Ever since college I have made fasting a regular part of my spiritual discipline. It really has been a journey for me. The journey has had lots of ups and downs. It ranged from hating it with a passion to enjoying the time of purification and dependence on God.
Now that we are fully underway in the 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting, I want to share some thoughts for us to keep in mind. I guess they are more like cautionary reminders, therefore I will use the acronym BEWARE:
2) E – Externals. It is imperative that we constantly check our motives because it is easy to turn a spiritual discipline into a self-centered demonstration of our piety. In fact, Jesus had some strong words for this kind of fasting (Mt 6:16-18). The litmus test for me has always been – “through this fast, I am loving God and people more or am I focused more on myself?”
3) W – Wavering Commitments. Once a person begins to fast, they will go through some doubts. They will begin to wonder if they made the right decision, especially if the fast interferes with something in their lives. This is when we have to remind ourselves of the original conviction that God placed in our hearts. It also helps to find some accountability with people who can encourage you and even pray with you.
4) A – Attitudes. We have to be careful of our attitudes when we fast. Since we are denying our flesh of what it wants (food), other aspects of our flesh will begin to manifest in our lives. Since we become physically weak, it is easier to let our guard down. Our tolerance level for things weakens and we tend to get more irritable and allow our emotions to take over. This is when we to do an attitude check and remind ourselves of the purpose of our fast (Isa 58:3-7).
5) R – Reclusive. There is a fine balance between being isolated so that we can pray and seek the Lord and engaging with people throughout the normal daily routine of life. At times, due to the lack of physical strength, it is easier to just shut people out of our lives. But we cannot just push people out, unless we have chosen to go on a personal retreat. Since we have to be functioning members of society, as well as in our families, we have to learn how to still be around people while we are fasting. This is why we need to pray for strength.
6) E – Eating Disorders. I realized over the years that sometimes fasting from food for some people is not good, especially those people who struggle (or even have struggled) with some kind of eating disorder. I know of some people who have fasted from other things such as TV, movies, instant messaging, etc. It is important that if a person who has struggled with an eating disorder decides to fast that they have some accountability. They should also check their hearts and motives because a spiritual fast can quickly turn into a sanctioned diet, with no spiritual fruits to show for itself.