Monday, August 13, 2012

A Slow Start to Fasting

Yesterday in our worship celebration a bunch of people indicated that they would commit to fast and pray this week for our church and ministry.

Because we may be unaccustomed fasting, I thought that a few tips might help.  I fast occasionally, often without a whole lot of preparation, but not usually more than 24 hours. 

So, with my amateur experience, here's what I have found.  It is important to keep the purpose of the fast in mind.  Fasting is a way of "praying with your body."  The growling stomach is a quick reminder that you are seeking the face of God.  Depriving yourself of food is a way of denying yourself, as in, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me."  (Luke 9:23)  Fasting is only one form of self denial.

Sometimes I will fast as I seek wisdom about a particular issue, like parenting, or specific direction for our church.  Sometimes I will fast just as a way of turning my heart more to God and listening to him.

The 24 hour fast is fairly easy to schedule.  If you miss two consecutive meals, assuming that you eat at regular times daily, you can get a 23 hour fast in a snap.  Adjust your fast-breaking meal by an hour and you have your 24 hours.

I find that it helps to prepare for the fast by praying for God to reveal himself.  Then on your last meal before fasting, it is best to eat a lighter meal.  Ironically, eating a feast before your fast only makes the discipline more uncomfortable.  Now, if discomfort is the way God gets your attention, then maybe you should load up on your last meal.

I also like to get away from distractions.  Most folks have work and family responsibilities, and can't shut themselves off from the world.  But if you can get away from the phone and email, that can really help your focus.

Some people will drink some fruit juice.  Some will flavor their water with a little lemon juice.  I usually just drink water.  Caffeine should be avoided, and it may help to eliminate it a day before your fast begins.  If you don't even drink water, that is called an absolute fast, and should not be done for more than a day or two.

Richard Foster's book, The Celebration of Discipline has excellent tips on fasting.  A lot of my ideas come from him.  I also did a quick Google search and found a helpful blog by David Peach on fasting.

The spiritual disciplines are not a way to coerce God into speaking or helping us.  They are a way of putting our souls in the right posture to hear him and enjoy him.

Prepare for a feast!