Friday, May 2, 2014

Practical tips on fasting

Luke 2:36-38 "And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem."

Introduction to fasting
In the New Testament alone we find reference to fasting nearly 30 times.  In the first mention of fasting here in Luke 2:37 we find a woman by the name of Anna, a prophetess who according to the text, had been married but seven years and then was widowed to her 84th year.  Anna's name in the original language means "grace" and so here was a woman who leaned upon grace and lived by the grace of God in keeping with her namesake.  So much more could be said about this precious lady but for now we hasten to the main point of today's post - practical tips on fasting. 

Fasting is simply abstaining from any for of normal everyday sustaining pleasure (chiefly food, but could also be electronics or anything one typically draws strength or joy) for the sake of finding increased sustaining pleasure in God. Out of all the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life, fasting is perhaps the least practiced and least understood. It is probably fair to say that our generation of the church is the first generation to not practice fasting as a widespread general pattern. 

Sometimes it is best to introduce a subject not widely known or talked about in the realm of the practical. How does one start? How long should a fast be? How do people know when to fast, when to start one and when to end? The following are practical tips that I suggest and have learned over the years of fasting.  They are not meant to be exhaustive, but rather provide a starting point to help people to begin thinking about the practice, and hopefully to perhaps try it out for themselves.  I hope you find them helpful and perhaps interesting enough to begin making fasting a regular part of your life.

1. Begin small.  
Much like any physical or spiritual discipline (of which fasting is both), you begin small.  Begin with a meal, then branch out to two meals, then three meals.  

2. Remember, water is your friend in a fast. When I am beginning a fast, I try to drink as much water as I can.  The key to keeping focused in any fast is by drinking slowly, frequently and continuously.  Sipping on your water is the preferred method.  As you drink your water, the stomach's hunger pangs will be dulled and your body will be replenished.  

3. Juices can be good companions as well in a fast.
A total fast of just drinking water is one way of doing a fast. It represents the ideal method and should be considered when doing longer fasts. But for starting out I would suggest fruit juice. Like tip #2, sip, sip, sip! I normally will buy half-gallon sizes of juice, perferrably not from concentrate.  Avoiding sugary drinks will enable you to have less severe hunger pangs.

4. Make the pursuit of God you main goal
Passages such as Matthew 6:33 tell us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. When entering into any fast, whether it be a short one (one meal) or longer, seeking the Lord is the north pole of fasting.  As you enter into the fast, the Holy Spirit by the scriptures will begin to shed light on specifics. 

5. What are some areas that fasting targets
The aim of fasting is to shift your dependance upon the Lord.  The Holy Spirit dwells your heart or human spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:11-12; 3:16). Your soul, the "you", contains the human spirit and is the sum of your mind, emotions and will.  The left over sin remnants still resident in the Christian are located in the soul and body, which is the house of the soul and spirit.  Thus you aim in fasting is to have an open Bible and to have the opportunity to pray and seek the Lord in those times you would be eating.  

Our soul and body contain natural impulses or drives that if left unchecked can master us. Eating food and enjoying it is not sinful - since God supplies all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ and has provided such things for our enjoyment and consumption. (Philippians 4:19). Anything that masters us other than the Lord Jesus Christ has crossed the line from natural drives to becoming quickly sinful or what the Bible calls "carnal" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). 

In fasting you are aiming to "hear" the Holy Spirit in your human spirit, and learning to recognize His voice as you give yourself to prayer, scripture and obedience.  You are a soul, containing a human spirit and living in and with a body.  As will be explained more below, fasting enables the Christian to get their spirit, soul and body into proper order.

6. Some thoughts on the benefits of fasting
As your stomach growls, you take the time to pray, signalling to God that your are more intrested in feeding on His word and His power than the food your body is craving.  A great verse for remembering the rationale for fasting is 1 Corinthians 6:12 "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered  by anything."

Fasting enables your soul and body to get in line with the Holy Spirit residing in your human spirit. Your body is the Holy Spirit's temple (1 Corinthians 6) and the soul is the arena wherein you live out your Christian walk in making decisions (will), thinking thoughts (mind) and developing feelings or affections for God (emotions). To get all of that into allignment with what the Lord is saying through His word is one of the chief goals in fasting.  

7. Coming out of a fast
As you prepared to go into your fast, there are some things to consider when coming out of one.  First of all, if you went one meal or several days, don't suddenly have a huge meal to try to "make up" for all the food you missed.  Ease back into the normal eating schedule.  Also too remember that in as much as fasting proclaims your dependency upon God more than food, breaking a fast proclaims your dependency upon God in how He supplies your food. Whether going into a fast or coming out of one - the focus is ever to be on the Lord.  

I hope some of these practical tips has piqued your interest in this Biblical practice of fasting.  

No comments:

Post a Comment