Sunday, 1 February 2009

Living Life in the Fast Lane!

My church is embarking on a week of prayer and fasting this week.

My spirit, which is alive to God, loves these weeks. My body, which is alive to selfishness, hates them. I often feel like a split personality!

If you are new to the concept of fasting, here are some of the things that I have learnt (sometimes the hard way) in past fasts. In no particular order:
  • In all this, take God seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously! That's for the religious bigots.
  • Prayerfully decide for yourself how/when/for how long you will fast and then tell a trusted friend your intention. This is important to help you get through those moments when you are home alone and the cookie jar in the kitchen is full of delicious, mouthwatering delights.
  • Use the time that you have gained from not preparing, eating and washing up a meal, (or whatever you have fasted from) not to catch up on all the little jobs that you have put off until now, but to pray.
  • If you are intending to fast for an extended period of time, begin the fast with prunes and end it with prunes! This may sound offensive, but believe me, there is nothing worse than constipation due to your whole metabolism being on shutdown. I know from PAINFUL writhing experience! And I want to spare you the same. LOL
  • Fasting is a great opportunity for witness, especially if you are like me and have a reputation for enjoying your food. So think ahead of time what you are going to say to a colleague at work who offers you a delicious, mouthwatering treat. Show them, in a loving way, that there is more to life than edible treats. Many is the time that I have eaten one just cos I was caught off guard and gripped by an irrational fear of being seen as a whacko if I said no thanks! Before I knew it, the treat was half way down my throat! (Note it is not the be all and end all if, like me you do cave in at these moments. Remember point 1 in this list and carry on.)
  • Remember, how much we fast is not the issue, the issue is that God wants our hearts and our undivided loyalty and attention. I know no better way to do this than through fasting (and the prayer and meditation on the Bible that accompany it).
  • Wear an extra layer or two especially in the winter months. With a lowered metabolism, you feel the cold more keenly!
  • Memorise Psalm 103:14 and say it to yourself every time you get irritable because you feel all melodramatic and like you are going to die of hunger, then thank God for the stark humbling physical reminder that you aren't God, he is, that you are dependent and frail, but that he is eternal and almighty. Then also praise him that, through the cross of Jesus, he who is eternal and almighty cares for you like a father.
  • Memorise John 4:34 and remember that life is about more than just servitude to your physical needs.
  • You wouldn't put a bottle of wicked strength ale in front of recovering alcoholic. In the same way, if you are feeling vulnerable through hunger and the usual route home from work involves going past your favourite chippy/coffee shop/corner shop, then plan an alternative one that avoids enticing eateries!
  • Finally, and most importantly, remember that the point of all true fasting is not self-discipline or proving how hard you are, but love. Love for God and love for people. Love for God and his purposes. Love for people: their salvation and their relief from suffering. Like the marshmallows video above, fasting is about deferred gratification, we fix our eyes on what is really real and deny ourselves a small pleasure now for the sake of greater pleasure later, especially in the age to come!
Amen. Come Lord Jesus!


Richard Walker said...

The experiment summarized in this video was probably the inspiration for the video in the post and is fascinating in itself.

Chris Poston said...

Thanks for the helpful tips,