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5 Things You Should Know About Fasting

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Today begins 40 days of fasting for this Charismatic girl. I’m new to the practice of Lent, but I thought I’d jump in with full intentions and inner resolve to fast. I’m reading as much as my brain can digest pertaining to this ancient spiritual practice as information tends to facilitate my resolve. It also helps that my husband has called our church to fast—I am not alone in my pain.

I’ll be sharing things I am learning in some of my posts during the next 40 days, but for a start, here are 5 things you should know about fasting to survive the backtalk your stomach will give you:

1. When a Christ follower desires to grow closer to God or to identify with the things that grab God’s attention, he or she will fast. Throughout the Bible we find stories of men and women fasting in some form or another. Church history contains additional stories of our fathers and mothers in the faith setting aside time to live a fasted life.

2. Our body communicates what we value by responding appropriately. When my father died, I cried. I also didn’t eat for days. My husband, a very funny man, beams when I laugh at his antics. Check my day planner—I schedule eight hours of sleep at night because I value a fresh mind and clear thinking when I rise at 5:00 to write. Walking up and down my street keeps me healthy so I can dance at my grandchildren’s weddings.

For much of my life, the closest I’ve come to integrating my body with my spirit and soul is when I raise my hands in worship or pray aloud. Have you ever noticed that in some cultures people wail when a friend dies or position themselves horizontally on the floor during prayer? I have never heard wailing at a funeral. Yet, raising my hands in worship, putting my face on the carpet to pray, and wailing at a funeral are appropriate, physical expressions of what I value—worship, prayer, and people.

In his book, Fasting, Scot McKnight comments, “The Bible, because it advocates clearly that the person—heart, soul, mind, spirit, body—is embodied as a unity, assumes that fasting as body talk is inevitable.”

3. There are different kinds of fasts. Normally, a biblical fast involves abstaining from food from sunup to sundown. Sometimes a fast means going without food and water for 24 hours or longer (see Acts 9:9).

During Lent, many follow an abstinent fast by denying themselves certain foods that otherwise would be acceptable. A Daniel fast would be an example of this type of fasting. Daniel and his friends abstained from rich foods and consumed only vegetables and water during their training for the king’s service (see Daniel 1).

4. Fasting is not easy. If fasting was undemanding it would not represent your body identifying with the things that break God’s heart. So, expect the discomfort and hunger pains to be your voice for grieving  the lack of the Kingdom on earth.

5. Fasting involves planning. Depending on my chosen fast, I may not dine out much during these 40 days. Since my sons-still-living-at-home crowd is currently feasting, the refrigerator needs to contain man-food. I’ll plan ahead to avoid frustration and a negative reputation as a mother.

I can’t think of many spiritual practices that so invade our daily life as much as fasting. The rewards are worth it, but that discussion is for another post.

Are you fasting for Lent? If so, what does your fast look like? What is your body identifying with and what is it saying through your chosen fast? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

In Him together, Susan Gaddis

For more information on this subject, click on Scot McKnight’s book Fasting in the far right sidebar.

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Jeanette

    For me fasting is generally a water only fast. However, this 40 days comes at a time when I am embarassed to say I havent fasted in nearly 2 years. I admittedly participated in a 40 day fast before but in the very last week I chnaged from water only and switched to other liquids, vegetables , fruits and nuts. This time I am reversing it and starting with fruit & veggies. I also know that I need to increase my daily time seeking God’s face for direction. I havent been dealing well with my grief and cynicism. The work God has been trying to do on my heart has been interrupted because of it. I know God cant use me as effectively if I am not totally surrendered. So to sum up my reason for participating in this fast. I need to “surrender” and let God move. If I want to be part of the exciting things He has for His church I need to be completely His in every way. Thank you Tom & Susan for calling us upward and inward for this change. I will be praying for a great change to take place in all of us. God bless you !

  2. Kerin Clement

    My fast says, “Lord, I want YOU, and what your Kingdom brings more than what this world has to offer.” As for the practical, I am simply fasting from all grains. Hmmm…It feels kind of lame now that I am typing it. I think I am going to the Lord on this one again.

    In Psalm 63, David is thirsty and hungry as he hides out in the wilderness of Judah. But he acknowledges that it is the very Presence of God which his body and soul thirst for. I could go on and on but I won’t. There is so, so much in this psalm that I am feasting on right now. But, it’s time to start dinner for the fam.

    Love you all.

  3. Susan Gaddis

    Jeanette and Kerin, good for both of you to be so wise in how you are starting a fast. Jeanette, the veggies and fruit first–how healthy. Kerin, dinner for the family–how kind.

    Encouraging comments by the two of you. Thank you! I think I’ll read Psalm 63 tonight before bed, Kerin. Good fasting passage.

  4. Kerin Clement

    Sue, what kind of fast are you doing?

    I am really excited about the next 40 days. I love that as we intentionally place ourselves into a place of weakness, we are positioned to pray in authority. The joy of contending for more, for Heaven to invade earth, to press into the very Presence of the Living God….WOW!

  5. Susan Gaddis

    Kerin, I’m doing the sunup to sundown fast except for a few days where I had previous committments. 🙂

  6. Mc Chavez

    Over the past month, a fast has come, not out of conscious decision, but sheer grief. As I process this, I’m asking the Lord what he would have me purposefully do away with to honor and make room for Him.

    I love and value your ponderings, you guys. Jeanette, I especially appreciate your transparency in what the Lord is showing you. Bless you!

  7. Carolyn

    A call to fast … a call to prayer … my heart so wants to seek God more and I am. I’m excited about this fast and what God will do in each of us. My things I fast could be minimal in others eyes, but they are sacrifices for me. I’m thankful that God looks at our hearts :). I believe that as we each seek God, He will guide us in the specific things He wants us to give up as we seek Him more.

    God has been nudging to get more involved in prayer … He’s been drawing me closer … again, I’m excited!

    Carolyn

  8. Jeanette Morris

    Last year was my first venture into Lent—a practice I had previously dismissed to the helplessly misguided liturgical. My experience was surprising…rich, deep, and humbling as I participated in the Orthodox Lenten Fast. I’m observing Lent this year by abstaining from bread. The application is clear for me—to lean on Jesus, the Bread of Life, and to rely on my heavenly Father for my daily bread. Security is a trap for me if I don’t consciously yield to Jehovah Jirah. I am also receiving and pondering daily Lenten reflections from Dr. Larry Crabb’s book: 66 Love Letters: a conversation with God that invites you into His story.

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