Our congregation is going through a forty day fast, wherein church members are encouraged to participate in scheduled prayer topics and fasts from certain things.
Some of the suggested fasts are fasting from social media, fasting from sarcasm or negative talk, and fasting from the news.
Also on the schedule is fasting from food for one meal or during daylight hours.
I think all of the above are worthy and beneficial, but I would like to talk about fasting in the traditional sense.
Have you ever fasted from all food for more than 24 hours for the express purpose of prayer? If you haven't, you are definitely missing an opportunity to draw near to God. As a bonus, James 4:8 tells us that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us!
Jesus said in Matthew 6, "When you fast...", not if, but when, as if he expected his followers to do so.
When I am not pregnant or nursing, as is the case now, I have found it a huge blessing to plan and dedicate times of fasting and prayer.
When I am fasting for several days from food, I am reminded in a very physical way (stomach growling, weakness) multiple times, even hourly, throughout each day that I have a maker who provides for my needs daily.
When I feel hungry, but I continue fasting, I am reminded to be thankful for delicious foods and the ability to enjoy them.
Denying myself the comfort and sustenance of food for a time reminds me to praise God for even small blessings that we take for granted every day.
Each time I feel hunger, I remember to pray for those on my prayer list: 2 baby boys in Africa, starving in an orphanage and waiting to come to their new home in Texas, hopefully very soon; a teenage mother lost and alone in foster care; 2 families who found out last week that the father no longer has a job; a little girl named Nditenga; a deaf man wishing to worship in a hearing world; and more.
When I see everyone enjoying my favorite pizza and I want a bite, but I decline, I think of Jesus and the far greater sacrifice he made for us.
When I am weak from hunger, I must draw on strength from above, and I realize that "God is my refuge and STRENGTH," (Psalm 46:1) and as little children often sing, "I am weak, but He is strong."
It is so easy for adults to forget the weakness and vulnerability we experienced as little children. When we were very small, we accepted that we were powerless to care for our own needs, to drive where we needed to go, to even survive without someone caring for us. We grew up and found that we can care for ourselves, and sometimes we forget that we still have one who cares for us, without whom we would not survive.
Throughout each day, even when I am not fasting, I like to think that I am in constant prayer, that I have a running conversation going with my heavenly Father. But when I am fasting, I realize that I am in constant prayer at a much deeper level. Minute by minute, my growling stomach urges me to remember who it is that sustains me. I am constantly, constantly, in a powerful, physical way, reminded to turn to God.
I am no biblical scholar, but I know why fasting and prayer go hand in hand. Fasting makes me weak, needy, and powerless. Fasting makes Him strong, benevolent, and ever-present.
If you are a healthy person, not pregnant or nursing, not tempted by an eating disorder, I believe that you may find fasting beneficial to drawing you closer to God, too.