By Lynne Baab
Anna is a skilled musician and music leader. A few years ago she felt called by God to fast from music for a year. She had no idea why, but the urging from God was strong. As the year went by, she found herself engaging in new forms of intercessory prayer. Now, long after the music fast ended and music is again a major part of her life, these forms of intercessory prayer have remained significant for her.
If you’re hungry for more of God, try fasting. Anna describes fasting as “tying a ribbon around my finger to remember God.” When we reach for the thing we are fasting from – food, coffee drinks, technology, music, shopping – we remember God is more important than those items or activities. We remember we are asking God to transform us and help us draw near.
Are you hungry for a deeper prayer life? Another person I interviewed for my book, Fasting, told me that whenever her prayer life seems stale, she fasts from news media for three days. Every time she reaches for the radio or newspaper, she prays instead. In the times when she would normally read the news online, she sits down with her Bible and prayer journal. She says that after three days of this pattern, she feels reconnected to God and recommitted to making prayer a central activity in her life.
Are you hungry for justice? Early Christians fasted from food in order to give that food to the poor. They drew on Isaiah 58: 6-7 which defines a true fast as “to share your bread with the hungry.” Mother Teresa recommended fasting from shopping and from favorite activities in order to save money to give to people in need.
Do you hunger for a clearer sense of God’s priorities in your life? Consider fasting for a week from a favorite activity, such as Facebook, TV shows, movies, sitting in coffee shops or shopping. In the times that you would normally engage in those activities, do something different. Read your Bible, write in your journal, go for a walk in nature, or listen to music, and as you do that different thing, do some reflection on the pattern of your life and try to listen to God’s voice in your reflections.
Fasting is for a season, not forever. The benefit of fasting is that it changes the patterns of our daily lives, which jars us into attentiveness. We become more perceptive of what God is saying to us and how God is leading us. Because the pattern of our life is disrupted temporarily, we notice unexpected things and we see ordinary things differently. We draw near to God in new ways.
Throughout much of Christian history, fasting involved abstaining from all food or certain food items. With the rise of eating disorders, many people need to avoid fasting from food. And with the rise of many aspects of life that give pleasure or fill large blocks of time, people today fast from a wide variety of activities in addition to food.
The purpose of fasting is not to prove anything to God or ourselves. Instead, its purpose is to clear away some clutter so we can better see God, hear God and serve God. Fasting helps us act on our hunger for more of God.
Questions for reflection:
1. Have you ever fasted? What kind of hunger in your life did it address?
2. How would you finish this statement? More than anything else, in my life I hunger for . . .
3. Is there something you could give up for a day, a weekend, a week or the rest of Lent that would make space for that thing you hunger for?
4. Write a prayer about something you hunger for.