There are several examples in Scripture of God calling His people to do a corporate fast. Every time God asks His people to fast corporately, it’s for a few specific purposes. First, God calls His people to corporate fasts to have them pay closer attention to His voice through the Holy Spirit. God also calls His people to participate in corporate fasts to have them pay closer attention to the needs and hurts of the world. Another reason God calls for corporate fasts is to have His people pay attention to who they need to be in order to do God’s will in the world. Finally, God calls His people to corporate fasts to have them repent of all of the ways they have individually and corporately gone astray. For all of these reasons, we are asking people who belong to Harris Creek to participate in a corporate fast for one day this week (preferably Wednesday). This is really a partial fast in that we are asking you to fast during breakfast and lunch on Wednesday, and then to break the fast by having dinner with your Life Group or others from the church.
Since evangelical Christians do not always practice the discipline of fasting, some might wonder how to fast. There are definitely some practical things you need to think through when it comes to fasting seeing that it is a discipline that affects the physical as well as the spiritual. Here are a few practical things to keep in mind before entering a fasting:
- Do not fast from food if you are sick, pregnant (or nursing), or have other health issues like diabetes or cancer
- Fasting is not a requirement but is a discipline God invites us to participate in when possible
- If you cannot fast from food, you could fast from media or other “necessities”
- If you are new to fasting, just fast for one meal instead of two
- Fasting is a little like running in that you work to build stamina before you can do it for long periods of time
- If you are looking to fast for a long period of time, consult others (preferably a health professional/doctor) before doing so
- Drink plenty of water and fluids
- Your body can handle going without food for a lot longer than it can go without water, so try to drink a lot of water during a fast
- While you may want to stay away from protein drinks and other “filling” liquids, what is most important is fasting from things that the Spirit prompts you to fast from (don’t let this become a legalistic exercise for you)
- Don’t break your fast with a large meal
- This is particularly important if you’ve fasted for a long period of time, as your stomach will have shrunk and need to get acclimated to eating regular sized portions again
- The longer the fast, the smaller the portions need to be when breaking the fast
- Remember that fasting is not magic
- Many times you cannot put requirements on fasting and look for an immediate “payoff”
- This is what the people of Israel did in Isaiah 58 and it upset God
- Have access to Scripture during the fast
- This will allow you to replace the time when you would normally eat with prayer and Scripture reading
- Have access to a journal
- Writing down your thoughts, emotions, and feelings is an important exercise during fasting
- Journaling your prayers and what God is speaking into your life is also essential during a fast
Some questions to think about while you are fasting that you may want to discuss with your Life Group are:
- What can be learned or experienced in a corporate fast that may not be taken away from a personal fast?
- After participating in the corporate fast, do you think fasting is a discipline you will practice on a more regular basis? Why or why not?
- If you participated in the corporate fast, what did God speak to you through this experience? What was the biggest struggle throughout the day? What was the biggest benefit you received from participating in this corporate fast?
Finally, here are a few resources the practical advice was drawn from and are helpful places to start for anyone looking to practice fasting on a more regular basis:
- Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun (Pages 218-222; 281-282)
- The Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster (Pages 47-61)
- Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton (Pages 78-90 talk about the role the body plays in spiritual disciplines)
- The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard (Pages 28-94 talk about the unity between our body and soul)