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.