- To silence the clamor,
- To re-establish Christ as pre-eminent in your daily life,
- To glimpse the heart of God,
- To experience massive transformation in a situation or relationship,
- To unite as believers to experience personal and community revival,
And the list goes on.
The reasons why we fast are as varied as the details on how we fast and how we gauge a fast’s “success.”
Then there are the reasons we don’t fast.
At least in my life they are much fewer and by nature, almost pedestrian.
I don’t feel like it.
I’m not good at it.
I’m busy; I’ve got a date, party, special recipe so now is not a good time.
And then you have the way God talks about fasting in Isaiah 58. You almost get the feeling that there is a before and after to the fasts He describes: the one that makes us self-righteous as we tell everyone within earshot that we are fasting or the fast that doesn’t impact our lives on anything more than a superficial, physical level. Then He bursts through and describes the fast capable of changing people and community.
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!” (Isaiah 58:6-9 NLT).
Suddenly fasting doesn’t seem mundane and boring as your heart begins to soar and your thirst for purpose is whet. Perhaps you even have the sense that fasting may be exactly what you need to do just because you’ve had so many reasons not to. Maybe in all our excuses lies a glimpse of the power and purpose of fasting.
Whether you are fasting for a day or for a week, abstaining from food or social media, your life is going to bump into your fast. Breaking the habit of clicking on Facebook to see how many likes you have may be as natural as breathing until you commit to not. Hitting the breakroom mid-afternoon may be your go-to break until you intentionally devote that time to prayer. Schedules will have to be readjusted to accommodate your fast. Your routine will be interrupted. And in a society where experts say over 75 percent of our thoughts are the same as they were yesterday and the day before, maybe you would agree that a little change in attitude, schedule and habits is way overdue.
By definition, fasting requires that we say no to a hunger. Maybe yours is a fasting from food for a set amount of time. Soon the sounds emanating from your stomach will remind you of a need. To say “no” to eating and “yes” to prayer or setting aside the money for a cause can be really rough the first couple times, but like an underused muscle, our ability to say “no” to our own desires can be strengthened with practice.
That need for approval posting to Instagram satisfies? Maybe it’s time to recognize that life is often lived in between the pictures.
Maybe it is the paean to technology and connection you hold in your hands. Maybe it has been twelve months of ignoring God about the connection between you and your smart phone. What makes your heart beat just thinking about disconnecting from it? Plenty of people have discovered that’s a sure-fire way to know what your fast should be.
It’s funny how the very power that the Bible ascribes to fasting can be at the root of why we back away. Often our fears of fasting are because we know that we are inviting God into our every day. In his latest book, If- Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities, Mark Batterson explains, “No matter what cause you care about, fasting invites the favor of God. In God’s kingdom, fasting is the way you go faster, go further. It’s not a shortcut, but it is a moving sidewalk.”
So if your interest in fasting has been stirred, confirmed or exposed, what’s the next step?
You’re invited to join thousands of believers as we set aside the first Wednesday of each month to pray and fast for our community. It’s just that simple. We want to hear from God and see His at work within our schools, neighborhoods and city halls.
Doug Sauder, lead pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, talks about the heart behind setting aside the first Wednesday of the month to fast and pray. “When I’ve had the chance to really connect with other pastors, we shared that our dreams started with a heart for the city. Then we got busy with our churches and with our church life. This is a season for us to recapture those dreams.
“As we have started to come together as a community of faith to set aside a day each month to fast and pray, we’re seeing God stir our expectations for South Florida and for what He is doing here. We’re not sure of all the details, but what we know is that He is moving together several hundred churches focused around two central thoughts — reach the lost and unite around the gospel. How is this going to be accomplished? It begins with prayer and fasting. This is not just another activity, but a catalyst so that we will look back as a Christian Community and point to this season as the moment God heard our prayers and united our hearts.”
Anitra Parmele is a writer for Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale and an on-air host for ReachFM. You can contact her at [email protected]