I’m excited about what God has in store for us at this weekend’s retreat! We’ll be focusing on prayer, and in preparation, some of us are going to be praying and fasting. (We are not likely to fast during the retreat – we generally eat very well!) I am praying and fasting for breakthrough – for the Holy Spirit to move in our hearts to empower us for discipleship. You are invited to fast and pray with us this week.
Below are a few practical suggestions for how to approach this time of prayer and fasting.
1) Fasting is often about choosing not to eat, but you can fast from anything that gives you an appetite. Earlier this year, I enjoyed (seriously) fasting from food several days, but on a different occasion I planned a three day fast. This is what I did:
Monday – a media fast. No Facebook, news, or TV.
Tuesday – a fast from sweetness. No cream or sweetener in my coffee. (I drink a lot of coffee). Nothing sweet to the taste.
Wednesday – a food fast, but with hot tea and water through the day. (The caffeine helps me stay sharp, and the water helps me stay hydrated. It’s easy to become dehydrated while fasting, because many of us take in liquids at meal time).
2) Often, people ask, “Do I have to fast from food?” No. You could refrain from eating any food, or you could choose to cut back on certain foods or types of foods. Many people fast from meat during Lent, for example. You could also fast for portions of each day, like during daylight. But you can fast from other things, too, like media, news or a hobby. One time, I did a “transportation fast” and did not drive my car for a week. Choose what works for you. And please don’t fast in a way that jeopardizes your health or puts a burden on the people around you.
3) How does fasting relate to prayer? Fasting brings focus to our prayers over a prolonged time. It’s not magic, or a secret formula. Nothing we do can force God’s hand. And I know this sounds a bit vague, but prayer with fasting just helps.
4) Let the fast prompt you to pray. When you want to do whatever you are fasting from, pray instead. In others words, if you are fasting from food, every time you want to eat, pray a short prayer. If you are fasting from social media, every time you want to check your phone to find out what’s happening, pray a short prayer instead. This week, my short prayer will be, “God, empower us to disciple others.”
5) Don’t approach it legalistically or pridefully. If you happen to accidentally break your fast, don’t beat yourself up. Just laugh at yourself for slipping and renew your fast. Also, if you feel like you are going backward while fasting, you may want to stop – and that’s okay. For example, if you are fasting from food and getting cranky and snippy to the people around you, your fast may be doing more harm than good. So stop! Consider a different strategy.
6) Just do it! Do you know that history took an amazing turn once when some people in a church prayed and fasted? Something about prayer and fasting opened them up to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit calling Barnabas and Saul into a particular type of work. The church responded faithfully, and within a few years, the Kingdom of God was advancing in what is now Turkey, Cyprus, Macedonia, and Greece. Talk about breakthrough! (See Acts 13:1-3 and the stories that follow).
If you choose to fast, if you need breakthrough in some area of your life, may the Lord bless us with a breakthrough! We’ve fasted for a number of things – for our children, for friends who needed work, for marriages that were in trouble, for employers, for business turn-around, for friends seeking freedom from addiction, and for God’s work to advance in our own lives. We want to see God’s Kingdom advance where we are. May God’s Kingdom advance where you are, too!
I’m looking forward to seeing what God will do.