Friday, May 11, 2018

Fasting and Prayer: Why You Should Fast Twice a Week

This is an account of my experience with fasting and prayer. I decided I would fast from food, aside from vegetables (at night so I could sleep.)  I allowed myself coffee and protein shakes, up to four times a day. I did this for three days. I fasted and prayed during this time, for about an hour each night and at various points throughout the day. This is an account of that experience.

Glory to God alone. You should rarely talk about fasting, and never brag about it.  The truth is most people reading this won't even know my name, and that's for the best.  For those who do, know this: The only reason any of this is possible is because God made it possible in someone as weak, flawed, and indulgent as myself.

Joel 2:12 (NIV) says, “"Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." 

Fasting is useful in many ways to the Christian of today in their walk with Christ. Fasting helps us to return to God. Often in this world our heart drifts away from God. Fasting can help us to return to Him and repent. Additionally, fasting is useful for putting the flesh under the subjugation of the Holy Spirit. We feed ourselves so often, at least three times a day, and often this hunger grows more and more, until it has control over us. Thus fasting is a powerful way to put the flesh into submission and quiet it’s never-ending lusts and hungers.

Fasting for me, as I began to plan this fasting experience, was something that felt impossible. I’ve done it many times in the past, yet this time I felt as if it was too much. 

But I was sick one day, and I was searching You Tube for sermons to listen to, and I came across a sermon by a pastor in Africa on the topic of fasting. And he taught that it is our privilege and responsibility as believers to fast. And he didn’t speak of fasting for 24 or 48 hours, he said we could fast for a week, for two weeks, for three week, and he said all the way up to forty days. And I found this convicting and astonishing. 

I thought, surely this must be impossible! But I began to pray and asked God, if God would allow me to fast for a few days. God seemed to respond clearly to this prayer, and put in my mind the thought, that all I had to do was pray, and set my mind on doing this, even if I didn’t really believe it was possible, God seemed to communicate that he would give the victory. 

And I’ve found that time and again in my walk with God: I have to simply step out in faith, and just by beginning to dare to believe that God would make this possible (not myself) then God does things in my life that I simply can’t imagine. He does greater things than I think are possible, when I dare to ask and begin to believe in Him.

I began the night before the fast in prayer and asked earnestly for God’s help. I asked the night before in prayer, and I asked again that morning. I actually ate that morning at about five in the morning, I got hungry and ate a small can of peas. So when I woke up, I was sad, but God encouraged me to continue. For that first day on April 10th I fasted, and drank four vegetable protein shakes. At night I studied the scriptures and my two devotional books, and then I prayed for about an hour. I prayed the “Our Father.” I also prayed the serenity prayer. I prayed by praising God and thanking Him. I thanked God for his faithfulness in my past and present. I prayed many intercessory prayers for people the Lord laid on my heart. And I prayed in repentance from sins, poor attitudes, and ungodly mindsets in my mind and soul. It was a deeper prayer than I’d often prayed before in the past, because I was honoring God.

I found myself unfortunately also focused greatly on the hope of losing weight through the fast. And I wrestled with this each of the three days, questioning my own inner desires and my motives. I’m still uncertain about what I truly desired from the experience. Perhaps it was entirely selfish and based on a desire to have a healthy body, instead of a healthy spiritual soul.

The first night I struggled terribly to sleep because I was so hungry. I woke up with only about 3 hours of sleep, yet I was still able to function throughout the day. It was like God was strengthening me through the experience. I went to my classes, and had my four protein drinks, and I went and played volleyball. Unfortunately, not many people came, so Tony and I played a bit of basketball, then I left. I went back home and I began to study the scriptures, and my two devotional books as is my custom each night, and this time I had a harder time praying, but I prayed all the same, about 30-45 minutes. I think I struggled to pray because I was so tired and dizzy. But I still seemed to do OK. That night I once again struggled greatly to sleep, and I woke up several times in the night and I ate canned peas and green beans, and I also ate a frozen cheesy instant broccoli.

I woke up on the third day, quite hungry and tired, but I prayed in the Spirit, and I began the day. The day went well, it felt like a long day, and my detail seemed quite long because I was so tired. I found myself throughout the day bargaining with myself to eat dinner at the cafeteria. But I was able to fight off those temptations in little prayers in my mind to God. On the third night I studied the scriptures and prayed again for about an hour. I prayed as I normally do, just for longer, on praises to God, requests for family, friends, and others, and I prayed against demonic powers, and wickedness in the enemy kingdom. I prayed for seminary, for cadets, for staff, and for officers. I prayed on many topics, for friends, for candidates, for people far away, and for family of course. I went to sleep that night after eating some vegetables, and I slept about five hours, woke up the next morning and began the day by eating my normal breakfast of five eggs, but I added an extra one.

Fasting and praying was a positive experience for me. For several months during being at seminary I had fasted once a week on Thursdays. But during and after Christmas I lost touch with this practice. However, I will now be picking it up again because of this fast. I planned with an accountability partner to fast twice a week, as John Wesley taught his preachers to do. In fact John Wesley insisted that all pastors being trained in his movement had to fast a minimum of twice a day.  That's the minimum.  I believe twice a week is a good way to honor God, and praise Him. 

One note about fasting: Don't tell people that your fasting.  Don't brag about it.  Don't say "I know I'm not suppose to talk about fasting, but..." Then you talk about it.  And it's like... No, don't do that.  I'm sharing about it to encourage you to begin doing it at least twice a week.  I would say it's OK to share the fact that your fasting with your accountability partner or mentor, or if someone is really insisting on knowing why you seem so tired, or why your not able to go and do something.  Sometimes God is prompting you to share that with someone individually so they can learn to fast as well. In fact my very first interest with fasting was just such an occasion with a worship leader friend of mine. And I pressed him for an answer on why he seemed so off. And he shared with me that he was fasting.  It impressed me, and I began to develop a plan to do it myself. 

I’m going to study more on fasting and attempt to learn skills for fasting, so I may more effectively glorify God and bless His name.