Recently, I had a conversation with a member of our church. She told me she was dismayed over her prayer life. In short, she felt praying may be a fruitless exercise. This woman understood world peace and poverty may require more than her prayers to come to fruition; but she was sad that she seemed no closer to understanding her faith, improving relationships, or helping her neighbors.
As the conversation unfolded, I listened to her explain how she made time each morning to pray and knelt at her bedside each night. She was a regular service attendee and tried to get home on time for weekly prayer meetings at her church. She prayed out loud, in silence, on her knees, sitting in pews, walking and driving. She changed her patterns of recognizing God, thanking Him for what she has, and then asking for intercessions, guidance, and strength. “I don’t know what else to do,” she said.
“Have you tried fasting?” She looked at me and gave a nervous laugh. Fasting is not something people still do. With busy work and family schedules, she wondered how she could ever come up with the time to fast. She had no idea about the purpose, the method, and especially the power of fasting.
The purpose of fasting is to be closer to God. It is not just a matter of denying yourself something. Its power comes from disconnecting yourself from the world. You can turn off a television, close windows, and mute your cell phone. But an open box of cookies or a piece of candy on a table is enough to interrupt the conversation with God.
Denying yourself that cookie or any food for a while is the ultimate disconnection from the most basic worldly distraction, which is hunger. Not only does food fill a bodily need, it is a source of pleasure. It appeals to us even when don’t feel hungry. There is a reason the devil used a fruit to tempt Eve.
One of my contemporaries says the power of fasting comes from its lowering of his normal self to a self that can do nothing if he feels hunger or thirst. It is a self that does not have even the most basic needs available. It makes him one of the poorest and meekest; a self like the ones Jesus came to save. His goal is not to feel like he is denying himself of anything, but rather to feel he has nothing.
In my fasting, I like to take that a step further. It’s not enough to have nothing. My goal is to realize all I have is Jesus. When I fast, I use isolation to enhance the experience. Just a day or a weekend is enough. I am weak, so I hide away all distractions, especially food items and pray alone. The power of fast comes on me quicker that way.
Over time, I become aware of my alone-ness. Darkening the room or closing my eyes helps me find Jesus. In my fasting prayer times, I do not ever feel that Jesus has come to my dwelling. Rather, I feel as though I have been moved closer to him. I have imagined myself at the foot of the cross or sitting in Gethsemane. My prayers are directed to Him and I always come away knowing they were heard and feeling content.
When I find myself back in my space, my thinking is clearer. If I do not have answers, I have better understanding of issues at hand. My confidence in dealing with them improves. That is the power of fasting.
Fasting is not something you just do and your first fast should never be more than a couple of days. There are Christian fasting guidelines on the internet. Fasting is not a hunger strike. It is not intended to be a sacrifice nor to be dedicated to an act or people. Its purpose is to bring you closer to God while you pray, free of all distractions that can pull you away. Try it. It can be a faith-building and awesome spiritual experience for you.