This coming Sunday, the message will draw our attention to the useful practice of fasting to help us listen to God. I’ve been thinking, praying, and preparing for this in small ways for several weeks.
I have not made fasting a regular practice in my life. In the broad history of the church, however, fasting has been a very regular part of living for God. I wonder if the (right) concerns about legalism have caused me to have a (wrong) reluctance to make it a way to seek God.
All that to say, I have been and continue to experiment with it. I want to share here on the blog a “sneak peek” at something we will distribute next Sunday, and invite you to consider whether God might be prompting you to experiment, as well.
Have you tried fasting in order to focus on God?
Our longing for God, our longing for something deeper, our longing to be Jesus people is leading us to try and do the things Jesus did.
One thing Jesus did was to fast. In Luke 4: 1-2, at the very beginning of his public ministry, he sought Godâ€™s leading in the desert, and he focused his attention by fasting. Itâ€™s safe to say that fasting is not a normal practice for people in our culture, yet it has been and continues to be an important opportunity for growth in our relationship with God.
In the bible and throughout history, fasting refers almost exclusively to going without food for a period of time for spiritual purposes. Recently, Christians have realized that abstaining from other things which pull our attention in order to give our attention to God is also a very helpful practice. Television, news, music, turning on the radio in the car, the internet, Blackberry devices, cell phones, sports scores, checking your appearance in a mirror, coffee, soda pop…all of these things and many more can become opportunities for fasting. We can choose to intentionally go without something for a period of time, in order to focus our mind, heart, and spirit on God.
Would you consider fasting this week? Here are some suggestions.
1. Choose what you are giving up. (All food, snacks, or some of the suggestions above are options.)
2. Set a time limit for the fast. (If you are fasting from food and not in the practice of doing so, a 24 hour fast from lunch to lunch is a good way to begin. Drink lots of water, unless you have experience with a total fast. The body can go without food for quite some time, but needs water often.)
3. Tell God you are doing this to follow Christâ€™s example, and ask God to help you focus on Him.
4. Prepare a sentence prayer. Some examples to help you think of your own are: â€œI worship you, God.â€ â€œI love you, Jesus.â€ â€œHelp me, Holy Spirit.â€ During the fast, whenever you miss the thing from which you are fasting, use the sentence prayer to direct your attention to God.
5. Reflect on the experience. Write down or talk with someone about what your experience of fasting was like.
(For further reading, Richard Fosterâ€™s book Celebration of Discipline has a helpful chapter on fasting; if you have other reading suggestions, please include them in the comments.)