Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fasting Part II

Fasting, Part II
Many churches now begin the new year with a call to prayer and fasting which is excellent. Just this week I saw a billboard on the expressway advertising a new book by a local pastor. The slogan is Join the Fasting Movement.

Arthur Wallis' book, God's Chosen Fast: A Spiritual and Practical Guide to Fasting is an good resource for those with questions on how-to fast. Wallis' discusses three forms of fasting: the normal fast, the absolute fast, and the partial fast.

The normal fast is "abstaining from all food, solid or liquid, but not from water."

The absolute fast is "abstaining from drinking as well as eating." This fast is for never more than three days. Examples given from scripture are Ezra who 'spent the night, neither eating bread or drinking water; for he was mourning over the faithlessness of the exiles' (Ezra 10:6). Queen Esther called an absolute fast in Esther 4:16. "Hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do." From the New Testament we find Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9:9 abstaining for three days. Wallis' says in his book that the absolute fast is "an exceptional measure for an exceptional situation. It is something usually reserved for spiritual emergencies."

The partial fast is an "emphasis upon restriction of diet rather than complete abstention." This style of fasting is popular right now and known as The Daniel Fast. Many believers are following Daniel's example and "eating no delicacies, no meat or wine". In simple terms, a Daniel fast is meals consisting of fruits and vegetables.

Growing up I recall my church holding a corporate Daniel fast. As a child I thought it should have been called the green bean fast because that is all we seemed to have for supper during that time. Over the last several years there seems to be an increase in what is considered right to eat. What began as fruits and veggies has progressed to a specialized foods list that can bankrupt a grocery budget and have one spending more time reading labels than God's Word and praying.

We must remember John Wesley's word and be cautious, "Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it." If the fun and focus is in planning new recipes to feed one's body during a fast there could be a problem. Once I even heard discussions on what energy drinks are fast-approved and which are not! Are we really fasting if we are going to extreme lengths to fill ourselves up?

Tonight I received an email from my friend Page describing her time of fasting and prayer this week. She wrote, "How timely for us right now to be reminded that saying no to some things is saying yes to what God wants to show us. We are making a great trade."

Stay focused on the Lord and the fast He has called you to during these days. Dig deep into His Word and spend time in prayer. Do not allow anything to take precedent over drawing near to the Lord. Remember, it is all about Him!

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