during the fast. Jesus says we can either be rewarded here by men or in Heaven by God. I choose the second one!
I have so much to say about fasting, because I truly believe it is one of the most underutilized yet powerful tools in the believer’s arsenal. I have so much to say that I could write a book on the book on the subject. But in the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t Nobody got time for that.” Actually, Pastor Jentezen Franklin must have had the time, because he did write a book, which I am linking to here. I have read it twice and will probably read it again. It is both short and powerful.
I hope this post leaves you feeling equipped to take on some serious seeking in the new year. If you need anything, feel free to contact me. I will be your girl-Barnabas and encourage you in this (perhaps) new challenge.
Is your church doing a corporate fast? Is this new to you? Any tips on fasting? Leave them in the comments below.