I had just ordered a hamburger when my friend explained why she had ordered a cup of ... broth! She was on an extended fast (Didn't know ... should've just met for tea ...). Suddenly I felt very indulgent and shallow. But she didn't want me to feel that way and was so gracious, as I realized that the LAST time we met she was fasting, ordered broth, and I didn't even realize it. She wasn't advertising her fast, and that's how it should be. I think fasting is one of those disciplines that scares most Christians, leaving us hoping we won't learn too much about it and feel convicted to do it. I mean, who wants to give up an A-1 burger in exchange for broth? But God has special intentions about times of fasting, and He also reserves special blessings for those times, as my friend testified over her broth, sharing why she felt prompted to fast and what she believes God wants to teach her during these days.
Are you "Slow to Fast"? Most of us are. Over the holidays a group of women in my church decided to fast together on a certain day, culminating in an evening of prayer and service, preparing boxes of food for people in need. The fasted individually, each in her own place that day and each in her own manner. There are many ways to approach fasting. I've fasted from solid food, technology, work, people, or anything that can be a distraction in my life. I've fasted for different reasons and time periods. As I ate my burger and my friend shared, I was reminded of how much I have to learn in this area and of the unique place it holds in the life of a follower of God. I want to share some of the thoughts given by one of my friends who fasted before the holidays with her group. Here's what she said:
- What prompted you to fast as a group? We were packing Thanksgiving boxes for the homeless at our monthly Ladies Night Out and wanted the evening’s focus to be on the hungry, not on ourselves. We could identify with them as we prayed for them.
- How did it help you to fast "together"? Knowing other women were also putting aside their own needs made it easier to complete the fast.
- Was there a specific goal or purpose in your fasting? To pray and experience a closer walk with Christ-to experience His strength and renewal. We used the time we would normally spend eating to pack, decorate, and pray over the families who would receive the boxes. We encouraged our ladies to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit as to what type of fast was right for them. We offered guidelines to follow.
- What did you fast from, and how did you spend your time while fasting? Each woman decided how she would fast. The women’s ministry team within our group consists of 3 women and we fasted from all solid food. One lady in our group did a “Daniel” fast modeled after Daniel 10:3. She only ate fruits and vegetables and a handful of nuts. Another lady fasted from solid food for dinner that evening and only had broth.
- How did you prepare yourselves to fast? Prayer and decreasing food intake a few days before beginning the fast. Prayer! Prayer! Prayer!
- It's not easy for moms to fast, with prepping lunches, dinners, etc. What did the gals in your group do to make this work for women who are around others who are eating? Yes, that’s difficult. One mom said she attended her child’s Thanksgiving Feast at school and that was her only meal that day.
- What spiritual benefits did you or your friends take away from the experience? A realization that God truly does sustain us and provide for us. It was our desire that as we fasted, prayed, and packed boxes the families receiving them would be filled with hope that they are not forgotten. God has heard their cry and answered their prayer.
This is a link that explains why to fast, how to fast safely, preparation, and lots of other practical answers about the spiritual and physical elements of fasting. Isaiah 58:3-11 gives a great picture of a fast that God rejected and a fast that God desires.
In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus explained what fasting "looks like," revealing that fasting is really a condition and a result of where our hearts are. When we set aside time to remove the things that distract us, to focus on hearing from God, to seek Him, wonderful things are possible. Fasting is part of "going to God," as He wants us to come to Him with our whole hearts, being grieved by what grieves Him and longing for what He longs for.
Joel 2:12 "'Even now,' declares the Lord, 'return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." A hamburger isn't a sin (whew!) ;), but this unique discipline in the life of a believer holds great promise and potential. I don't want to be so "Slow to Fast."
Have you fasted? What have you learned?