I remember when I was in high school; I participated in a 30-hour fast with a group of fellow students. It was the longest hours of my life! I felt faint and nauseated and had trouble thinking of anything but food. It reminded me of times when I would try silly diets like eating only cabbage soup or grapefruits at every meal. It seemed the harder I tried to fast the more I focused on what I did not have.
So when I was invited to fast as an adult, I quickly rejected the notion. I didn’t want to feel sick and deprived. I didn’t want to think about food all the time. However, with this new invitation came some direction and guidance that opened my eyes and my heart to the true meaning of fasting.
First of all, I learned that I could fast in many different ways. I could abstain from all food and liquids, except water; or I could skip all food but drink liquids like juice, broth and herbal tea; or I could give up certain foods. I learned that fasting is not so much about going without something as it is about using the time I would spend on that activity to pray.
I learned that fasting acts as a reminder to pray. So every time I felt hungry, I would be reminded to pray. Fasting is a time to abstain from the physical, and devote my attention to God.
There are many mentions of fasting and prayer in the Bible. I learned that people fasted for a number of different reasons including during times of celebration, in petitioning God for healing, for His intervention for victory in battle, and in preparation for ministry. In the Old Testament, Ezra 8:23 says, “So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and He answered our prayer.” Nehemiah 1:4 says, “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.”
In the New Testament, Jesus began His ministry with prayer and fasting. And the first missionary journey began with prayer and fasting.
Many of us cannot physically go away to a quiet place to pray yet we can pray as we go about our daily routine. We can begin our day fasting and then pray while driving, walking or cooking. I plan to spend time in prayer asking God how He would like me to participate in a fast. How about you?