Friday, March 4, 2011

Eleven Reflections on Fasting

Reflections on fasting? Am I seriously writing about this? That sounds about as exciting as a marble shooting competition. Loving Jesus sure makes me do weird stuff--like writing down my thoughts on voluntary self-denial. I must be in love. Only love could make me pass up chocolate cake at my daughter's birthday party. On first impressions, fasting does seem a rather dull topic. But when you get right down to it, I think it's really exciting! Exciting things happen when people fast and pray. I don't want to just know this is true from the stories I've read in my Bible. I want to know it is true because I've experienced it myself. How about you?

Here is my list of thoughts and impressions on the subject:

1. Fasting doesn't have many rules. There are only a few guidelines found in the Bible. Maybe this is why it seems so mysterious to me. I tend to prefer rules and steps and simple equations. But it would appear that God doesn't care so much what kind of fast I do or for how long. He cares about my heart, my intentions, and my attitude when I fast. He didn't like the way the Israelites were fasting in the days of the prophet Isaiah (see Isaiah 58.) During their fasts, they were continuing in their quarreling and cruel treatment of others. Their hearts were not soft toward God. The one guideline given to us in the New Testament is about intent (see Matthew 6.) I am not to fast for the purpose of displaying my piety to those around me. Fasting should be between me and God and not about what everyone else thinks.

2. Fasting does not change God or change His mind about me or my situation. I the Lord do not change. (Malachi 3:6) God has already made up His mind about me. He loves me, He is for me, and He has good things to give me. Fasting really changes me. It puts me in position to better receive from Him, and to hear Him more clearly. My spirit, I'm sorry to say, often gets plain run over by my physical being. I get so busy in this physical world feeding and tending to my physical needs that my body thinks it's running the show around here. Fasting is a great opportunity to say no to my body and let my spirit, which is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, take the lead. This is so important! My spirit is what is eternal and what needs most to be strengthened in the Lord. When my spirit is strengthened, my soul and body benefit.

3. Fasting breaks things! It breaks chains of oppression, addiction, and all manner of evil. If you are struggling with something that has a powerful hold on you, fasting will break that power. I have personally experienced this more than once! Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Isaiah 58:6

4. Fasting does not always make me feel super-spiritual. Maybe it does for other people, but honestly, many times during a fast I actually feel less spiritual. This happens when as much as I'd like to, I cannot completely ignore the physical. I can't actually leave my body. When I fast, I feel weak, hungry, irritable, and tired. And I often get a headache. I do not dance around singing about the fruit of the Spirit and thinking about how gloriously patient, kind, and loving I'm becoming. But I must remind myself that I cannot count on my feelings to match up with reality. The truth is, when I fast, I am accomplishing much in the spiritual realm even if I don't see the results right away! Fasting breaks down walls between me and God and much is accomplished when I am in step with Him. And that's all there is to it! The devil cannot convince me otherwise.

5. There are different kinds of fasts, but fasting is always about food. I did not understand this before. I have "fasted" from other things in the past when I was pregnant or nursing and didn't feel safe abstaining from food. But there are no mentions of this kind of fasting in the Bible. The Hebrew word for fast in the Old Testament means to cover over the mouth and is always in reference to food and/or drink. So, to say for example, that you are fasting from television, would be like saying you are covering over your mouth from television. This really makes no sense at all, unless of course, watching television makes you shout obscenities or something. I understand now, that what I'm actually doing is refraining from watching television in order to seek God, which is good! But it's not fasting.

Some people in the Bible, like Daniel, went on partial fasts, restricting the foods that they ate without completely abstaining. I wish I had thought to do this kind of fasting when I was pregnant or nursing. I could have, for example, fasted from all sugar. Not only would that have been safe, but it would have been beneficial as well. I went on my first Daniel fast in January of this year. While doing that, I discovered a very nice website dedicated to this particular type of fast. The woman who runs the site has a good article about why she believes fasting is only about food, if you are interested in reading more about it.

6. Fasting helps me build my personal history with God. Because fasting is not a daily practice for me, when I do it, there is a special sacredness about it. I can look back over the years and point to times past when the Lord has spoken to me or given me dreams or healed me during times of fasting. It feels very similar to sitting down on the couch and going through the family photo album. Trips taken together or special family events are the things that give us a past full of memories to build on with our spouses and family members. Those special times together give us strength and hope and inside jokes that help us through the rough times. In the same way, fasting gives me points in time to mark and remember what the Lord has done and solidifies my relationship with Him.

7. Fasting makes me think about Jesus. Every time. I can't help it. I may be feeling weak and hungry and a little like crying after my paltry 24 hours, but my mind always goes to Jesus and His forty days. No food. No water. That was a supernatural fast, and it fascinates me. He was a man with a physical body like ours, and he did that. It just amazes me, and usually helps me push through any temptations I might be having to quit a fast sooner than I had intended. Thinking about Jesus is never a bad thing. He is without a doubt my greatest inspiration.
8. I am learning not to be surprised by temptation during and after a fast. At times I have been confused by what happens to me after fasting. I may have had a fantastic breakthrough in my life, but afterward feel an irritating blah settle over me. Sometimes it's an overwhelming desire to satisfy all the cravings of my flesh--to eat whatever I want, buy anything I want, or do any old fun thing I want to just for kicks. Rather than be confused by this extreme contrast, I think I'm beginning to get wise to Satan and his wily schemes. Distracting with worldly or fleshly desires is exactly what he tried to do to Jesus after His forty day fast in the desert. 

Jesus may have been physically weak and hungry, but His spirit had been strengthened during His fast. He was prepared for ministry. He went straight from the desert to healing people all over town. I think He would have lost His edge if He had decided He deserved to prop up His feet, eat salmon cakes, drink tall lemonades, and read the latest "Nazareth News" all day. How tempting that could have been after forty grueling days in the desert, though! Without a doubt, Satan would have me focus on my flesh. But the Lord only wants me to go deeper with Him spiritually. Going deeper doesn't have to stop when my fast is over! This is something I'm wanting to get a good grasp on. Lord, help me with this!

9. The Holy Spirit prompts me to fast. I did not realize this! I guess I always thought I was the one calling the shots and deciding when to fast. But why would He not be the one to urge me? He does. I just haven't always given Him the credit for it. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into His desert experience. And when I say to myself, "I better fast about this," or "I'm feeling junky. I need to fast," that's the Holy Spirit urging me. I like that. I like Him. He's a good one. He's leading me, and I can trust Him.

10. Can fasting speed up Christ's return? I'm just thinking out loud here. Or blogging out loud. Something like that. I noticed that a great part of the Old Testament fasting was in response to a death. When someone died, the people would tear their clothes, fast, and wail. This explains the response of Jesus in Mark chapter 2 when asked why His disciples didn't fast like the Pharisees or John's disciples. Jesus responded by asking how they could fast while He was still with them. He said that when He was taken away, then they would fast. How often do I grieve or long for His return? Not enough, I think. Yes, we have the Holy Spirit here with us and have free access to our Lord Jesus always. But He has not yet come and established His kingdom here on earth. Satan is still ruling the air down here. Ephesians 2:2 says that Satan is the ruler of the kingdom of the air. Does this grieve me as much as it should? Probably not. What if more of us would fast and pray? Would we not be hearing from Heaven and directed and strengthened to be doing the work He has called us to do? And would this not speed His return? I really want to know! Anybody? (hint, hint, Phil LePage!)

11. Reading about other people's fasting experiences is inspiring. I love the stories of Esther, and Daniel, and of course, Jesus. It's also nice to read present day testimonies! I highly recommend this book for an inspiring read. It's a short little book, but full of great teaching and insight. This helped clear up some cobwebs for me. Oh, and if you haven't read my personal fasting testimony yet, click here!

So, there you have it! That's my list and I'm stickin' to it. God is so deep, though, I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. I think I'll make another list when I'm ninety...


  1. excellent teaching once again, oh, teacher one.

  2. R-
    Ok, so this is a great list and a great little series you are doing on fasting. It has been something a little elusive for me the past few years with my weight issues, but I am reminded that I can do a partial fast. And I am reminded that fasting is relational not legal. The Lord always wants my heart. He always always wants my heart. Thanks friend!

  3. @Anonymous Yes! I was actually thinking about you alot while writing this!

  4. 1. I like number 6

    2. Wondering what the whole Phil L. reference is all about.

    3. Wondering what it says about me that when I first saw the photo of the chain, I thought it was chocolate covered pretzels.

  5. @pagereader 1. I like number 6 too.

    2. Phil is an absolute expert on the second coming.

    3. It says that you are a hungry pregnant person and you need some chocolate covered pretzels!

    4. I like you.

    5. And in fact, I love you.


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