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I Really Don't Like Fasting
In Minnesota, during the summer of 1876, there was a swarm of grasshoppers destroying the crops. It was the fourth year in a row that the wheat, corn, oat, and barley fields were destroyed across the state. There was a fear that the grasshoppers would return, so Governor John S. Pillsbury proclaimed a day of prayer and fasting on April 26, 1877 (that was 140 years ago this week!), urging every man, woman, and child to petition God's protection. When the appointed day arrived, schools and businesses were closed as people prayed for Divine intervention.
The next day began a series of days that were unseasonably warm. It was more like summer than spring. The three days of warm weather triggered the hatching of the grasshopper larvae. People wondered why God had not responded to their prayer and fasting. However, the fourth day brought a sudden dip in temperatures. The entire state of Minnesota was covered with frost that night. The vulnerable grasshopper larvae perished in the frost, and the crops and economy of Minnesota were rescued from certain devastation (Source: John Maxwell, Partners in Prayer).
Everyone who has fasted in the last week raise your hands? Last month? Last year? Ever? Most Christians have tried fasting – ONCE. We reason that since the spiritual benefits don’t seem to measure up to the physical discomfort then we probably shouldn’t do it. Sometimes we feel a little guilty about not fasting, but it doesn’t take long to get over it.
What is Fasting? Making a sacrifice for Jesus that you do not have to make, which draws you closer to Him. Fasts are usually of food, but can be of many different things: media, a specific food, or an activity. Fasting and prayer must go closely together, otherwise fasting just becomes a bad diet. It is good to fast for something so that whenever your body reminds you of the sacrifice you are making you can lift that prayer up again and again.
In an article from Discipleship Journal called "Confessions of a Reluctant Faster," the author mentioned how God impressed upon her the need to pray and fast for a woman in her small group deeply involved in new age spirituality. She didn't like the idea of fasting, and she admits to not really liking this woman either because she was pushy, bitter, and involved in her small group for social, not spiritual reasons. But God showed her she was in a spiritual battle, which required spiritual weapons. So, she found one other person in her group (for accountability), and began fasting and praying one lunch period a week.
She writes of her fasting experience, "When I feel the pangs of hunger, I remember her loneliness and her spiritual hunger. When I long for a Twinkie, I realize why she fills her life with false-god junk, emptiness cries out to be filled with something, anything. When I don't join others around the lunch table, I consider her great isolation from God and people. None of this depth existed until I began fasting." Fasting didn't just change the situation, it changes us and our view of others. God did begin making some breakthroughs in the woman's life as a result.
In Matthew 9:14-17 Jesus explains to John’s disciples that His disciples don’t fast now because He is present, but they will fast when He is not present with them. In Acts 9:9 we see Saul fasting for spiritual insight as he tries to understand his encounter with the risen Christ, and decides to give his life to serve Jesus. In Acts 13 the believers in Antioch are fasting for spiritual focus, and through their fast they know to send Barnabas and Saul on a missionary journey. There are many stories about fasting in the Bible and in history. They all teach the same message. If you are serious about your desire to serve the Lord, you will learn to fast, and do it regularly.
Think about your personal experiences with fasting. What mistakes did you make? Did you fast by yourself? Is there someone you can fast with? Did you set aside more time to pray while fasting? Have you ever read a book about fasting? Are there any questions about your faith that fasting might help you focus on more clearly? Next week I will share my very personal experiences with fasting.