The coming week from the 9.4.17 to the 13.4.17 we are going to fast as a Church. We will start on Sunday (after church) with a prayer walk and break fasting on the worship night of 13.04.17. We encourage as many as possible to join us!
I’ve been asked: Why would anyone in his / her right mind go without food? Maybe even simpler: What’s fasting? Here are three reasons and three ways to fast.
Fasting is when you choose to go without something essential for a specific period of time; often the objective is to increase your expression of need for something more important. Fasting in itself is not distinctively Christian; it is not necessarily spiritual. People have used fasting as a method of dieting. Many religious groups engage in fasting as a practice; some even make it a requirement. Fasting has been used politically as a means of peaceful protest. So what is the distinctive of Christian fasting?
Three reasons to fast
First, a few reasons NOT to fast
There are a few obvious reasons and seasons when it IS NOT REASONABLE to abstain from food. Therefore you may need to consider alternative ways to fast. Things to consider:
- Medical reasons: There are clear medical reasons, why giving up food might not be the way you should fast, iE. if you are pregnant, if you suffer from diabetes, etc.
- If you have or have had an eating disorder. This might be a bad idea to abstain from food, because it can lead back into a vicious cycle.
- There might be other practical reasons, why you might not be able to abstain from food.
- If your only focus is on not eating: fasting that is not coupled with prayer is just self-inflicted pain and is good for nothing. Self-inflicted pain is portrayed as a pagan ritual in 1 Kings 18:24-29 and Leviticus 19:28. We don’t serve an angry God, who enjoys seeing his children suffering for no cause. Jesus was criticized, because his disciples weren’t fasting enough! So the natural default of Christian living was actually feasting, not fasting. Bottom line – if you fast, do so with the intent to pray. This is not christian olympics! There is no guilt involved, if you cannot do it, or even if you start and break your fast too early.
So again: Why would anyone fast?
1 Unlocking the Future
Daniel was the King of Persia’s servant. God reveals His Word to him. Daniel knows God’s Word is true. However, the truth and the facts don’t seem to match. The revealed truth is: the people of Israel will return home, free from their slavery in Babylon. The facts are: they are still in slavery. Daniel’s fast (Daniel 10:1) unlocked the liberty of the people of Israel. Nehemiah’s fast unlocked the building of the wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1). Saul’s fasting unlocked his own calling (Acts 13:2-3). These are all examples of things God had already prepared for them; however, they only became available once each one expressed they treasured God more than the things they abstained from.
2 Enlarging our Capacity to Pray
Fasting provides more focused time and opportunity for prayer. Preparing food, eating, and cleaning-up takes a lot of time. So once that is eliminated, you have more time to pray. The challenge is then to actually pray. What happens with the hunger, or when you fast from other things, is that it serves as a trigger; instead of moving you towards food, or towards say your cellphone, you choose to use this trigger to move you to pray. The act of praying increases your hunger for more prayer. The act of fasting and praying, is prayer taken a step more seriously; one might call it “prayer on steroids.” It’s not a hunger strike before God, but it’s a way of expression to God. You are saying, “Lord this is very important.” I need this more than my daily comfort.
3 Experiencing the Sustaining Force of Prayer
In Matthew 4:4 Jesus gets tempted, while fasting, to break his fast prematurely by proving his power. Jesus’ response is: “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Fasting is a time where you can experience the sustaining force of God’s presence.
3 Ways to Fast
1 plan your fasting —
What are you skipping? Considering the definition above, fasting doesn’t have to be solely from food. Things to fast from: food, wine, animal products, sex, pleasures etc. If you choose to go without food, and you have never fasted before, break into it slower, than if you have done it before. Always have fluids in your fast – never fast with no food and no water! However, don’t be tempted to use the blender to make a juice drink from a Sunday Roast. Often it is best to start in the evening of the day before the fast; then you can break it in the evening of each subsequent day.
When are you praying? As you plan what you are going to abstain from, also plan what you are going to feast on! Plan your prayer times. Otherwise you end up just not eating. Business can so easily replace food as any other distraction can.
What are you praying for? Make a list of the things you will pray for. Who are the people you are praying for? What are the promises you are praying into, the questions you are moving? Ask friends, and family what you can pray for them. Even people who don’t believe in God appreciate your prayer.
Who are you praying with? Don’t do this alone. Join us in this week. Ask someone you can see yourself praying with to join you for a prayer.
2 focus less about the experience and more about the reward
Matthew 6:16-18 “ And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (ESV)
Here Jesus is saying: don’t make it about the experience of fasting, rather make it about the reward. He will see you and reward you. Does that forbid you to talk about your fasting? Not at all, but if you make fasting something that elevates you, the impact will evaporate quickly.
3 use the hunger to turn your affection
Whatever you abstain from, “it” will send your brain signals of hunger, craving and want. When this happens, use this trigger to pray! Turn your affection towards the things you need to pray for. Fasting transforms “missing out” into winning; whether it’s a fight against sin, or pleading for someone’s salvation, unlocking a promised future, or longing for a greater taste of Jesus – you win!