Saturday, March 30, 2013

Discipline of Fasting

Ah, the discipline of fasting. One of our favorites, right?

No? Yeah, me neither.

Of all the disciplines I find myself resisting this one the most. I think it is because unlike the others I have a harder time finding that wonderfulness amidst the discomfort of change. While it is a struggle to find time and proper focus for meditation, and to always pray with the right heart and spirit neither requires a significant amount of active self-denial.

I know there are rewards, but the struggle to get there is not really a good time. At least not initially.

Even so, I have been greatly challenged by my study of this discipline. I am learning more and more of this discipline, and especially coupled with the disciplines of both prayer and meditation I am challenged that it will indeed draw me closer to God with practice.

First, I have had to cement what the actual concept of fasting is. I found several great definitions, but my favorite by far is by Jen Hatmaker in her book, "7: a mutiny against excess". She says of the spirit of the fast "[it is] an intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinence to summon God's movement in my life. A fast creates margin for God to move."

She goes on to say, "Temporarily changing our routine of comfort jars us off high center. A fast is not necessarily something we offer to God, but it assists us in offering ourselves."

 So like prayer and mediation, fasting creates a space for God to speak with us. It focuses us with intensity on hearing his voice, calling to attention not only our hearts, spirits and minds but our bodies as we withhold something from it. Whether it is food, media, sleep or speaking when we abstain from something that our body is used to we are use our self-denial to create a bridge to the heart of God.

It is like we are saying in essence, "what you have to say to me is so important that I am going to stop using resources to those things until I hear what you want me to hear."

Whether fasting for a meal, a day or 40-days we can find ourselves learning to listen more attentively to God during that time and space we give to him. When we offer up something that we see as necessary for our life and living in exchange for a more intense God meeting, we will be blessed for it!

One aspect of fasting that differentiates it from other disciplines is the purposeful, intentional nature of it. While you can pray in passing, and meditate for a moment it takes some mental and spiritual planning to fast. In scripture fasting has a reason, often mourning (Nehemiah 1:4) or guidance (Acts 14:23). Since a prayer offered in a time of fasting is one with some serious weight behind it, it must have a purpose and be led by the Spirit.

There is much to still learn of fasting, but I pray that you will consider this discipline as you seek to know God better. We will talk more about this discipline very soon!

Have you ever fasted? What did you feel you learned from that experience?

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