Hi there faithful blog followers.
So my plan was to not post anything for a couple months, run up some stuff I’d pre-written and post it bit by bit on a new, freshly-designed blog that would be shiny and full of new information. Huzzah!
That didn’t happen, or at least it hasn’t yet. And with our church hitting a quickfire 3-days of fasting I thought it might be helpful to offer three tips from my own, personal experiences with fasting.
Mike’s tips on fasting
1:It ain’t about the fasting and it ain’t about you
One of my personal struggles with fasting over the years has been the lean towards legalism. Fasting isn’t about us congratulating ourselves on how well we’ve fasted and it’s certainly not about telling others what we’re fasting from. Jesus was pretty clear about this.
Fasting is about giving something up in order to come nearer to God.
If giving that up is causing you to lose focus on God, then tweak your fast.
Example: Coffee. Coffee for me is a little bit too precious so it’s often the first thing I look to fast from. However with this current fast – which coffee was meant to be a part of – I have a coffee meeting booked in tomorrow with someone I’m meeting for the first time. It would be odd not to have a coffee with them, or at least something. I also found this morning that I was unable to clearly focus and so made the snap decision to have coffee and water as my drinks over the next two days, while also staying vigilant about not over-using coffee.
You know what I found? As I drank that coffee, I prayed. I sought God more because I had the coffee. If I hadn’t had it, I’d probably still be tired, grumpy and thinking about coffee.
So don’t be too legalistic and please, please don’t make it about your achievements.
2: Make it hurt
Having said what I said above, here’s another thing: don’t give up something meaningless.
Example: I find a lot of kids doing the 40-Hour Famine tell me that they’re giving up ‘furniture’ for 40 hours. Now, no offense if that was you, but…really? REALLY? REALLY?
Fasting is about removing something from your life that will make a significant difference. The hope is that as you have this removed from your life, as you deal with potential cravings (be they food, liquid, technology) it reminds you of why you are fasting and helps you turn to God.
Here’s the key: if God asked you to give up things in your life, what would be the most painful? WOULD you be able to give them all up?
Take away most relational things like family and friends (though there could be a good case from fasting from your boyfriend/girlfriend and I’m sure some wives wouldn’t mind a 3-day fast from their husbands), what would those things be?
For me it’s things like coffee, my iPad*, food in general and, embarrassingly, NBA Fantasy. These are the things in my life that bring me the nearest to foolish idolatry.
*Social media has a role too but for me it’s too important a work tool to remove it entirely.
Don’t just give up something weak. Don’t give up TV if it’s not an idol for you. Don’t give up the internet if you don’t have it. Don’t give up meat if you’re a vegetarian. Do something meaningful that consistently draws you to prayerful consideration of your relationship of God.
3: Keep praying
And that’s the kicker. All of this is to draw nearer to God. It may be for another purpose too – for me it’s often to pray for personal or ministry direction. But the whole purpose is to bring you closer to God and to press into that relationship.
So pray often and ask your friends and loved ones to pray for you also. This is a great opportunity for you to remember to pray for many of your loved ones who really need it.
Finally, some advice from Jesus:
“16“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”