*This month we’re focusing our attention on the spiritual disciplines of fasting and feasting. Just this last week, I (Justin) gave a talk in which I discussed spiritual disciplines (what they are, why we practice them etc…) and then continued to speak specifically about fasting and feasting. Below is a blog I wrote last spring that gives some brief, practical tips in preparation for fasting.
Flowing out of this whole discussion is a time for us, as a CU community, to fast and feast together later this month. You can see more details in the graphic below, but we’ll fast and pray from Nov. 12-17 and then gather together to feast with a Thanksgiving meal the evening of the 17th. I hope you’ll consider joining us for this powerful time of focusing our minds and hearts as a community on our heavenly Father!
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I took part in my first fast as a college student. I honestly only remember one detail from that experience – breaking fast with Bob Evans’ biscuits and gravy. If I have one piece of advice to give you as you set out into a season of fasting it’s this, DON’T BREAK YOUR FAST WITH BISCUITS AND GRAVY! Seriously, bad idea. You can imagine the destruction that is done to your poor stomach due to such stupidity. Learn from my experience by not following my lead on that one.
That said, fasting is a powerful spiritual discipline designed to help us draw near to the Lord. Depriving our bodies of food for a period of time has a way of revealing to us the idols of our hearts, those things that control our loves and desires (money, power, status, sex, image etc…) and pull us away from our Creator. Fasting reminds us that “man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4) – ultimately, “fasting is feasting.”* In the end, going without food is all about God. He is the center of why we fast, our sustainer and reward in the midst of the wilderness of hunger pains. That it’s an important spiritual discipline is an understatement.
Yet, many of us have never fasted. Most, outside of the latest fasting diet fads, have never really even heard much about it. Whether it’s due to the fact that fasting is inconvenient to our fast-paced lives, makes us uncomfortable, presses against the grain of a contemporary culture that values instant gratification, consumption and a more-is-better worldview and/or is under-taught in the church, so many of us are missing out on this “discipline of grace” – we’re missing out on so much God wants to do in and through us.
The good new is you’re reading this post, which I assume means you’re interested in taking a stab at this fasting thing. Awesome! But now you’re wondering, “where do I start?” Well, here are some of my tips as you consider venturing into a fast:
- PLAN: Nothing saps the energy and potential good out of a fast quite like not planning for one before you begin. Pray about and answer these questions before you start:
- What is the purpose of this fast?
- When and how long will I fast?
- From what are you fasting? I feel as though it’s important that food always be a part of your fast, but you can include other things like TV, social media etc… Whatever it is you fast from, make sure it includes food that, if removed for a period of time, would cause a bit of disruption in your daily rhythm of life (I wouldn’t fast from broccoli because I never eat broccoli, don’t like broccoli and could live the rest of my life just fine without broccoli).
- Find Support: When Jesus, in Matthew chapter 6, teaches to fast in a way not obvious to others, he doesn’t mean to fast secretly. The main point is to not be a hypocrite, who fasts in order to look more spiritual and important. In reality, we need one another when we fast. We need the support, and we can encourage one another through stories of what God is teaching us in the midst of a fast. As usual, community is essential!
- Don’t Be a Fasting Hero: If you’ve never fasted before, don’t begin with a 40 day, water-only fast! Be reasonable. Start with a meal or just cut out a particular food for a day. Then, after you’ve got some experience, move on to a week-long fast etc… From my experience, if you try to do too much at first, your experience will be less than enjoyable and you’re likely to not fast again. Ease into this whole fasting discipline and you will be blessed!
There’s so much more to be said about this spiritual discipline, but hopefully this will get you underway. May God bless you richly, drawing you ever deeper into his eternal grace and love, and send you out with that renewed spirit to love and serve the world around you!
* Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth (San Fransisco: Harper Collins, 2009), 55. If you’re just starting out into the world of spiritual disciplines, there may be no better resource to help you along in the journey than this gem. A must for anyone getting serious about “disciplines of grace.”
** Another great resource on fasting is put out by Cru (here). Take a look for some really helpful and practical tips on fasting.