My pastor is teaching through the book of Luke on Sunday nights. A few weeks ago he was in Luke 2, a popular passage at Christmas time for it’s beautiful telling of Christ’s birth.
But after the birth, and after the angels, and after the shepherds, Mary and Joseph take baby Jesus to the temple to be consecrated (Lk 2:22). Simeon sings a song and then Scripture mentions the widow Anna.
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
She was married only 7 years when she became a widow. After that time she stayed at the temple worshiping night and day, fasting and praying.
Pastor said he wanted to, for the next Sunday night service, briefly step out of Luke and teach us about Biblical fasting. It is oft misunderstood and thus not often done. One element of fasting, he said, was being desperate and hungry for God to speak. He asked, “Are you desperate to hear from God?,” and my heart said yes.
Two weeks later he taught on fasting, particularly walking us through fasts in Scripture looking at who fasted and the reasons for their fasts. I lingered around after — Ok, Bro. Steve, how do I do it? What do I do? Water only? Can I eat crackers? How long do I do it? etc.,
My two biggest questions was what do I eat/drink or not eat/drink, and how long should I fast? As to how long, the answer is a question: how desperate are you? Biblical fasts range from one meal to one day to 3 days to 40 days.
One meal or one day didn’t seem like long enough for me, although after the first day I was tempted to think I’d bitten off more than I could chew (pun intended) and wanted to rationalize stopping after day 1.
I went home after church that night and read more about those who fasted in the Bible. The Campus Crusade for Christ International fasting guide also was an excellent resource for some of my questions.
There are four, 40-day fasts recorded in the Bible — Moses, who did it twice, back to back; Elijah and Jesus. For many reasons, these fasts are considered supernatural. I wasn’t feeling called to a 40-day fast.
Our mission teams at church fast one day a week in the weeks leading up to their trips. That was an option, but I was feeling called to something a little more drastic than one meal but not quite as large as 40 days.
My fast was for three days. Things happening for three days and three nights in the Bible have special significance pertaining to the will of God. Christ was dead/buried for three days. Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days. Saul/Paul fasted for three days after his conversion experience.
There’s no right or wrong answer on how long, and there’s more than one way to do it. Fasting is very personal, between you and God, so let the details about how long be worked out between the two of you. Because the point isn’t about going without food, per se, but about taking the time and energy spent on meals and giving that time and energy to God. Instead of eating three times a day, spend that meal time with God in worship and prayer.
My fast was … so many things. Good. Hard. Eye-opening. Exhilarating. Fresh. One of the best things was journaling the experience. I kept a notebook with me at all the times and wrote everything I was thinking, feeling, questioning, hearing, reading, pondering, singing and so on. The journal was my place to document what was happening between God and I and sometimes to write to Him and to myself.
At one point I penned in my journal, “You (God) knew when I bought this notebook what it would be used for and every word that is yet to be written on every page.” There is such hope and comfort and rest that He knows.
So much in the details of what God showed me in those three days is personal but I hope to share bits and pieces here over time. And I’m still digesting it (that pun, also, intended). I’m still journaling and the closeness with God from that time is still with me.
After it was over, I wrote a wrap-up in my journal. Looking back, I noticed that I had put things in terms of “my first fast,” meaning there may be a second or more to come. I believe that once you have been called and are obedient to a fast, you recognize the spiritual benefits and applications and look forward to when God calls to doing it again.