What If I Can’t Fast?
by Tammye Hamilton
I plopped down in a chair in the back corner of the sanctuary. It was time for corporate prayer after our monthly Day of Fasting and I was feeling anything but spiritual. In fact, I had a terrible attitude. Then I started to beat myself up for having a bad attitude. People were praying and I tried, but I was too angry with myself to really focus on the prayer service.
Most people believe that fasting helps you to focus more on God without distractions. When I fast I usually do NOT feel more spiritual. The longer I go without food the grouchier I get and the harder it is for me to focus on anything
As I sat hunched over on the back row, struggling to join in prayer, I asked myself, and the Lord, “Why is this happening? I fasted all day, not usually something I can do physically, I came to the meeting, I’m expecting great things for our church. Why am I so angry?”
The deeply insightful response in my head was, “Because you’re hungry”. Well duh. I felt pretty silly. I felt like the hangry person in the Snicker’s commercial.
Later, after I had a wonderful dinner and truly repented, I began to think more about fasting. I went to the Word and immediately found Matthew 4:2. “After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.” Jesus, the perfect Son of God, was hungry. So at least in that way I was like Jesus. (So he fasted for 39 more days than I had. Who’s counting?)
Fasting is hard. If it was easy, what would it accomplish? As I push through my fleshly response to hunger I am doing the hard thing. I am proving I love God more than food. Realizing that it is in the hard places we can most see Him, most hear Him, if we can drown out our screaming flesh. And if we can’t, He is still with us. He loves me when I don’t have a spiritual response to fasting. He forgives my grouchiness.
I like to think He was sitting there beside me on the back row and when I complained He said, “You’re hungry.” He understood because He’s been there. He knows. He probably wasn’t feeling very spiritual either but in His heart He longed to please the Father more than His own flesh. And He was flesh.
So as someone who struggles with fasting, I would like to offer a few tips. Most of these I gleamed from others because, again, I’m no expert.
1. Get focused BEFORE you fast. Get ready. Get ready spiritually and physically. Don’t indulge on your pre-fast day. Eat consciously. Begin to prepare spiritually. Read the Word, and encourage yourself that you can do all things through Christ.
2. Fast with purpose. Jesus fasted to prepare for His destiny. Pastor Jentezen Franklin writes, “Jesus fasted in the desert before He preached one sermon, before He healed anyone, and before He called any disciples. When Jesus successfully completed His fast, He was prepared for the spiritual battles ahead as He stepped out into His destiny on earth.” Whether you are voluntarily participating in a corporate fast or have purposed in your heart to fast for a specific reason, we are always fasting for breakthrough. We fast out of obedience and in faith for God’s purposes to be accomplished.
3. Make sure your fast is more than “not eating”. This was a big part of my issue. I had been traveling the week before but I knew it was the day our pastor called for a corporate fast so I decided I wouldn’t eat that day. I did pray but then I just went about my day. The only thing significantly different was that I didn’t eat at all. So, when I showed up for the prayer meeting, I was unprepared. I had not eaten but I also had not pushed through the hunger into the presence of God. Jesus did it, which means I can do it. Even if I need to eat a little something to keep from hulking out, I can fast, focus and submit to what God is wanting for me.
4. Give yourself a break. Seriously. If you can’t go all day or 40 days without eating, it doesn’t make you unspiritual. Fasting is a heart issue. Anyone can do a modified fast. You can still deny your flesh and thus open your heart. Evelyn Christenson, who wrote the classic What Happens When Women Pray, could not fast for medical reasons and so she fasted sleep and her time. She rose very early to spend more time in prayer.
He wants us. All of us. He doesn’t just want spiritually focused and on target me. He wants hangry, confused and irritated me. He loves ME. He says I am an overcomer and as I continue to push through, He is right there with me.
In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 1 John 5:3-4