While fasting isn’t on the top of everyone’s list of favorite things to do, the rewards and fuel that it adds to our prayer life is invaluable. Our church is getting ready to start a 40 day fast beginning September 28 through the elections and so the topic seemed appropriate for this week. Other groups are also doing this, to join in, check out: www.40daystosaveamerica.com.
There are many types of fast: Water only, Daniel fast (no meat/no sweets), liquid fast (soups/shakes) and even things such as media, etc. (for more information go to: www.revivalstories.org/how-to-fast) If you are new to fasting, start small and work up as God leads you. Having said that, my daughter just completed a water only fast as her first experience fasting and did quite well.
Fasting often exposes what holds us captive. Raynald III, a 14th century duke in Belgium had quite the appetite. Recorded in Thomas Costain’s history “The Three Edwards”, terribly overweight Raynald was captured during a revolt by his younger brother, Edward. Knowing his brother’s weakness, Edward constructed a special room around his brother with windows and a near normal size door. Daily he fed his brother delicious food he knew that Raynald couldn’t resist. Although all he needed to do to be free was stop eating so much, lose the weight and walk out of his self-imposed prison, Raynald couldn’t do it.
Day by day, year by year, trapped by his appetite, he continued to eat and gain weight. When accused of cruelty, Edward simply replied, “He is not a prisoner. He can leave whenever he wills.” After ten years, Edward was killed in battle and Raynald was somehow extricated from the room, however, he died within a year due to his poor health, a prisoner of his desires.
While an extreme example, food or other things can easily hold us captive from what God has for us. Abstaining for a season presses us into God for deliverance so that we rely fully on Him.
Understand that most of the time, fasting is about weakness. We begin to feel our need as the hunger grows and temptation increases. Often we feel irritable and the fruits of the Spirit we thought we possessed seem to fly out the window. Most people don’t feel “super spiritual” when they fast, so don’t be surprised if you are struggling. Let it press you in to His strength.
I confess to struggling with fasting as I have severe hypoglycemia and joke that I’m not a safe driver or safe parent in a very strict fast. So I have to find more modest ways. Through it I’m learning that God doesn’t favor us according to our level of fasting but our obedience to what He asks us to do. I can “kill” myself on a water only fast, but if He just asked me to fast sweets, I’ve gained nothing. It seems our human nature to think we are somehow more spiritual in our big or dramatic efforts and fail to recognize it is the little acts of obedience that please Him most.
When you fail, learn quickly to “push delete” and keep moving. Costco can be my bane. I might be doing well fasting all day and then just run in to grab a few items and before I know it I’m halfway through the gauntlet of samples when I remember it’s my fast day! It can be easy to think “I blew it already, I might as well….” But the greater victory comes when in confidence of His unchanging love, you repent and simply continue on. It’s not about how “perfect” you fast, but your journey in learning to trust and love Him more. Look at the whole picture from His perspective, not the moment.
Whether regularly fasting one day a week or a 3-day, 7-day or 40-day fast, prepare your heart ahead of time. Seek the Lord and ask what your fast is to be. Set your mind for follow-through, trusting His grace, whether easy or difficult, to persevere.
For more on fasting, download the free e-book by Mike Bickle called “The Rewards of Fasting” at www.mikebickle.org/books/.