Over the years I have found that it is one thing to step into a season of prayer and fasting, and another thing entirely to stick with a season of prayer and fasting. Throughout this journey, various voices from within our church family will hopefully serve as a voice of practical encouragement for the journey that we are on together.
Although all forms of fasting can stretch our souls, the purpose of this post is to speak into how you may be feeling physically stretched if you have chosen to fast from food in some fashion. As always, if you are fasting from food we highly recommend checking with your doctor first.
Expectations, Expectations, Expectations!
I have found that expectations can make or break almost any aspect of life. If there is too great a distance between what we expect and what we experience we are prone to failure, or at the very least grave disappointment. Years ago, when I began fasting for the first time, I remember having rather grandiose expectations about what I would experience in my fast. I had visions of spending hours in prayer, hearing clearly from God about various things I was discerning, and just feeling closer to God in general.
What I expected though was quite different.
Instead of feeling at peace and connected to God -- I felt hungry, tired, and angry. I found my hours consumed with many thoughts, but most of them were not about God.
In fact my first few attempts at fasting felt more like survival than spiritual growth. Maybe you can relate now that we are a few days into this journey together.
So How Do You Move Forward?
So the question becomes, how do we move forward when our bodies are trying to convince us to quit. Here are a few things I have found helpful that I would recommend trying this week:
- Shorten Your Focus: Instead of trying to mentally prepare for getting through your day, ask God to help you get through the hour. There may even be times you need to ask God to help you get through the minute. This is one of the benefits that comes from fasting. It actually trains us to bring every waking moment to God in a place of dependency.
- Pray Continually: I would encourage you to find a short prayer that you can pray "without ceasing" during this 30 day journey. Some people refer to these short prayers as breath prayers. The point is having a prayer that is so short and simple, you can pray it in one breath. My prayer during this season has often been, "Father fill my stomach and my soul."
- Change Your Setting: During times of hunger, go for a prayer walk, listen to worship music, or have a good conversation with a friend or loved one. Choosing to leverage your times of hunger for spiritual intimacy with God and others can serve as a real blessing.
- Set Healthy Expectations: The truth is that you have no idea what God wants to do in your heart during this season. I have found that simply learning to be with God is indeed the reward itself. This season may provide larger breakthrough as discussed in the e-book, but the ultimate reward is learning to walk with God. If the only thing you gain during this season of prayer and fasting is the strengthening of your ability to pursue God -- then you have experienced a major victory that will produce life long fruit.
- Dancing with Grace & Discipline: Finally, fasting is like learning to dance with both grace and discipline. There will be many times you feel yourself struggling to find the balance between the two. That's okay, it means you are normal. Remember, this is ultimately about your relationship with God. You aren't trying to prove anything to God, but you do want to honor your commitment to Him. I would encourage you, as you are trying to navigate the nuances of this journey, to talk to your Heavenly Father continually about these things. If you have a question -- ask Him, then sit and listen. If you need help discerning, talk to your friends, house church family, or other respected followers of Jesus.
There is Hope For You
Don't be discouraged if you have experienced some resistance on this journey of prayer and fasting. There will be times that this journey will be difficult and stretching. In those moments, lean heavily on God and your community of faith. If you stumble and fall, talk to God about it, and then get back up and keep walking. God loves you and He is closer than you could ask or imagine.
I will leave you with one last piece of encouragement from 2 Chronicles 16:9. It says, "The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him..."
My prayer is that you will experience the strengthen of your heavenly Father as you seek to devote yourself more wholeheartedly to God.
I love you Ethos Church, thanks for digging in!
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