My church held a congregation-wide fast for several years starting on the first Sunday in January. We would fast for three weeks, paralleling the story in Daniel 10. No meat, no sweets, bread, dairy or caffeine for three weeks. Doesn’t sound like a lot, right? (Cheese is always the most difficult for me, thus the photo…)
The truth is fasting reveals a lot about our hearts. Here are four things I’ve learned about fasting and prayer in the last couple of years:
1. Fasting helps you rid yourself of distractions so you can devote more time to prayer, but it can be a fight not to become self-centered.
We’d catch ourselves thinking about food, complaining about our limited options, etc. And I’d feel so convicted. To fast was my personal choice to honor God; I learned there was no room for complaints, which means I had to control my tongue.
2. Fasting isn’t necessarily about food.
Pray and ask God to show you what would give you the most time to dedicate to prayer. We gave up TV last year and found it to be even more difficult at first than the limited diet because we had to change some routines.
But getting all that extra time – Wow, we had not realized how much we were wasting! – combined with removing all those persistent, subtle lies that we absorb through media-binging, freed us to hear from God in some amazing ways.
3. Pray for some specific things, but also allow time just to ask the Lord to speak to you.
We have fasted as a church, so we had a list of things we were praying for as a group. But some of the most intimate words of encouragement came from times of worship and listening. I might share some of those later on this month…
4. Fasting is about relying on the Holy Spirit.
It’s not about losing weight, self-discipline, proving a point or any other point of pride in our lives. I encourage you to keep your fasting private unless you need to make it known for a specific reason. This is between you and God. The Holy Spirit will strengthen you. It isn’t a test of your endurance. It’s an act of trust and faith.
What things have you learned about fasting?
NOTE: If you have any history of an eating disorder, or if you struggle intensely with body image, I would encourage you to fast something other than food, something that will benefit you and not be a dangerous temptation. What about TV, or social media or magazines? Allow God to speak to your heart. He will lead you towards something that will draw you closer to Himself and help you see yourself the way He sees you.