On Fasting

I’ve never really been one to fast. I’ve had a whole host of excuses lined up, and during certain seasons my excuses are (were) certainly valid. My problem now? I can no longer claim any of them: I’m an adult; I’ve not been pregnant or nursing a half pint for well over three years now; I’ve run out of reasons.

I probably wouldn’t even be thinking of this at all but for the series on fasting I’ve been reading over here. And the clincher for me? Carolyn reminded me that Jesus didn’t say if you fast, he said when you fast. It’s an implied spiritual discipline, one I’ve been all-too-content to ignore for, well, forever.

I’m trying to be careful how I write this because I really don’t want to be pharisaical by saying that it’s something I’m trying to incorporate into my spiritual disciplines. I’ll just say that Craig and I have added a 24-hour fast into our weekly practice for the past two weeks now and I suck at it.

I’ve needed to explain to the girls what I’m doing because they’ve gotten pretty concerned by my not eating on those days. So, the last time I did this (today) I read the above linked passage to them and explained that I’m not wanting to make this a big deal to anyone else but me and God. I told them I was trying not to really mention it, though I think it’s good for them to know I’m actually trying to pray through it on these days.

Anyway, last week when Craig came home in the evening, he asked me how I was doing. I told him, “I’m hungry. And tired. And grumpy.” Today I was much the same. I’m not doing a very good job of putting oil on my head, washing my face, and not being completely obvious about this to my family.

I’m not meaning to be this way, but I just never realized before how completely dependent I am on food. I didn’t even realize I was getting short-tempered with anyone until late tonight when I broke the fast and had something to eat. I felt normal again; I was nice again; I suddenly wanted to hug everyone and giggle and play. Rebounding from the fast made me realize just how much the fast really did affect me during the day.

Craig wondered tonight if maybe I shouldn’t do a 24-hour fast anymore. I wondered if I should do a computer fast instead. He said (somewhat in jest), “No, that would make you even more grumpy.” Yikes. I’ve clearly got some idol issues I need to wrestle through, so I guess I’ll add those to my list of things I’m praying through when fasting in the future.

Speaking of my list of things I’m fasting over right now, there are three significant areas that have been weighing very much on my heart for several months that I’m finally getting more serious about praying over. I’m entering into this season of weekly fasting until we wrestle with God in two of these areas. I’m praying He answers very soon.

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28 thoughts on “On Fasting

  1. Ed Eubanks says:

    A lot of what I’ve read about fasting recommends starting basic– maybe fasting for 24 hours without meat, for example, and eating only fresh vegetables and fruits. Then shifting to a 12-hour fast (early breakfast, skip lunch, late supper) of only liquids– but make them juices or somethings a bit fortifying. Ease into a 12-hour fast with only water, then try a two-meal fast with only juice, then only water, working your way up to a full 24-hour fast.
    Fasting can be such a spiritual encouragement, and it should be, really. It can take a while to get there, though– that’s because fasting is a spiritual workout. No one can jump on a treadmill and run 3 miles at a 6 minute pace and keep it together. No one can expect to jump on the spiritual treadmill of fasting that way, either.
    It’s always going to be hard, because of the culture that we live in which always presents us with a steady stream of temptation. If it’s not food, then it’s another idol, as you pointed out. But it can become a practice that stokes your faith and encourages you more than it does frustrate your growth and relationships. You have to work toward that, though. Persevere, friend!

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  2. sheri says:

    I love how you are vunerable! Just remember 24 hour fasts are usually from sun down to sun down. This helps me a lot!!
    I will be praying that no matter how you fast that God would meet you and encourage you during your time of complete dependence on him!

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  3. Deb says:

    I think maybe Craig is on to something — it may be too hard on your metabolism to just jump head first into the deep end of the pool. Why not start with a morning fast? As you become used to that, extend it to a morning and early afternoon fast, and then later to include the late afternoon, etc? Remember, God is pleased with our -trying- too. πŸ™‚

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  4. Deb says:

    I think maybe Craig is on to something — it may be too hard on your metabolism to just jump head first into the deep end of the pool. Why not start with a morning fast? As you become used to that, extend it to a morning and early afternoon fast, and then later to include the late afternoon, etc? Remember, God is pleased with our -trying- too. πŸ™‚

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  5. Margaret says:

    Megan: Deb has a good point. Do you have low sugar? I will pray for you as you wrestle with these issues.
    Second, may I ask for a prayer as well? My aunt, who is like a second mother to me, is dying. Could you pray for her, her son and sisters as they face this? (If you want to throw in a prayer for grace for me, I-and everyone around me-would surely benefit.)

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  6. Margaret says:

    Megan: Deb has a good point. Do you have low sugar? I will pray for you as you wrestle with these issues.
    Second, may I ask for a prayer as well? My aunt, who is like a second mother to me, is dying. Could you pray for her, her son and sisters as they face this? (If you want to throw in a prayer for grace for me, I-and everyone around me-would surely benefit.)

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  7. Charliam says:

    Megan, have you prayed and asked God how and from what He would want you to fast? And I suspect you have already been fasting for quite awhile. Sabbath is set as a weekly fast–and as your family seems to take it seriously, you’ve probably already been fasting some. Perhaps God is wanting you to increase fasting into other ways and areas; or perhaps it is simply false guilt–either way, I’m sure God will clarify as you seek an answer through your prayer and devotional times.

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  8. Charliam says:

    Megan, have you prayed and asked God how and from what He would want you to fast? And I suspect you have already been fasting for quite awhile. Sabbath is set as a weekly fast–and as your family seems to take it seriously, you’ve probably already been fasting some. Perhaps God is wanting you to increase fasting into other ways and areas; or perhaps it is simply false guilt–either way, I’m sure God will clarify as you seek an answer through your prayer and devotional times.

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  9. agapesantos says:

    Lots of good advice above… just keep praying and asking God to show you what is best for you…. and your relationship with him. Fasting is something we have to learn, I think. At least it has been for me. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t, but i don’t let myself beat myself up over it. Also, sometimes I know I’m “done” before the clock says so – I’m just “done” with the reason for the fast. I have (personally) found a 12-24 hour, 2 meal fast to be the most effective, but i know there have been times that I craved more time… more time alone with the Father. If I’m fasting and can’t get any real contemplation/meditation time, then I have a hard time feeling like its worth it.
    Don’t give up! Start with examining why you are fasting – it really helps to have a purpose for the fast as well.

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  10. agapesantos says:

    Lots of good advice above… just keep praying and asking God to show you what is best for you…. and your relationship with him. Fasting is something we have to learn, I think. At least it has been for me. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don’t, but i don’t let myself beat myself up over it. Also, sometimes I know I’m “done” before the clock says so – I’m just “done” with the reason for the fast. I have (personally) found a 12-24 hour, 2 meal fast to be the most effective, but i know there have been times that I craved more time… more time alone with the Father. If I’m fasting and can’t get any real contemplation/meditation time, then I have a hard time feeling like its worth it.
    Don’t give up! Start with examining why you are fasting – it really helps to have a purpose for the fast as well.

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  11. Bethany says:

    I tried to fast from the internet during one Lenten season. My rule was check email once a day (to catch any necessary work/school correspondance) – no blogs, no Facebook, no IM, no checking email mindlessly every 10 minutes. It was h-a-r-d, hard. I think I lasted about two weeks, and I cheated at least once probably 85% of those days, before I gave up.

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  12. Bethany says:

    I tried to fast from the internet during one Lenten season. My rule was check email once a day (to catch any necessary work/school correspondance) – no blogs, no Facebook, no IM, no checking email mindlessly every 10 minutes. It was h-a-r-d, hard. I think I lasted about two weeks, and I cheated at least once probably 85% of those days, before I gave up.

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  13. Kerry says:

    Oh, Megan, I feel your frustration with yourself! I’ve been there – so many times. I’ve never done well with absolute fasting. I get wickedly cranky and distracted. You’ve had some REALLY good comments and I dont’ have much to add, but to say, that I’m right there with you. I’m making fasting one of my priorities this year, but I’m not going to try absolute fasting.
    There are so many different ways to fast (many have been mentioned here), that I think we can find something that really will have the desired effect for those of us who might have physiological reasons for failing at fasting. πŸ™‚
    I like the sun up to sun down idea.

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  14. Kerry says:

    Oh, Megan, I feel your frustration with yourself! I’ve been there – so many times. I’ve never done well with absolute fasting. I get wickedly cranky and distracted. You’ve had some REALLY good comments and I dont’ have much to add, but to say, that I’m right there with you. I’m making fasting one of my priorities this year, but I’m not going to try absolute fasting.
    There are so many different ways to fast (many have been mentioned here), that I think we can find something that really will have the desired effect for those of us who might have physiological reasons for failing at fasting. πŸ™‚
    I like the sun up to sun down idea.

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  15. Jenni Simmons says:

    It’s funny you mentioned this. On my blog the other day, I mentioned that I am not a good fast-er. I’ve fasted a few times for Lent, but other than that, I’ve rarely fasted. The irony is that for my current health treatment, I’ve had to fast from so many of my favorite foods – since July 2007! And, I have to fast before most doctor’s appts.. I like to think God is teaching me about fasting.
    I admire your fasting efforts!

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  16. Jenni Simmons says:

    It’s funny you mentioned this. On my blog the other day, I mentioned that I am not a good fast-er. I’ve fasted a few times for Lent, but other than that, I’ve rarely fasted. The irony is that for my current health treatment, I’ve had to fast from so many of my favorite foods – since July 2007! And, I have to fast before most doctor’s appts.. I like to think God is teaching me about fasting.
    I admire your fasting efforts!

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  17. Chelsea says:

    Going 24 hours without food while trying to keep up with four active kids might not be what Jesus had in mind. Christ often retreated when he fasted.
    I empathize — I’ve never been able to fast well, either. Blood sugar and low blood pressure are big problems for me. I actually fainted once during a fast, and I don’t think the half-pints would enjoy seeing their mom crashland on the kitchen floor.

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  18. Chelsea says:

    Going 24 hours without food while trying to keep up with four active kids might not be what Jesus had in mind. Christ often retreated when he fasted.
    I empathize — I’ve never been able to fast well, either. Blood sugar and low blood pressure are big problems for me. I actually fainted once during a fast, and I don’t think the half-pints would enjoy seeing their mom crashland on the kitchen floor.

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  19. Megan says:

    This has been great input, all the way around. Thanks! I’ll be rethinking how to approach the fast for next week, for sure.
    As is my tendency with everything, I lean toward the legalistic side when given the chance to do so. I greatly appreciate hearing the grace thrown in here.

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  20. martha10 says:

    i will have to read the series of articles more thoroughly, but i remember doing some fasting when my kids were young. the more successful times were related to skipping one meal and drinking water during the “fast”. i think i have some blood sugar issues or at least when i’m chasing young children around. i think that even now, i meal is about all i could do b/c of medications i take. your challenge is real however. i need to get back to that place. more prayer/contemplation and verbalizing aloud to the Lord the areas where I need to trust Him.
    i too have been affected by the legacy of legalism and need to continue to remember that the things that need to be done are not up to me, but up to God. He is the only one who can accomplish most of what I want done both in my life and the lives of those around me.

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  21. martha10 says:

    i will have to read the series of articles more thoroughly, but i remember doing some fasting when my kids were young. the more successful times were related to skipping one meal and drinking water during the “fast”. i think i have some blood sugar issues or at least when i’m chasing young children around. i think that even now, i meal is about all i could do b/c of medications i take. your challenge is real however. i need to get back to that place. more prayer/contemplation and verbalizing aloud to the Lord the areas where I need to trust Him.
    i too have been affected by the legacy of legalism and need to continue to remember that the things that need to be done are not up to me, but up to God. He is the only one who can accomplish most of what I want done both in my life and the lives of those around me.

    Like

  22. mudlark says:

    Fasting is a spiritual discipline, and that means that it doesn’t – and shouldn’t – come easily to us. But there’s much room for grace. Fasting for you could mean different things – from fasting during certain hours of the day, to fasting from solid foods, but still eating things like soups and shakes. You have to figure out what works for you, and offer that up to God as an act of worship.
    Don’t beat yourself up when it’s hard for you. If it was easy it would cheapen it. May you grow in your knowledge of Him, and in may His presence grow in you as you seek His face.

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  23. mudlark says:

    Fasting is a spiritual discipline, and that means that it doesn’t – and shouldn’t – come easily to us. But there’s much room for grace. Fasting for you could mean different things – from fasting during certain hours of the day, to fasting from solid foods, but still eating things like soups and shakes. You have to figure out what works for you, and offer that up to God as an act of worship.
    Don’t beat yourself up when it’s hard for you. If it was easy it would cheapen it. May you grow in your knowledge of Him, and in may His presence grow in you as you seek His face.

    Like

  24. Keith Buhler says:

    “A lot of what I’ve read about fasting recommends starting basic– maybe fasting for 24 hours without meat, for example, and eating only fresh vegetables and fruits.”
    Ditto. At my church we fast twice a week, Wednesday & Friday, but only from meats and dairy.
    I’ve tried 24 “no food” fasts before and even though I used to get weak and shaky, let me tell you, the above fast is actually harder. It requires more discipline. I still get to eat, but I must be selective, self-controlled, and intentional. This is hard.
    They also encourage me to pray proportionally more as I eat less. Wednesday we remember the Lord’s betrayal. Friday, his death. We pray the Publican’s prayer from Matthew, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner,” without ceasing.
    God bless us all as we continue the journey back into spiritual disciplines of the Church.

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  25. Christy says:

    This post has really got me studying the Bible and considering what fasting and praying is all about. Thanks for posting and for being transparent. After studying the Scriptures some, I’m seeing fasting as something different than a “spiritual discipline” … I’ll have to study some more in light of the comments here. At any rate, I pray for the courage to live what I learn.

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  26. Christy says:

    This post has really got me studying the Bible and considering what fasting and praying is all about. Thanks for posting and for being transparent. After studying the Scriptures some, I’m seeing fasting as something different than a “spiritual discipline” … I’ll have to study some more in light of the comments here. At any rate, I pray for the courage to live what I learn.

    Like

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