Fasting: Part 1
Everyone should fast.
A few months ago I didn’t hold to that belief, but I hold it as strong as any other aspect of my faith now.
I was somewhat familiar with the concept of fasting growing up. As a kid, I heard my parents and other adults in our congregation talking about meeting together to pray and fast. As an adult, my friends and family have offered to pray and fast for me here and there. And I even fasted a couple of times, especially in times of crisis. But even then, I didn’t really understand the importance of it, nor how commonplace fasting is in the Bible.
This past summer I had been fasting regularly 1-2 days out of the month. Sometimes it was for prayer, other times in solidarity with another believer who was fasting. Prior to that, the longest time I went without food was a 3-day juice cleanse that I barely survived (or so I thought at the time).
Though it’s an expression of worship and act of faith I knew of, it is definitely something I didn’t fully grasp until recently, when the Holy Spirit led me into an extended fast. It was one of those random days out of the month that I opted to fast and pray and I was sitting outside on the patio praying and journaling. As I journaled my prayers, I found that everything I was praying were prayers I felt as though I’d been praying over and over for a long time, but was still awaiting answers to. As I looked at my lists, the overarching prayer became, “God, I just need a breakthrough in all of these areas.” While I was praying I remembered a book a friend had given me a few years back, simply called, Fasting. It was as if God spoke to my spirit and said, “Remember that book? It’s on your bookshelf on the second shelf. Go get that book and start reading.”
So I did, and immediately my eyes were opened to story after story in the Bible where the followers of God not only prayed and saw the Hand of God move…they fasted. These were passages of scripture that I had read and heard countless times but, somehow, I missed a pretty significant detail: fasting. The book also gives countless testimony of members of the author’s church who partake in a 21-day church-wide fast every January and the outcomes of their experiences; like marriages being restored, financial provision, and even complete healing from cancer. As I continued reading and praying, I knew I needed to get serious in my obedience to God and begin an extended fast.
So I set out to fast for 7-10 days.
Since my time frame was open, I prayed that God would show me when to break the fast. I was really hoping for 7 days. But that’s not what I heard from God. Three days into the fast I felt the Lord tell me in my spirit to do 14 days. So I did. And, as I’ve said, it was hands down the best thing I have ever done for my spiritual life and relationship with God.
Let me just stop here to say that I do not have super-human discipline.
I am not sharing any of this to be all, “Hey, look at how religious and awesome and holy I am;” on the contrary. Though the fast was one of the best things I’ve ever done, it was also one of the hardest and I lived off of both my prayers and the prayers of others during those 2 weeks.
So why am I writing about all of this?
The reason my blog is titled, “The Art of Obedience,” is not because it sounds cute. It’s because, be it music, art, food, fitness, or any other area of my life, I want to be obedient in everything God calls me to do. I want it all to be an act of worship. So, my reason for sharing so openly about this particular area is to give testimony of part of my faith walk where I had been lacking and now intend to be more obedient in. ‘Cause growing up everything I heard about fasting always seemed so secretive that fasting was kind of an enigma. I knew Jesus did it for 40 days[i], and I knew of the Bible verses[ii] which explain how you’re not really supposed to talk about the fact that you’re fasting when you are, so I guess, because of those scriptures, it’s unfortunately become something we just don’t talk much about at all. But after doing this fast, sharing with friends and family members, and reading countless testimony after testimony in Franklin Jentezen’s Fasting, I now realize how others can be encouraged and edified through practicing the discipline of fasting and sharing how God worked in their lives during and after their fast.
So here’s what I learned:
1. Food clogs up your brain
It’s amazing how simply not eating clears your head and helps you think straight. Though I felt weak and depended heavily on the prayers of family and friends at certain points throughout the fast (particularly the first few days) I can honestly say I never felt better. Yes, in a general sense of the word I felt weak and the hunger never escaped me, but this caused me to be more intentional. Because I didn’t have extra energy to expend, I was ten times more intentional in my interactions with people. I chose my words more carefully, I thought before I spoke, and I only spoke when I felt it necessary. It was the same, obviously, in my prayers. At first I began with my laundry list of requests, but as the fast continued, they looked more like, “God, what do you want to say to me? Who can I pray for today? How can I honor You with this day?” Which leads me to my second observation:
2. Fasting opens your ears to both the Holy Spirit’s promptings & convictions
When you ask the Holy Spirit to convict you and show you the areas of your life that don’t honor God, He will show you, and then some. :) In Jentezen’s Fasting, he tells a story of a woman who dropped a teapot in a well as a child and, years later, asked some people to dig it out to find the teapot. As they were digging, they found many, many other things that were dropped and lost in the well also. Franklin explains that fasting is like that well; you enter into it with certain prayers and expectations, and the Holy Spirit shows you why He really led you into a time of fasting. For me it was how I can be more intentional in my prayer life for the people I interact with on a daily basis, the fruits of the Spirit like joy, patience, kindness, faithfulness, and self control that I haven’t been modeling Jesus in, and ultimately how my first response in all areas of my life is always, “what can I do to make this happen,” instead of, “How can I pray and wait expectantly for God to make this happen?” My time of fasting revealed many things and I went into it for many reasons. God already began revealing answers to those prayers the day I broke my fast. Others I’m still waiting on. But those fruits I’m missing, that power struggle for control, the wavering faith; those areas He began chiseling away at during my fast and has continued to since.
3. Fasting feels like being on vacation with God
This is the best way I can describe those two weeks. As someone in ministry, feeling like I’m constantly under attack from the Enemy and residing in a battlefield of spiritual warfare has become the norm. My time of fasting, however, was a wonderful respite from that. And because I was literally praying from the moment my eyes opened in the morning until I shut them at night, I felt so near to the presence of God. I talked to Him all day long for 14 days. By the time day 13 rolled around I didn’t want it to end. I had more energy on days 13 and 14 than I have on any day where I got 8 hours of sleep, drank coffee, and ate plenty of energizing foods. I slept better than I ever have during those 14 days. I felt the nearness and presence of God in a more tangible way than ever before, and I was honestly sad that it was coming to an end.
I led worship in church during the last two days of the fast. Normally, after a weekend of leading for 5 services, by Sunday afternoon I have nothing left. I usually just completely crash, wanting to do nothing more than indulge in a movie and some of my favorite foods. You know, do and eat the things that bring you comfort. But there is no such thing as comfort food on a fast, Jesus is your only comfort. And honestly, I wasn’t even tired Sunday afternoon and had no desire to watch a movie. I had also fasted from TV during those two weeks as well, simply because it felt like it would just poison that sweet time I was spending with God, so when a friend asked me how I’d celebrate the last few hours, I told her that I was just going to do what I did every day during those 14 days; I walked for a few miles and talked with God. It was the perfect ending to my little two-week vacation from food.
So why should everyone fast?
There are a million answers I could give here, but this is the simplest:
Fasting is the best way I've learned to get closer to God.
That is why the Lord says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish.
[i] Matthew 4:1-11
[ii] Matthew 6:16-18