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.