November 16, 2012 by Kara Nichols
The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death and resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday, which then culminates in the celebration on Easter Sunday of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. During Lent, many of the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as a form of penitence.
I don’t remember getting much out of doing Lent the few times I have attempted it, but recently my sweet sister told me she would be fasting for 40 days in order to pray over the country and the election of our next president. I decided to join her and I chose to give up fast food and soda. I must admit to cheating a few times due to traveling but other than that I went a solid 40 days without those happy meals and diet cokes. And it was amazing!
I really enjoyed the sense of accomplishment and feeling closer to God by giving up some luxuries. So I am fasting again, and you know what, I think I will do it continuously for the rest of my life off and on. But that could be getting a little a head of myself. 😉 Spiritual fasting is not just about giving up chicken nuggets or television, rather it is about feeding the spirit through obedience to God.
Matthew 6:16-18 (The Message) says: When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well.
“To better concentrate on God” is exactly what I’m wanting when it comes to fasting. It also builds self-discipline, or actually Jesus gives me the strength to do it. There were health benefits to my last fast as well. Ditching soda and fast food was a great choice. I’m not saying it was easy, there were days I wanted to cave and drink a gianormous diet coke. But I kept focused on Jesus. I made a commitment and I stuck with it. And if you know me at all you know that commitment isn’t exactly my strong suit.
After the powerful weekend I had, I was open to try new things! I wanted to increase my faith and get closer to God. For some reason the word “fasting” popped in my head and I couldn’t concentrate on anything else so I did a little bit of research on it.
Exodus 34:28 tells of how Moses was there with God forty days and forty nights. He didn’t eat any food; he didn’t drink any water. Even Jesus fasted for forty days and nights in the Judaen Desert. During this time, Satan appeared to Jesus and tempted him. Jesus having refused each temptation, the devil departed and angels came and brought nourishment to Jesus.
Daniel fasted for 21 days by denying himself “choice” foods, meat and wine, and lotions for his skin. “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplication, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes. (Daniel 9:3) “The two main principles of fasting seem to be to make sure God is calling you to do it, and make sure you do what you’ve committed to do. Like everything else, it’s the intent of your heart that matters.” Source.
I know God is calling me to fast again. And so starting this past Monday I committed to be on a liquid fast every Monday for 40 days, and the first Monday back to eating will actually be Christmas Eve which I think is pretty cool timing. Although my math could be wrong.
Doing a liquid fast is weird. I only had – well – fluids on Monday and I was definitely more aware of God moving in my heart and life. Every time my tummy rumbled I thought of Him. Or pizza. 😉
I don’t know about you but I didn’t grow up in a church/family in which Lent was celebrated or where fasting was taught as a principle to live by, it was just something to read about in the Bible and thank God we didn’t have to do it. Occasionally my parents fast for half a day, but nothing consistent. I’m sure God still appreciates it, I just want to take it to the next level.
I’m not trying to get attention for this, like the Mathew 6 warns about above. In fact, I’m sure I lost half of my audience by the second paragraph. I am just trying to share my heart and hopefully get feedback because I am pretty new to the concept of fasting. There really is power in it and I have to wonder why it’s not taught in churches more often. I mean, Jesus did it. It seems to only make sense that we would fast as well in order to pay better attention to God.
1. To strengthen our prayers
2. To seek God’s guidance
3. To express grief
4. To seek deliverance or protection
5. To express repentance and the return to God
6. To humble oneself to God
7. To express concern for the work of God
8. To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God
9. To express love and worship to God
Even Benjamin Franklin was hip to fasting. He said that the best of all medicines is resting and fasting.
Are you game to give something up for 40 days? Don’t wait for Lent – start today! Perhaps it’s a favorite website, desserts, or a private indulgence no one else even knows about. Whatever your circumstances I pray that you will spend some time talking to God about whether or not you should fast. The benefits are tremendous in comparison to what is given up. I’m living proof of that.
And I know I have that revival glow on my face. God has changed my heart completely and I will never be the same. I just want you to experience it as well. God is able, willing, and wanting to work in your life. One way to hear from Him is to fast. Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.