Prayer


Prayer & Fasting Myth Busters: The Real Food of Fasting 
                                                                                                  
by Jude Gotrich

“Want to grab a bite to eat?”

“Let’s talk over a cup of coffee.”

“We will discuss it during our working lunch.”

“All are welcome to the covered dish supper this evening….”

Certainly our lives are not complete without food.  Many times it is food that draws us to action.  We meet people over a meal.  We get closer to family members when we make a point of eating together.  We let our guard down when we ask someone to share a meal with us because it is for the purpose of building relationships and, let’s face it, to enjoy the taste of good food, filling our stomachs to satisfaction and the bonus is the fellowship.  Holiday celebrations are around special menu items.  Jesus often used this tactic of sharing food, developing his closest relationships.  Food is not only fuel but it is a feast, a celebration.  The thought of food is enticing and certain foods are even called “comfort” food as we are always satisfied with comfortable memories around those dishes.

Clearly food is something we need.  Most of us are fortunate enough to eat at least 3 meals a day (some more than 3!?!).  Food is our fuel to balance the operation of our body.  God created us with an appetite for food and that is called hunger.  All these things are good so why would we choose to go without food?  Why fast?

Some of the reasons people fast are not for spiritual renewal.  Many fad diets include fasting.  Some medical testing requires fasting for accurate readings.  Cleansing fasts have been fashionable after over indulgent eating habits and sometimes have even led to eating disorders.  These are clearly not spiritual fasts talked about in scripture as the subject of these fasts has been self centered and not focused on the Triune God.

Some people have feared fasting because they cannot imagine going without food.  We have been lured into a ‘feel good religion’ and often do not wish to be bothered with hunger.  But we cannot deny the fact that fasting is a biblical practice and certainly great lessons are to be learned from this spiritual discipline.  It is this spiritual curiosity of fasting that I wish to address.

Now, if a person has never fasted before, it is encouraged to get a release from your medical professional for safe and responsible fasting practices, particularly if you are diabetic.  Fasting is a physical discipline and not everyone should fast.  Once you have been given the ‘all clear’ to proceed, it is important that you have an understanding of what you are about to engage.

There were also fasts that were not pleasing to God (Matthew 6:16) and some of the early fathers of the church fell into Gnostic tendencies, declaring food as evil and only “spiritual” is good.  These, too, were myths about fasting.

How do you go about a spiritual fast pleasing to God? 

Plan your fast.  Prayerfully consider what kind of fast to which you are called.  You may fast a meal or a day’s worth of meals.  You may do a partial fast by using juices or subtracting certain foods from your menu for a period of time.  Hard fasts like Christ did in the wilderness are never recommended as a start.  God knows the desire of your heart, as nothing is hidden from Him, and the focus of the fast is to reestablish contact with Him.   The fast is simply a tool that is to be used to glorify God and designed for His purpose.

Although there are probably as many fasts as there are ways to pray, we offer here some ideas and guidelines you may wish to consider as you prepare your fast.

Kinds of Fasts
One fast is called the normal fast and that is going without food for a definite period, ingesting only liquids (water and/or juices).  You may do this for 1 day, 3 days, 1 week, a month or 40 days.  Extreme care should be taken with longer fasts and only after the consent of your doctor.

Another fast is the absolute fast which allows no food or water at all and this should be short.  Moses fasted this way  for 40 days but this would kill anyone without supernatural intervention and should not be done today.  Be sure to test the spirit that tries to talk you into this length of fast even if it includes liquids.

A third option and most frequented fast is the partial fast.  This fast omits certain types of foods or is on a schedule of limited eating.  It may be omitting one meal a day.  Eating only fresh vegetables for several days is also a good partial fast. It could also be a fast from coffee, tea or soft drinks. {John Wesley ate only whole grain bread and water for many days.  Elijah did partial fasts at least twice.  John the Baptist and Daniel were good examples of this type of fast.  People who have medical conditions like hypoglycemia might consider fasting in this fashion.}

A fourth fast might be a rotational fast which consists of eating or omitting certain food groups for a designated period.  Various foods may be rotated, like grains every fourth day, so that all food groups are covered over a week’s time.

You may decide to fast from an activity.  There are many things that we do at home that help us ‘unwind’ or zone out like watching television or playing video games.  This is a fast of habits or routines and this might prove to be very difficult for some as we are a society that inadvertently turns on the television or radio as soon as we walk inside the door of our home.  Think about how you watch TV and the hours spent watching favorite shows or catching up on the news.  Fasting from TV for a week might be even harder to do than feeling the hunger of not eating.  But this fast is a way for all to participate, even those with medical difficulties.

What you want to identify is the time you spend doing these activities and replacing them with the pursuit of God.  Pure and simple.  And so, as was said earlier, there are as many fasts as there are ways of praying.

The author, Elmer Towns has devised a list of fasts according to subject matter in his book Fasting for Spiritual Break Through: A Guide to Nine Biblical Fasts.   And the following is quoted from that resource.

The Disciple’s Fast – because more than ever before, believers are in bondage to demonic powers and need strength to stand against sin.  This includes things like forgiveness and how sometimes the strongholds of forgiving someone keep us from moving forward.

The Ezra Fast -  because believers need solutions to many complex problems and threatening situations they are facing.

The Samuel Fast – because the church is in desperate need of revival, and every tribe and tongue and nation is in desperate need of evangelism.

The Elijah Fast – because people are crying out for people of integrity and character – people who have found in Christ the emotional healing and strength to overcome sinful and destructive habits

The Widow’s Fast – because the abundance of food has insulated North American believers from the realities of starvation and malnutrition in the world at large

The St. Paul Fast – because the media has so captured the national attention that  even believers are operating according to principles completely alien to God’s will for their lives – we need to hear from God clearly and not through the filter of a post modern spin

The Daniel Fast – because even the abundance of food and medical techinology in North America, people are not necessarily healthier

The John the Baptist Fast – because a great many of believers have become so entangled in economic and social pursuits that they need to be set free to establish their testimonies and to influence others for Christ

The Esther Fast -  because of the growing influence of demonic forces and the wanting influence of biblical Christianity in North America, and the fact that believers need protection from the evil one

These fasts target areas of the believer’s life for which he or she is called to pray.   Some are individual fasts and some are designed for a group that agrees to fast together for a specific problem or challenge.

Once you have designated your time and type of fast, have a biblical course of action.  Place scripture before you that will satisfy the hunger and thirst in your soul for God and plan your study of the Word.  A great place to start is reading the words of the prophet and fasts that are pleasing to God identified in Isaiah 58. 

Scripture will direct your thoughts, inform your prayers and reveal things to you not only about God but about yourself.

You may have an agenda when you go to pray and you may very well get around to that plan.  But as you draw near to God, remember that He draws near to you.  When God gets that close to your heart, He not only reveals truths about Himself that may be totally new to you but you will have a sense of unworthiness – after all, you are in the presence of a Holy God.  Think of when Isaiah truly encountered God.  Here was a man who was raised in the temple, essentially, and had a tremendous working knowledge of Who God is and highly versed in the practices of worship and learned in the Holy Scriptures.   He was certainly considered a primary scholar and man of God. 

Isaiah 6:5 – “Woe to me!” I cried.  “I am ruined!” For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.

Isaiah received a revelation of his state before a Holy God and reacted in a way that he probably did not anticipate as he truly felt the presence of God.  But God did not leave him in that state.  A seraph flew (one of God’s holy agents) to him immediately with a coal from the altar of God and cleansed him with the words, “see, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for.”  God made him ready to receive the message, the word from a holy God to his forgiven state.

He will do that for you!

Also, do not be caught unaware.  You should expect resistance, interference and opposition.  Prayer is a battlefield and any saint of God will tell you that fact.  The enemy does not want you to pray.  He does not want you to be satisfied in your soul with the fatness of God.  But you are attempting to advance your spiritual journey and that excites all of heaven!  And guess Who is the Lord of hosts and the Warrior in the heavenly realms?  Christ the King of Glory.  So be smart and fill your time with the truths of God’s victorious nature and write them out in front of you. Christ says to you,“ Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b NLT)

Just another thought and that is fasting is not an end unto itself.  It is a way to worship God and submit ourselves in humility to Him.  We do not make God love us more because we fast.  The goal of this discipline is freedom – release from bondage and strongholds that keep us from moving forward to greater intimacy with God.  You will leave changed and with greater understanding of boasting in God, totally dependent on Him for your resources and strength – “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”  (2 Cor. 4:7)


Remember, your primary resource for fasting will be
God’s Holy Word.




Other resources as you prepare your fast:

Fasting for Spiritual Break Through: A Guide to Nine Biblical Fasts by Elmer Towns
The Beginner’s Guide to Fasting by Elmer Towns

How to Fast Successfully by Derek Prince

Fasting by Derek Prince

Hearing God’s Voice by Henry and Richard Blackaby

Prayer  by Richard Foster

The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God through Prayer, Wisdom and Silence
                                                                                                                            by Henri Nouwen
Making All Things New by Henri Nouwen

In The Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen

Praying the Psalms: To Touch God and be Touched by Him by Elmer Towns

True Prayer: An Invitation to Christian Spirituality by Kenneth Leech

How to Pray: How to Study the Bible  by R.A. Torrey

Prayer: Does it Make a Difference? by Philip Yancy

The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer: Experience the Wonders of God Through Prayer by E. M. Bounds

Paths To Prayer: Finding your own way to the Presence of God by Patricia Brown

 


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