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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

And when he had fasted for 40 days & 40 nights, he afterward hungered. Matthew 4:2

My friend, Seeking, has been blogging recently about her fast & it has got me thinking because you don't really hear much about fasting these days.

I am not very disciplined about fasting, doing it irregularly as I felt the need or felt called, & not at all while I was lactating & raising small children because I am a low energy person anyway & fasting takes all my energy. Pregnant women & diabetics shouldn't fast either ~ or anyone who is unsure it's safe for them. Optimally a fast is initiated by God & fasting is an act of obedience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Why don't we fast any more ~ & why does the church not teach on this?

I think one reason so few people fast is we just don't know how to any more. I am talking here of solid food fasting, not switching off the t.v for a couple of weeks, or shutting down the computer, or giving up Starbucks or Tim~Tams. I am talking about a really truly fast of the sort Jesus knew & practised where your insides gnaw at you, you feel light~headed & food begins to obsess your mind; that sort of a fast.

I know! Hard to believe I ever become obsessed about food but a bit of a fast will do it for me. Makes me appreciate the food on my plate I can tell you!

I have never found short fasts particularly difficult, mainly because I tend to miss meals anyway, hating to stop doing something interesting just in order to eat, or quite simply not realising that I was supposed to eat. Only when hunger pains really begin gnawing at me do I suddenly realise that, Oops! I've done it again!

Just the same I didn't have a clue about fasting, the really truly proper sort of fasting ~ so I've always used Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline as a sort of guide because he has a whole chapter on fasting: why, how to, when to, is it mandated in scripture? I'm actually on my second copy of this book. I read my first copy to pieces but when I realised I no longer had all the pieces it was definitely time to get a new copy.

Now Jesus never commanded his disciples to fast. However he did rather assume they would do it. Matthew 6:16 When you fast...However you then hit stumbling block number one. With what attitude, purpose, expectation do you approach fasting because I can assure you people fast for all sorts of strange & peculiar reasons. As Christians our primary purpose should be to seek God first, to seek God only. Other things can & do happen but the primary purpose is to seek God.

Now God is Good & he's not about to send babies out into the desert for a 40 day fast. Baby steps for babies. Foster suggests beginning with a partial fast from Lunch time to Lunch time. I've never tried this so have no idea of how well it works but I imagine it would be easier than waking up hungry & not eating. He recommends fruit juice or water.

The next step is a slightly longer fast of 24 hours & so on until you are accustomed to the small fasts. The next step is the 3 to 7 day fast. This is the most I have ever done but be warned. The body starts to detoxify & headaches are not uncommon. I'm normally a coffee drinker, not excessively so but I do like my cuppa first thing in the morning, so I do get headaches, dizziness & general lethargy. Because I am a low energy person any way I sometimes have a commercial egg nog ~ no alcohol, just milk & egg. Otherwise I stick to juice & water though I find water pretty hard to drink lots of.

One of the worst things you can do before commencing a fast is to eat a big hearty meal. It is much easier if you have eaten lightly several days prior to commencing your fast & cut back on the tea, coffee & sugar. Fasts should be broken as carefully as they are begun with fruit or vegetable juices, then fruit, milk, yogurt. Avoid starch, dressings & grease. Gradually add salads & cooked veggies remembering the stomach will have shrunk. Whatever you do, don't over eat!

Given how little modern Christians understand about the physical aspects of fasting they tend to simply ignore fasting altogether. Sometimes it's dismissed as O.T & not applicable to those under Grace rather than the Law. The fact that Jesus is our example & He did it should be reason enough for us to consider fasting more closely for hand in hand with fasting comes prayer.

The denial of ourselves & our very real physical need for sustenance seems to open spiritual doorways that are normally securely fastened, or crack open a bare smidgen. I don't understand the whole spiritual dimension but if our hearts are right before God then He seems to really bless those that fast, drawing them closer to Himself in greater intimacy in prayer.

If you are interested in studying more about spiritual fasting get your hands on a good guide that talks about all aspects of fasting & begins with little steps. As in all things spiritual we have to grow spiritual muscle before we can take on the longer fasts.


Amanda said...

Ganeida, fasting is to some, almost a 'dirty' word lol. It is true, you don't hear alot of churches partaking of it. The one I attend, does. It is a regular thing practised by many of the people.

Fasting, as I see it, is all about sacrifice. Sacrificing our comfort of feeling satisfied and nourished by food, in order to put Him first, to seek His face.

I believe that as one denies their belly bread, He fills the heart and spirit with His heavenly Bread. It is a beautiful thing really, and a powerful tool. Through it, bondages are broken and deliverance can occur.

All the things you said, I agree with.

Another way to fast, although not as 'sacrificial' as a water fast, is the Daniel fast. Google it, if you haven't heard of it. It is the diet bible scholars say that Daniel lived on. Vegetables, legumes etc... all plant grown things, soy products allowed, not dairy, not animal products. I think I have that right.

I haven't attempted a 40 day fast, but I desire to be able to do one eventually. I agree with the method of eating lightly before commencing a fast. I have done that, and it is the best way to go.

Good post my friend. :)

seekingmyLord said...

Amanda, although I have heard the term "Daniel fast" often and I don't have a problem with it per se, however it adds some confusion about the term "fasting" for some. As you pointed out, Daniel himself was not fasting. What has been called the "Daniel fast" was a lifestyle of eating for Daniel; a fast has a definite beginning and a definite ending, even if one goes into a fast with determination not to end it until an answer is received, there is a definite ending of the fast. Daniel did not end the way he ate, however I agree that some could use the same dietary guidelines for a fast. One could even say that Daniel always ate more like one should in preparation for a fast or in coming off of one.

I have fasted many times and all kinds of fasts. My interest in fasting first began in health because the body accelerates deep healing and the human growth hormone (HGH), our natural youth hormone, is heightened promoting longevity, but the Lord quickly made me aware of the spiritual benefits. It is good to be educated about fasting so that one is aware of the physical challenges that often do occur during a fast. All I can say to everyone reading this is it that Ganieda is right about there being a difference between fasting those things which are unimportant to living, the fat of our lives, and fasting a food, which is so necessary for our lives and reducing the fat of the body.

However, baby steps into fasting is highly recommended. In the twenty some years of my experiences with fasting, this one is my first 40-day and even though I knew how my body should respond because of my experience and having read much on the subject, 40 days is a long time. They say it takes 30 to 40 days to break a habit or for something to become a habit. Perhaps 40 days breaks habits that interfere with the Spirit and fosters new habits that bring one closer to the Lord. It has been an interesting journey so far and my church has 15 more days to go.

Amanda said...

Thank you for explaining that so well Persuaded. Yes, I can see what you are saying. Perhaps the Daniel fast would be good for those who are on medication, for example, as some meds require food. Or someone who has a sugar problem, such as hyperglycemia.

Jan Lyn said...

It is true, in our fast food world and our church's today leaning toward entertainment at times (forgive the broad brush I do not intend)fasting seems a thing of the past.

I have read Fostor's book twice myself, most recently last yr for an online study. It's that kind of book one can read every few yrs. and gain further from. Another good study of the spiritual disciplines, including fasting is in Soul Feast...great book. I often wish I could fast, but cannot due to my disease, low weight and the fact that I only have 50% motility going on. 'Nuff about that, but I see the beauty in emptying oneself in order to simply make room to fill with more of Christ. Done correctly, I think it is a good thing and I rarely hear Friends talk about it.

Ganeida said...

Amanda: God seems to have let on~line people into my life who share the journey ~ & for that I am grateful. ☺

Seeking: see what happens when we talk. lol

Jan Lyn: I'm an odd sort of a Quaker I think but Friends aren't the only ones who don't talk about fasting ~ or various other of the disciplines. Care is needed. Discipline is for our good but like anything else can be misused.

Liddy said...

Guess what mummy, all week I've felt the need to fast, and yes regarding living without food. I wasn't sure how to get around it though with my companion!!! Odd things are happening, I feel strengthend in my walk, also find it hard to explain many things as it's just plain weird. Have a great day and I'll see you before you know it! :)I can't seem to post atm as Lobstar btw...

Ganeida said...

What on earth possessed you to choose Lobstar as your user name?! Comparing notes should be interesting when we catch up. Not being the foodie you are I can't imagine how you will manage! lol

Persuaded said...

It's interesting that you are writing about this just now... Amelia and I have been discussing fasting for the last several days. I have been encouraging her to fast in order to "break through" some obstacles. She is uncertain as she has never really practiced the discipline. I felt kind of shocked when I realized this, and kind of like I had failed her a bit in not teaching her earlier and encouraging her in a practice of fasting. Me? I am kind of feeling like I should fast again. I wish I had the self-discipline to do it on a regular basis, as in one day a week. Good things come from fasting, in my experience. Very good things♥

Ganeida said...

Diane: ♥ So odd because I really felt from the Lord to speak on this & I really couldn't see the point when Seeking is so much more experienced, far better disciplined & more knowledgable ~ & was already doing a brilliant job but there you go. Liddy needed this [& like you it wasn't something I instructed on, partly because fasting is so often a very private thing I think]] & then you pop up too. The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways! ☺

Allison said...

Fasting has been extremely fruitful for me on multiple levels. I hesitate to put the number out there, but I prefer to do 10-14 day fasts. The first day is spiritually worthless as I spend much of the day wallowing in self-pity and focused on the hunger - not *why* I am hungry. Given that I do not fast from daily activities like driving and working and have some blood sugar issues, I do keep a stash of glucose tablets and cheese nearby. With Matthew 6:16 firmly in mind, it does take a special effort to keep one's temper in check, particularly on the first day :) I have always found great strength in that fasting is consistently linked to prayer and worship.

seekingmyLord said...

I typically fast one day a week, so the one day or first day is not one of difficulty for me. (Now as for that third day...I could definitely be happier with that particular day in the fast.) My fasting day is Wednesday, but years ago it was Monday. It is not that difficult to fast one or two days a week especially when you have family in support of it. The Princess reminds me even when I forget and I mark it on my calendar. I could produce a load of info on the physical benefits as well as the spiritual ones. With that said, while I am enthusiastic about the benefits of fasting, sometimes... well, if I may quote myself from my own blog:

At times, even to me, [fasting] seems like a thankless duty, an unnoticed chore, an unnecessary custom, and even an empty ritual...until that moment when I fully surrender to my Lord and then it is the most wonderful blessing, worth every moment of sustaining from food and an experience I cannot really relate to another who has not done it.

Actually, this is one concern I have with Christian churches in the Western world, as typically nothing is really taught about fasting. It is personal, but then it still should be something with which we are familiar. Instead we read over quickly all the references to people in the Bible fasting and our told in our society it is a health risk...and that is true for some individuals, but certainly not for the majority. Perhaps teaching about fasting is the responsibility of the parents through observation, but who teaches them, especially if they come from a non-Christian background? I always thought the church was to challenge and encourage us to learn more about God, draw closer to Him, and be like Jesus...who also fasted.

seekingmyLord said...

I meant to say *without* the effects of the third day.

Ganeida said...

Allison: I don't *fast* from daily activities either so definitely prefer not to be fasting when I have to drive on the mainland! lol We are not meant to be long faced & bad tempered [though a lack of food can certainly predispose us that way ☺] & last time I did it I sucessfully managed to keep it from the entire household until *Star* realised she'd just about eaten the entire block of chocolate that had been given to me. lol I then had to explain why I hadn't touched it. *sigh* I tried.

Seeking: Still in prayer about it but am thinking about Thursdays ~ which would be your Wednesday. The Lord certainly seems to be lining us up together. ☺

joyfulmum said...

Our church has just completed a three day fast, which is why I've been a bit quiet in blog land:)
Yes, I agree with you, our primary purpose in fasting should be to seek God! All the churches I have been a part of make it a regular practice to fast (thankfully for me) but I am yet to attempt any more than a one day fast! When we have multiple day fasts, I usually do a partial fast of some sort as I think I am like you, low energy etc and just have not gotten used to doing long fast (as yet!)

Ganeida said...

joyfulmum: One day fasts are actually more difficult than longer fasts, mostly because the mind tends to be obsessed with food, as Allison pointed out. Seeking may have some good advice about how to combat the low energy levels. I do egg nogs if I start feeling really woozy & juice rather than water but I'm sure regular fasters have each found their thing that gets them over the humps.

joyfulmum said...

Yes, I've heard the same Ganeida about the longer fasts being easier....however the word egg nog is enough to make me queasy even when I'm not fasting, lol! well, God is working on me in this area, I know I am improving in my fasting by His grace:)

Ganeida said...

Joyfulmum: Yikes! I didn't mean for you to use egg nog, just that that's what I do. lol And please, I didn't mean to put anyone down or sound superior with my comments because I am very aware that the Lord leads gently enabling us as we are ready for each step He would have us take. I know some lovely Christians who have never fasted in their lives. It is an aide for some & a hinderance for others. My beef is more that the choice to fast or not is removed when it is not taught on. He will bless your efforts as you seek to please Him. ♥

joyfulmum said...

Ganeida,, in no way did I feel put down by you! sorry if my comment gave you that impression:(
I was just trying to explain where I was at:)
I understand your point totally that you were trying to make about the fact that it should be taught more, I agree!

Ganeida said...

joyfulmum: We're all good. ☺ I'm a little paranoid sometimes & I dislike misunderstandings.