The start of a new year is a natural time to try new things. It’s a time when we can reset habits, resolve to reach new goals, and try new things. For New Year’s Day my husband and I decided to try something brand new for us…boiling up some delicious, flavorful, mouthwatering snow crab!
As I was preparing the crab, I realized we didn’t have the proper tools to crack them open, so we had to improvise. We rummaged around our drawers looking for the right utensil, until we finally settled on using the handle of a can opener. It worked great!
Something as simple as trying crab legs can feel like an accomplishment because I did something new and learned something new. For me, trying and learning new things is an essential part of living life well, and the spiritual discipline of fasting is a great thing to try for the first time, or make a practice of this year.
Have you ever tried fasting?
Perhaps you started a fast, but soon realized you didn’t have the proper tools and needed to improvise. Perhaps your improvisation looked like a juicy hamburger with a side of fries.
Knowing the what, why, and how of fasting can make all the difference in the effectiveness of your fast, and completing a fast can have an amazing effect on the beginning of your year.
So, what is fasting?
In the Bible, fasting is most often referred to as abstaining from food for spiritual breakthrough. There are two variations of fasting: partial and absolute fasting. A partial fast is a restriction of certain food or drink. For example, you may choose to go without coffee, sweets, or red meat for a specific amount of time. An absolute fast is abstaining from all food and drink, including water. I would not recommend you try an absolute fast until you have successfully completed a normal or partial fast. The key though is that in the absence of eating you’re spending those moments praying, worship, and reflecting on God’s Word.
But why do we fast at all?
Why would we willingly say no to food and drink that’s so readily available? Why would we say yes to fasting, which may mean saying no to Taco Tuesday, or the delicious cookies in the break room at work? Why did so many heroes in the Bible fast, and why does Jesus himself tells us about fasting in Matthew 6:16? We fast because it keeps our life in check and our spirit in balance. By saying no to food, we awaken our senses to a source of life that is far greater than food or drink. This kind of spiritual awakening is something each one of us should try!
How do you start a fast?
As much as fasting is a spiritual discipline, there are some practical steps to take that will ensure success. In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster says “As with all the Disciplines, a progression should be observed…” Consider starting with a partial 24 hour fast for a couple days. Once you have completed several 24 hour fasts, pray about trying a normal fast (no food or drink except water) for 24 hours.
Finally, there are several great resources available about fasting. I would suggest the book mentioned above, Celebration of Discipline as a place to start. Fasting is a humbling experience that will often time lead to eye-opening encounters and spiritual breakthroughs.
I pray you give fasting a try, and I truly believe as you do, you’ll learn something new and stretch your faith this year.