"And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications,
with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the Lord my God,
and made my confession... " Daniel 9:3-4
Every January my church, Faith Family, as a congregation, goes on a 31-day fast known as "31 and Change." Pastor Mike and his family do a full fast, but the members can fast whatever is on their hearts. This year my husband and I, together, are fasting "eating out." We don't eat out very often, maybe twice a month, but there are times when we're too lazy to cook dinner, or feel so ravished that we just can't make it home, feeling "we must eat now," and settle for Subway, Chipotle and, once-in-a-blue-moon, Burger King (my husband loves the Whopper). There are times when it's midnight and we don't want to bother messing up the kitchen, and it's easier to drive four minutes to McDonald's. (Awful, I know. But this is a rare occasion.) I've realized in the past that we tend to eat out the most in January. It might be because I've been in the kitchen non-stop since the week before Thanksgiving and the idea of making one more thing is bothersome. Or maybe it's because we try to use the gift cards we received at Christmas. Whatever the reason, our eating out in January usually triples what we normally do. This month we're changing.
Also, I always give up sweets/sugar during this month. (Since Mr. B doesn't seem to have a sweet tooth in his body, I go this one alone.) After all of the holiday baking and elaborate meals, my body needs to clean itself out. I use this month to prepare for the rest of the year. It helps me make healthier choices, and I become more aware of what I'm putting into the beautiful body that God gave me. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19), and we are to care for them as such (v. 20).
So, why fasting?
Jesus spoke of a day when there would be a place for fasting: Matthew 9:15 "And Jesus said unto them, 'Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast."
There are many reasons people fast, but the one common factor is that they are seeking something from God. The reasons I fast are addressed a little later in this post. But before we get into that, I feel it's important to acknowledge a few fundamentals of fasting in order to truly understand a "fast." Here are some key guidelines from Scripture to remember when fasting:
- It is to be done in a manner of humility and secrecy.
- Fasting is closely related to prayer and reading of the Word.
I Corinthians 7:5 ". . . that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer . . ."
- A fast may be either absolute or partial.
Acts 27:33 ". . . This is the fourteenth day that you have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing." (absolute)
Daniel 10:3 "I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled." (partial)
- There is a place for both the group and the individual fast.
II Samuel 12:16 "... and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth." (individual)
But why do I fast?
There are multiple reasons why I commit to fasting, not just in January, but many times throughout the year. Each time varies, for there are different needs in my life. But the main reason I fast every January is to humble and chasten myself (Psalms 35:13 "I humbled my soul with fasting ...") , and to seek the Lord and His way, His plans for me in this new year (Ezra 8:21 "Then I proclaimed a fast ... that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of Him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance").
Sometimes I fast a meal or maybe one full day, and other times I do partial fasts by cutting certain foods from my diet for anywhere between three to 40 days. It all depends on what I'm fasting for. Some other reasons I choose to fast include: spiritual deliverance (Mark 9:29 "And he said unto them, 'This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting'"), repentance and confession of sin, receiving of healing, seeking assistance in time of fear, seeking protection, when in need or lack material provision (II Corinthians 11:27 "In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness"), or as in preparation to receive word from God.
Although I am not Catholic, I always participate in Lent. I see it as another form of fasting. But there is a big part of fasting that people tend to forget. You can't just give up something and call it a "fast." Fasting in itself is of no spiritual value (I Corinthians 8:8) and "that which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," (John 3:6). But it is the attitude of a heart sincerely seeking Him to which God responds with blessing.
When you fast, you have to spend that time with God. So when I fast desserts and my cravings start, I grab my Bible and meditate on God's word. Some people fast things like TV, Facebook or music. But that means the time you usually spend watching TV or surfing the Web, when you fast, now that time is given to the Lord. If God's going to do His part, you have to do yours. Only fasting that is done with the right motive, that of glorifying God, can be pleasing in His sight. This is why fasting is so much more than (and so very different from) the typical "Lent" and "cleanses."
I'm very excited for this January's fast. I'm humbling myself while seeking and listening for God to move in my life this year.
Fasting is an extremely valuable and important attribute of the Christian life;
but it is not a definiteness.
With Love and God Bless,