Our church does a corporate fast every January. Yes, I mean a fast…no food. Instead time is spent praying, reading scripture and really reaching out to God. Thus far I have only done the partial fast, 6am to 6pm. (Basically no breakfast or lunch) Yesterday, Pastor Will began a series about prayer and fasting to educate and challenge those who planned to participate. Well…I certainly feel challenged.
Let me clarify a few things. My church is not telling everyone to stop eating for the sake of being showy. Quite the contrary. The emphasis was placed on not drawing attention to your personal engagement in the fast. It is between you and God…no one else. The staff educates us on how to approach the fast, how to break the fast, and yes even warns that some people are not suited to participate in the fast. So why are they encouraging people to deprive themselves of food? It is biblical first and foremost. Even Jesus told his disciples that some things can only be overcome with prayer and fasting.
One of the resources Pastor Will referenced was “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard J. Foster. I own the book, but have not read it completely. It serves more as a reference book than a relaxing read for me. There is a full chapter on fasting. I read it through this morning after my morning devotion. No pun intended, but I was hungry to know more. The chapter provides scriptural support for fasting. It goes on to give practical approaches and what to expect – both physically and spiritually. As I read through and cross-referenced some of the scriptures I felt that pull. We never advance without challenging ourselves. It is true in physical development, intellectual development, and in spiritual development. I suppose this is the Holy Spirit pulling me to move beyond the plateau I seem to be resting on.
You can see it in my writing and in my countenance. The last several months have been a struggle. There has been a heaviness that tries to suffocate my joy. I have tried to rally myself to say ENOUGH and hold fast to my joy. Truthfully, that has been sooooo much harder than I can convey here. For a time, my faith seemed to be exploding. Lately, it feels more like a low simmer. In the midst of all the struggle, I gave the enemy too much ground. Doubt planted itself firmly in my heart. (I’m not proud or happy about that – but it is the truth.) Thus, the prospect of the upcoming fast feels like a challenge I am supposed to engage in. Understand I am not telling you this to bring attention to myself. I may fast 2 days or the whole 21. I may only do the partial fast again. I may not fast at all. I don’t know. It is okay that I don’t know because I have time to pray about it and prepare.
If Your Are Fasting – What Are you Preparing?
The short answer is…not food. (Sorry could not resist.) Sure, no matter what fast I engage in or for however long, I will need to make some minor preparations. That is not the preparing I am referring to. When you go to a revival…you want to get revived. You go to a healing service, you expect to receive or witness healing. When you go to work…you expect to do your job. We all walk into our daily situations with certain expectations, wants, desires, and goals.
I expect some level of breakthrough…a measure of peace and a certainty for my next steps. What breakthroughs do I yearn for? 1. To hear God’s voice more clearly. No, I don’t expect a burning bush or angel to address me. I just want to experience that still small voice and have unyielding faith in what it whispers. I want to read scripture and KNOW that it is speaking to me. I am not sure if a non-Christian can understand that but it is peaceful and encouraging. 2. I want clear direction about the Cambodia mission trip. I want confirmation that I am meant to go in 2018 or clear confirmation that I need to wait. I want my eyes and mind opened to the best way to help the team raise funds. 3. I want to be able to let go of things and leave them in God’s hands. I am not trying to drop my responsibilities. God expects us to be working for the kingdom, in our jobs, and in our homes. The worry, fear, pain, and anxiety that I carry…I need to be able to release that to God’s care. I can’t fix any of the things I fret about, only God can. It will happen in His timing, according to His will. 4. I want healing. Not just no pain, but systemic healing, weight loss, and all the other minor health things on my list. 5. Second only to hearing God more clearly, I want restoration or my sister and her husband. I want him healed and walking far before doctors predict. 6. Right in there with my sister and brother-in-law, I want restoration for my son and his girlfriend. I want my son to embrace the prophecy spoken over him and give his life over to God. I want my other sons to find their place and engage fully in Kingdom work. There will be other items that I am seeking answers for, but those are the big ones.
I crave breakthrough. I can’t tell you how many times I feel like I am on the precipice of something amazing with my faith, only to get distracted. It is frustrating. Frankly, sometimes it just makes me mad that my focus is so easily moved into another direction. There is a part of me that just won’t let go.
Let me explain it this way. I have the practical knowledge of diet and exercise for the purpose of weight loss. I have all the tools I need to get my weight under control. I KNOW the impact of neglect and the benefits of perseverance. Yet, I sit on my couch with cookies and milk after a hard day. I eat my stress 95% of the time and I am fully aware that is what I am doing. Knowledge and ability does not equate to results. You have to act upon what you know. You have to implement that knowledge and ability to achieve results.
The more I ponder the upcoming fast, the more I see it as applying knowledge I have gained about fasting – both spiritual and practical – and the ability to apply that knowledge to my faith in action. The spirit is willing, but the flesh…well the flesh wants cookies.