I have a confession to make. For a very long time, I hated fasting and avoided it like the plague. I became a Christian when I was 12 years old, and I was eager to learn and grow in my faith at the time. But fasting never made much sense to me. It felt like a hunger strike at best and an unhealthy diet plan at worst. I did a few short fasts throughout my teen years, but the whole time it felt more like an outdated practice of penance than something that could transform my faith for the better.
As an adult, I’ve been exposed to the physical benefits of fasting. I’ve read books and blogs about toxins being released and weight loss and relief from digestive issues and alleviating allergy symptoms and even the reduction of pimples and the reappearance of glowing skin. And of course, back in the day, Beyoncé got everyone’s attention when she did that lemon water with cayenne pepper cleanse. I’m pretty sure every woman in America that summer attempted it in an effort to become beach ready. (Those years before photo filters were desperate times.) I only lasted half a day before a nagging headache and appetite for chips and salsa did me in.
It wasn’t until last year when my church was preparing for our church-wide 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting that I opened my mind to the possibility that fasting could be much more than what I had experienced in the past. So many people around me were genuinely excited to begin the year with intentional prayer and fasting, and were believing to grow closer to Jesus and see His miraculous hand in their lives because of it. There was so much buzz around the 21 Days that I developed a very real case of FOMO. I started asking myself, “Have I been missing out all these years on the true meaning and power of a fast?”
I began to study fasting on my own, skimming through Scripture for references to fasting. I also bought a copy of the book conveniently titled, “Fasting” by Jentezen Franklin. I couldn’t put the book down! With every chapter, my faith was rising and I was genuinely becoming excited to fast. Ben also read the book, and had a similar experience. He called me up as soon as he had finished reading it, and told me that he even teared up reading parts of it, sensing that God had so much in store for us during the upcoming fast. I tend to be the crier in our relationship, so Ben’s reaction and enthusiasm sealed the deal…
…Last year, Ben and I joined our church and many other Christians around the world by participating in 21 days of intentional prayer and fasting. There are so many different types of fasts. I had friends who did a complete liquid fast for most of the 21 days. I had others who gave up certain food and drinks. Others, gave up a meal a day. Ben and I did days with just water and then other liquids, and most of the time we did what is commonly referred to as the Daniel Fast: choosing only to eat fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and water. I will be real with you, there were moments during the fast I was straight up HANGRY. But for the first time in my life, I experienced the richness of fasting- how it drew me closer to the heart of God, brought healing and hope to places in my soul, and gave me a stronger faith for the year to come. It was amazing!
Ben and I are already planning to start 2018 by joining our church once again for 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. We can look back at how much our last year was impacted by the fast, and we are full of faith and hope for this coming year.
Maybe you are like me and have avoided fasting altogether. Perhaps, you think the idea of fasting sounds like torture, seems unnatural and unhealthy, or feels more like a religious and outdated practice than something that could revolutionize your faith. I feel you. But I want to encourage you to not simply throw fasting into the “Things I Will Never Do” pile. Why not give prayer and fasting a go this January? Why not start the year doing something out of the ordinary to draw closer to your Creator and to set your heart and focus for the year on the things that truly have an eternal impact? Why not start your year praying for God’s perfect will and miraculous touch to be present in your life?
My wish for you is that you begin your year intentionally seeking to know Jesus more and to believe for even greater things than you’ve experienced in the past. I hope you discover for yourself the power waiting to be unleashed in your life as you devote yourself in some way to prayer and fasting. And if after reading this blog, you pray and decide that this is in fact how you would like to start the year (please note: if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or facing serious health issues, please consult a physician before planning on a fast) , then here are a few things to know and plan for…
- Fasting is a biblical and godly practice for everyone. It’s not just for the spiritually elite and morally superior, it’s for everyone! In the Bible, Moses, Joshua, David, the entire Jewish nation at different times, Hannah, Judah, Ezra, the people of Ninevah, Anna, Daniel, Paul, and yes, Jesus, all fasted. There are close to a hundred different references to fasting in the Bible.
- Fasting is a time to draw near to God and hear His voice. It’s not just about abstaining from food; it’s about turning your appetite to Jesus and discovering a deeper hunger for righteousness that only He can fill. I love this quote from “Fasting” by Jentezen Franklin: “There are walls of intercession that will never be scaled by dispassionate religious service. But when you take steps to break out of the ordinary and worship Him as He deserves, you will begin to see facets of His being you never knew existed. He will begin to share secrets with you about Himself, His plans, His desires for you. When you worship God as He deserves, He is magnified.”
- Fasting is a time to pray and believe for breakthrough and the miraculous. It was after Jesus fasted in the desert that He began His earthly ministry of preaching the Good News, casting out demons, healing the sick and raising the dead. It was only after Esther in the Old Testament asked the Jewish nation to pray and fast that the evil plot to kill the Jewish people was exposed, and God’s people were saved. And after Jesus casted a demon out of an afflicted boy, the disciples asked Him why they were unable to cast it out themselves. Jesus responded that some things only come through prayer and fasting. Before you begin your time of prayer and fasting, jot down some areas in which you would like to see God’s perfect will done, and His miraculous work accomplished. Do you need breakthrough in your health, finances, church, your workplace, your relationships? Do you need direction and guidance in making certain decisions for the year? Are their loved ones who need a miracle? Are their sins and wounds within your heart that need God’s healing touch? Are their people who need to hear the Good News of Jesus and experience His salvation? Pray bold prayers and believe that God is still in the business of miracles.
- Fasting requires some planning. Do some research and prayerfully consider how you will pray and fast. What time will you be setting aside to pray- will you be waking up earlier or taking your lunch break to pray? What Bible reading will you be doing? Will you be praying with your church or with friends or with your spouse? What meals, if any, will you be needing to purchase and prep for in advance? Below are some great easy resources for prepping for prayer and fasting.
- “Fasting” by Jentezen Franklin
- “Awakening” by Stovall Weems
Will you be praying and fasting this new year? And if so, in what ways are you hoping to grow closer to God and what bold prayers will you be praying? Leave comments and questions below!