When my co-workers learned it was my birthday, they asked if they could take me out to lunch. Unfortunately, I had to turn them down because I was in the middle of a multi-day fast.
They asked some great questions. When did I start? How long would I fast for? Why was I fasting?
Recently, a new year had begun, and the previous year had been fraught with bumps and bruises. Both my brother-in-law and my mother-in-law had passed away. My daughter faced chronic health problems that needed both natural and supernatural intervention. I had given ground to the all-too-familiar feeling of fear, and I felt my heart growing cold. For those reasons, I entered into a fast.
People throughout history have fasted — usually a practice of abstaining from solid food and only drinking liquids — in order to slow down, quiet the noise of the culture around them and take the time and space to listen and reflect. (There are other ways to fast, such as only drinking water or abstaining from a pleasurable activity other than food, but for the purpose of this article, the above will be our definition.)
Fasting allows Christians to turn their hearts toward God. When people fast in community, it can cause those Christians to experience a refreshing of their faith as a group. But this refreshing of faith, sometimes called revival, starts on a personal level.
In the midst of living in a broken world, I desperately need to see the face and hear the voice of my heavenly Father. I give up physical food so I can receive spiritual nourishment.
So does it work? How do you know if you’re “doing it right”?
When I fast, I focus on a passage of Scripture and journal my thoughts. I invite the Holy Spirit to do what He has promised to do:
Those moments when I see truth for what it really is, when I understand just how far short of God's holiness I fall, I'm devastated. The Holy Spirit gently leads me to the cross and I agree with God that I've sinned, and I ask Him to forgive me. To restore my fellowship with Him. And then through the power that emptied Christ's tomb, He changes my heart.
Sometimes this leads to difficult conversations, in which I have to find the courage to tell people things that may offend them. Other times, I have to ask people to forgive me for my unkind words and actions. At times those conversations go well. Other times they don’t. Regardless of the outcome, I’m obedient to my heavenly Father. As long as He’s pleased, I’m satisfied.
So what does fasting actually accomplish? This spiritual discipline is a physical way for me to slow down, tell God how much I need Him, listen to what He has to say, and then act on how He leads me. He revives my heart, clears my head and gives me the courage to face living in a broken world.
God considers fasting important. His Word, in fact, contains 92 passages mentioning it. Many of our heroes of the faith, including Moses, Elijah, Esther, Nehemiah, Daniel and Paul, fasted at crucial points.
The Holy Spirit can transform your life through fasting and prayer. The most powerful of all the Christian disciplines is fasting.
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