I grew up in a godly home. We had family Bible reading, we talked about the Word of God, we memorized Scripture, but fasting was not a part of our life as a family. It always seemed mystical to me. Something they did in the Middle East, in India, and in ancient times.
In our circle, I didn’t know of anyone who fasted on a regular basis. And why would I? Didn’t Jesus command that we not make a big deal out of it, but rather make it a private time between us and God? It was private. If anyone was involved in this practice, I didn’t know about it.
When I was in college, I joined a couple of school wide fasts to pray for specific needs. But there was nothing personal. I still didn’t understand the how to’s of fasting. I was, however, beginning to see that it should be a part of my normal, Christian life, but it would be almost 15 years before I really began fasting as a discipline.
In China, we were involved with some truly amazing people. People who prayed about everything and who had the habit of fasting, regularly. I watched, I learned, I soaked it up. Calling out to God, individually and in community, bearing one another’s burdens, encouraging each other with psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs was a normal part of life. We fasted, in community — every family taking a day or several days a month, for over a year waiting to see God move in a project. And move He did, in a very miraculous way.
Don’t misunderstand, our community was far from perfect. Yes, there was sometimes friction, feelings got hurt, pride invaded…we are human. But, in the area of prayer and fasting, they excelled.
What does all this have to do with my challenge for this month? Still, to this day, I only fast when I need something. Confused about direction? We should fast. Problem too big to handle? We should fast. Serious sickness or injury? We should fast. I was content with my fasting. Maybe, even a tad prideful.
I had started a blog article last week titled “May Challenge.” It had nothing to do with fasting. It was something I needed to work on. Something I recognized as a need in myself. But as I began to pray and ask God how I should communicate my thoughts, He completely shut down my idea. Instead, He showed me an area in my life that needed adjusting. Fasting.
Matthew tells the story of a man who asked Jesus to cleanse his son of a demon. People approached Jesus all the time, seeking healing. But this man had already sought out the disciples and they were unable to cure the boy. The disciples seemed genuinely baffled that they couldn’t cast out this demon. When they asked Jesus about it, he replied with two answers, “Because of the littleness of your faith,” and “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
The disciples had no idea what trials and needs they would be facing throughout their day. And, they weren’t prepared for the challenge that appeared. I’m a lot like those disciples. I’ve viewed fasting as something tucked away in my spiritual toolbox to be pulled out only after a need has arisen. Jesus was encouraging his disciples, and me, to see prayer and fasting as a normal part of faith and godliness. Not a tool, but a vital organ that receives nourishment from proper exercise. An organ, that when properly maintained, grows our faith and enables us to meet a crisis head on.
My challenge this month is a weekly fast. One day each week, I’ll set aside time to focus on my Father, my God, my Lord. Nothing mystical, just time spent getting to know Him better. When my family sits down to eat, I’ll retreat to a quiet place and pray, read the Word of God, pray some more, and wait on God to speak. I’ll ask for strongholds to be broken, healing for friends and family, mercy for the nations I love. But mostly, I’ll just worship the only One worthy of praise.
The challenging part isn’t going without food, but facing an enemy who always opposes a growing faith. I’d appreciate your prayers this month as I move into a new arena of warfare. And prayers for my family since the attacks moms face often come through their children or spouse. Looking forward to greater intimacy with Christ and thankful for the opportunity to model fasting for my kids.