Today, I thought I'd share a few things I've learned through this years about fasting -- because who has ever taught us how to fast in a way that honors God? Prayer and fasting are great spiritual disciplines, and I'd guess many would say that, but when's the last time you heard a message or read a book about it? (Well, speaking of books, I have to recommend The Fasting Edge by Jentezen Franklin as a great read if you're trying to grow in this spiritual discipline.)
So I'll just throw out a few nuggets I've heard from others and learned on my own over the years and tried to incorporate to my own practice of fasting.
If you're not praying, you're not fasting. When I first began fasting, I just tried to give up a lot of things, but I never prayed. That couldn't be further from the point of fasting. Pray to start your fast; consecrate it, ask God to honor it and receive it, pray for your own heart and for your intention. Pray throughout the fast, constantly! And pray when you end the fast. Breaking fast should be a ceremony, a celebration, a time to thank God for his faithfulness and for hearing your prayers (this was the purpose of Shagali in August).
Write down the purpose for your fast. I fasted a few weeks ago and just wrote the simple phrase, "For renewed spirit and clarity" in my Bible. When you ask God for something in prayer don't pray specifically, how will you know when God answers your prayers? Make it a concrete, specific purpose and watch God do the impossible in your life! And base your fast's purpose in the Word of God. Find a theme verse that you will return to throughout the fast. "Man does not live on bread alone by on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Deuteronomy 8:3).
Here are some types of fasting I've tried... Water fast: eat anything and drink only water -- it was great in that I am always mindful of my fast. Daniel fast: you can Google it -- it takes a lot of planning and is always challenging for me. Ramadan fast: don't eat and only drink water when the sun is up, feast when the sun goes down -- I like this because of the rhythm. Giving up meat, soda, coffee, candy, etc. -- simple and a good reminder that I can live without these things.
I encourage you, especially this time of year, to think more about the discipline of fasting. Consider fasting for the miracle you are expecting this Advent and for our NativityMissions partners around the world. Perhaps you can start thinking about beginning the new year with a fast to dedicate 2013 to the Lord. John 15 says just as a branch cannot bear fruit apart from the vine, so we cannot accomplish anything apart from Jesus. A fast is a declaration of your dependence on Christ, and when you abide in him and depend on him you can "ask whatever you want and it will be done for you" (John 15:7).