Sometimes this includes a physical journey, but more often than not it is the spiritual journey that has significance and is life changing. Love for the Family has been no exception.
As I read the words from Matthew 12 verse 7 again today ..
‘If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.’ I was reminded of Gods forgiveness and the call upon my life to love God, to love justice and mercy, to not judge and to love my neighbour as myself (Isaiah 61). I felt again the love of God for those that are hurting and in pain due to circumstances that can seem overwhelming: for those faced with an unexpected pregnancy and are unsure what to do or how they will cope: the physical and emotional pain, loss, confusion and unfulfilled dreams when a baby dies, and the haunting ‘what if’s?’ of those that have made the choice to end a pregnancy.
This journey of mine has involved repentance, training, patience, confusion, anger, sorrow, questions, renewed passion and much prayer. It has led me to a deeper understanding of the love of God for me, for the lost and broken, and for Gods Church. I have connected with the overwhelming passion of the Father in the story fo the prodigal son: the father who runs to the unrepentant son, covers his shame and his distress and restores his honour before the community. That is the God that I know and the God that I worship. That was Jesus on the cross, that is my call and the reason I live. I thank God for pouring out undeserving grace on my life and for revealing that grace to me.
Love For The Family has applied for Charity status and is looking to expand and grow in its areas of work. ( Unplanned pregnancy, baby loss, post abortion recovery and Love Baby Essentials.) It has three underpinning values:
Approachability. (Everyone is welcomed)
Empowering. (Enabling others to make decisions)
Grace. (Caring for others with the unconditional love of God.)
If you would like to hear more about my journey, have questions about Love For The Family, or feel that God may be calling you to walk alongside women/ men or families in this way, then do come along to our Vision and Values evening on Thursday 22nd April, 8pm on zoom. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 07516001924 for zoom details.
If you would like to partner with us in prayer and receive regular updates please email email@example.com
Are there any people who should not consider fasting?
Those who are physically unwell, have a long-standing medical condition, are pregnant or know of any other physical reasons why they shouldn’t be fasting.
What constitutes ‘food’?
Anything of nutritional value whether it is a solid or a liquid.
How can I use my time most wisely whilst fasting?
Plan well before you fast and have some clear prayer objectives.
Seek to remove as many, if not all, distractions.
If you are working whilst fasting plan times during your day when you will be able to stop work to pray, for example at mealtimes.
You will require more rest than normal so exercise wisdom in planning when you can rest. Decide your level of activity accordingly.
Keep yourself well hydrated. You will need to drink almost double the amount of water you normally would.
If you are fasting corporately with a small group or your church make sure that you stay connected for support, encouragement and accountability.
Benefits of Christian fasting
The fasting that God blesses is not a declaration of our own strength, but an expression of our desire for intimacy with Him and our dependence upon Him. Genuine and authentic Christian fasting can only come from a heart that God himself gives us (Philippians 2:12-13) and a strength that He supplies (1 Peter 4:11).
Fasting comes alongside our prayer as a companion to bring about a heightened sense of earnestness and expectation of breakthrough. Fasting is a special measure that is an interruption of normal life. It is a time for unusual prayer that shows God that we want to enjoy Him for who he is, not for the gifts that He gives us.
More of God Himself
For the believer the ultimate purpose of fasting is God himself. More important than earthly guidance, protection, deliverance and provision is our immediate and eternal rejoicing in him, and knowing that He in himself is enough.
Fasting reminds us that God is himself the Great Feast: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).
God satisfies us more than the best of foods and quenches our thirst more than the purest water “eat what is good” and we “delight [our]selves in rich food” (Isaiah 55:2)
When we fast our stomach aches remind us that Jesus is our best and most satisfying food, not our daily bread. Jesus is the truest drink, not our typical beverage.
Christian fasting is not concerned with what we go without, but who we want more of.
What do you do when you’ve exhausted all your options, when you believe God wants to bring breakthrough, but you can’t see how it will come about. We can and will continue to cry out to God in prayer but we can also begin wielding our weapon of fasting. In this instalment I want us to consider why we fast. Why should we fast?
The purpose of (Christian) fasting
Fasting is fashionable in many quarters today — which means Christians need to be all the more careful to take our cues on this from Jesus, and not popular culture. Just a generation ago, numbers were claiming that fasting is bad for your health. Now it’s flipped. Today, more and more dieticians are preaching, “When done correctly, fasting can have beneficial physical effects” (Celebration of Discipline, 48). But what’s the difference between fashionable fasting and Christian fasting?
The key difference is Christian purpose. We could say Spiritual purpose — with a capital S for the Holy Spirit. Not just spiritual as opposed to material, but Spiritual as opposed to natural. For Christians, an essential, irreducible aspect of Christian fasting is a Christian purpose. Whether it’s strengthening earnest prayer (Ezra 8:23, Joel 2:12, Acts 13:3). Or seeking God’s guidance (Judges 20:26, Acts 14:23) or his deliverance or protection (2 Chronicles 20:3-4, Ezra 8:21-23). Or humbling ourselves before him (1 Kings 21:27-29, Psalm 35:13). Or expressing repentance (1 Samuel 7:6, Jonah 3:5-8) or grief (1 Samuel 31:13, 2 Samuel 1:11-12). Or concern for his work (Nehemiah 1:3-4, Daniel 9:3 ). Or overcoming temptation and dedicating ourselves to him (Matthew 4:1-11). Or best of all, expressing love and devotion to him (Luke 2:37), and saying with our fast, “This much, O God, I want more of you.”
Without a Spiritual purpose, it’s not Christian fasting. It’s just going hungry.
The Bible lists a variety of reasons for engaging in a fast:
To strengthen prayer (seeEzra 8:23)
Numerous incidents in the Old Testament connect fasting to prayer. Fasting does not change whether God hears our prayers, but it can change our praying. As Arthur Wallis says, “Fasting is calculated to bring a note of urgency and importunity into our praying, and to give force to our pleading in the court of heaven.”
To seek God’s guidance (seeJudges 20:26 )
As with prayer, fasting to seek God’s guidance isn’t done to change God, but to make us more receptive to his guidance.
To express grief (see 1 Samuel 31:13)
Expressing grief is one of the primary reasons for fasting. Ever notice that when you’re moved to tears by grief you lose the urge to eat? When we grieve, our family/friends often have to plead with us to eat because our body’s response to grief is to fast. An example occurs in 2 Samuel 1:12 where David and his men are described as having “mourned and wept and fasted till evening” for their friends, their enemies and their nation.
To seek deliverance or protection (see 2 Chronicles 20:3-4)
Another common reason for fasting in the Old Testament was to seek deliverance from enemies or circumstances and is generally carried out with other believers.
To express repentance and a return to God (see 1 Samuel 7:6)
This type of fasting helps us to express grief over our sins and shows our seriousness about returning to the path of Godly obedience.
To humble oneself before God (see1 Kings 21:27-29)
“Remember that fasting itself is not humility before God,” reminds Donald Whitney, “but should be an expression of humility”
To express concern for the work of God (see Nehemiah 1:3-4)
As with Nehemiah, fasting can be a sign of our concern over a work God is doing.
To minister to the needs of others (see Isaiah 58:3-7)
We can use time we’d normally spend eating to fast and minister to others.
To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God (seeMatthew 4:1-11)
Fasting can help us focus when we are struggling with particular temptations.
To express love and worship for God (seeLuke 2:37)
Fasting can show, as John Piper says, that “what we hunger for most, we worship.”
Fasting is grace fuelled discipline – not a command. (Matt 6:16)
The purpose isn’t to….. Earn God’s love (futility)
Impress God (legalism)
Impress people (hypocrisy)
Conclusion: Fasting was never intended to be a religious exercise that will somehow enable us to accrue more, “brownie points with God”, nor is it supposed to be an outward show of spiritual piety that lets other people know, “just how spiritual we are”. Rather it’s a voluntary (not commanded) spiritual discipline that God will bless when our motives for doing so are first and foremost to pursue and hunger after God himself.
Definition: Fasting is not an exclusively Christian practice. It plays an important part in most of the world’s religions e.g. Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism etc… There can also be legitimate non-religious reasons why people fast. i.e. on medical grounds, dieting (some weight loss plans incorporate a form of fasting). Put simply, fasting is the discipline/practice of going without food for a period of time. It could last for many days, one day (this would be more typical), or a shorter portion of time within the course of a day.
Let us look at fasting from a Christian perspective.
What does fasting mean for a Christian?
It is a grace of God which allows His people to respond to His provision and kindness by humbling themselves before Him. In practice, fasting normally means going without food for the sake of seeking God, either personally or as a group. In the Bible, this most often means eating nothing and only drinking water for a period of time. Some Scriptural examples exist of partial fasting through dietary adjustment (such as Daniel 10:3) but that is not normative. In Scripture, fasting is often accompanied by mourning a lack or loss and undertaken in hope of God moving powerfully to bless His people, and achieve His work by accomplishing breakthrough for his people .
What does the Old Testament say about fasting?
Fasting is mentioned over 70 times throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament, there were two types of fasting: public and private. Public fasts were accompanied by prayer, supplication, and sackcloth, while private fasts were seen as expressions of repentance . Below are some examples of fasting in the old testament and there are many more to be found.
Moses fasted before receiving the Ten Commandments
“So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” Exodus 34:28
Moses fasted for 40 days and forty nights, without food and water Scripture says. It’s not possible for humans to survive that long without food or water. Here, we witness a supernatural fast in the pages of Scripture. Only God could sustain Moses for that long without substance. At the end of the fast, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.
Daniel fasted and prayed to understand a vision
“I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.” Daniel 10:3 ESV
This particular fast is in response to a vision Daniel had, but this is not the first time that Scripture records Daniel fasting. Daniel 1:8 reads, “But Daniel resolved he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.” The food and drink the king’s court was consuming violated the laws God’s people followed, and so David denied himself in obedience to the Lord. For Daniel, fasting preceded revelation in regard to his vision as to what would happen to God’s people in the future.
David fasted in mourning the loss of his son and best friend
“And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the LORD and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.” 2 Samuel 1:12, ESV
It’s common to find fasting, especially in the Old Testament, as an expression of grief and sadness. Though King Saul had chased David viciously, the king’s son Jonathan and David were best of friends. Later in David’s life, he also mourned the loss of his own son. “David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died” (2 Samuel 12:15-18 ESV).
According to the NIV Study Bible, his servants were afraid to tell David his son had died, fearing his reaction. If the child in fact was only seven days old, he was not even named or circumcised yet, and so not counted among the Israelites.
What did Jesus say about fasting?
Jesus made some key references to fasting in his teaching to his followers. In Matthew 6:16-17 Jesus is teaching on the futility of making a holy spectacle of things that should be done for God; specifically giving money, praying and fasting. In this statement a couple of things are interesting.
Firstly, Jesus mentions fasting in the same breath as two other important Christian disciplines, praying and financial giving.
Secondly, He says ‘when’ you do these things and not ‘if’, which tells us that fasting is just assumed as normal for (and expected of) a Christian in the same way as prayer and giving.
It is worth noting that, even though Jesus assumes that the spiritual discipline of fasting will be a normal part of the believers life, he does not issue it as a command. We ought to remember therefore that the discipline of fasting, whether practiced individually or corporately as a church, should be a response of love to the God of grace who has already saved us in Christ. Let us examine our motives before we embark on a fast to ensure that we don’t do it with a religious spirit or out of a sense of legalistic duty, but rather that it is an overspill of our love for the God who already has accepted us freely in Christ.
What are the different types of fasting in scripture?
The Bible mentions three kinds of fasts:
Regular/Normal : – abstaining from all food and drink except for water
Partial/Daniel fast :- abstaining from meat, sweets, bread or you can only eat bread.
Absolute fast:- going without all food and drink including water.
1.The regular fast
The regular fast is done by abstaining from all food, both solid and liquid, except for water. This is the type of fasting Judah’s King Jehoshaphat called for when his country was confronted with invasion (2 Chronicles 20:3). The Lord defeated their enemies, and the men of Judah blessed the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:24–27). After the Babylonian captivity, the people returning to Jerusalem prayed and fasted, asking God for His protection on their journey (Ezra 8:21). The Lord Jesus fasted during His forty days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan (Luke 4:2). When Jesus was hungry, Satan tempted Him to turn the stones into bread, to which Jesus replied, “Man shall not live by bread alone” (Luke 4:4).
2.The partial/Daniel fast
The prophet Daniel spent three weeks fasting from certain foods. In Daniel 10, the prophet says, “I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over” (Daniel 10:2–3). Note that Daniel’s fast to express his grief on this occasion only omitted “choice” food, and it also involved relinquishing the use of oils and “lotions” for refreshment. Today, many Christians follow this example and abstain from certain foods or activities for a short time, looking to the Lord for their comfort and strength.
3.The absolute fast
Also mentioned in the Bible is the absolute fast, or the full fast, where no food or water is consumed. When Esther discovered the plan for all the Jews to be killed in Persia, she and her fellow Jews fasted from food and water for three days before she entered the king’s courts to ask for his mercy (Esther 4:16). Another example of an absolute fast is found in the story of Saul’s conversion. The murderous Saul encountered Jesus in His glory on the road to Damascus. “For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything” (Acts 9:9). Immediately following that time of blindness and fasting, Saul dedicated his life to preaching Jesus Christ.
Note: I would not recommend that anyone pursue an absolute fast for any more than part of a day (certainly no more than 24hrs ) and only after you have sought advice from a doctor.
Have you ever felt strongly that something was supposed to happen? You were so sure you had heard from God? You waited, you prayed, you waited some more, and nothing. Then the questions started: Did I miss God? Was that just me and the cheese I ate the night before? Why isn’t anything happening? Why are the metaphorical doors closed when God seemed to be telling me they would open?
In Mark Chapter 9, a father brought his son to nine of Jesus’ disciples. The boy was demonized and epileptic, and even though the disciples had healed people before, they couldn’t heal him. When the disciples brought the boy to Jesus and he was healed, they asked Jesus this question, “Why couldn’t we do it?” Jesus answers in verse 29, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything except by prayer and fasting.”
Perhaps there are things that God desires to happen in the life of our church and our lives and ministry that won’t happen unless we accompany prayer with fasting. Fasting draws us more intimately into the presence of God, breaks strongholds, liberates people, and moves us into a realm of realising God’s power in our lives.
The more time you are spending with God, the more you’re going to see the hand of God on your life in an extraordinary way. You may not feel different; you may not even see the answers to your prayers, but there is a spiritual change.
We like most people around the world have been living with a deadly virus (Covid 19) for almost a year now. During that time we have in the UK experienced three lockdowns, a whole raft of measures ranging from the completely draconian to the exceptionally inconvenient. The lockdowns and associated restrictive measures have been necessary due to the fact that unprecedented numbers of people have tragically lost their lives and many more hospitalised with severe symptoms.
However, even though we are continuing to live through the coronavirus nightmare, in God’s gracious providence a nationwide vaccine programme has been rolled out, and is offering light at the end of what has been a very long and dark tunnel. It is our way out of this pandemic, but even though we can now see a way out it is likely to be many months until life for us can return to anything vaguely resembling normal.
In light of the above, is there anymore that we can be doing as Hope church? Obviously, we need to continue steadfastly in prayer, but I also think that there is a weapon in our armoury that we could consider using now. I’m talking about fasting. I am increasingly sensing that as we individually and corporately combine fasting with our prayers we will experience greater depths of intimacy with Jesus, and incredible, supernatural breakthrough on so many different levels, individually and in our nation.
I (with the full backing and support from the leadership team ) thought that it would be prudent and timely to write a series of blogs on the spiritual discipline of fasting.
Church Prayer Meeting
The Blogs are intended to give us a biblical grounding and some helpful/practical advice on fasting in preparation for a church wide prayer meeting that will be taking place on
MARCH 28TH FROM 19:30-21:00 .
On this day we are encouraging those who wish to participate in a time of fasting culminating in the prayer meeting in the evening.
The structure of the blogs will be as follows….
Part 2: What is fasting?– Giving a definition, laying a biblical foundation, looking at different types etc…
Part 3: Why fast? – Looking at fasting as an expectation – not a command! Explaining the purpose and giving reasons.
Part 4 How to fast – giving practical guidelines, highlight benefits.
A friend recently challenged me to write about what I have learned from the events of my life in recent years. I confess that I thought the exercise of putting this on paper would be easier, but it wasn’t exactly like that. I even tried to systematize, but “the call” to try to do this in a natural and reflective way was stronger. It was two weeks of reflection with thoughts that I had had before, but also new understandings.
I believe that something clear that I have learned is about the possibilities of making plans, but that when making the plans I need to be prepared for the geographical changes, of teams, people, personalities, cultures, diets and new languages. It is also necessary to be prepared for comings and goings, refusals (literally), “feeling at home” in another culture and “not and feeling so at home” in my own culture (Prov. 16.1).
I have learned how the Lord has spoken to me, taught me and shaped me. The Lord has done this by helping me to break paradigms that I had because I grew up in a very traditional context, both family and ecclesiastical. The Lord has done this by helping me to grow in confidence, to establish myself in Him each day as “the portion of my strength and strength of my life” (as a song says). The Lord has done this by helping me to overcome my shyness, that shyness that has accompanied me since I was a boy and that has already prevented me from doing several things, from the simplest and most fun, to the most serious and connected to His Kingdom.
I have learned to seek dialogue and not feed the ‘hate speech’ that is unfortunately common in the world today. I have learned that I must maintain my positions, including those that are intrinsically linked to Social Justice and the refugee cause. I have learned to respect the opinions and positions of others and that I must not or need to say that those who think differently from me are wrong and / or need to change. I have learned the exercise of reflection, of challenging listening to what is different for me, both in terms of cultural differences and political positions, and even though maintaining my positions, seek the balance to contribute to a healthy life in community and to a non-colonizing society.
Another important lesson is about working with international teams. It has been an exercise in humility. An exercise in listening to the other in a language other than mine and a different way of thinking than mine. An exercise that some of my ideas may not be well understood, just as I don’t fully understand the opinions and ideas of others from other cultures. It is an exercise in remembering what it is like to be part of the community of Jesus of Nazareth, who is the greatest example of humility. It is an exercise that leads me to think that if I look at Jesus, if I am patient and a good listener, and the rest of the team do the same, in the end we will make good decisions, with literal laughter and no traces.
These past few years have been so challenging, in addition to the pandemic several other episodes have happened in my life. Episodes that sometimes almost made me give up on taking a next step. But I can’t help but remember that each of these events has given me such good feelings, new friendships, a new way of dealing with circumstances and making decisions (and risks!). I have learned how it is necessary to give grace to myself in the face of each new challenge and learning. I have learned how my worldview can change over the course of three years, but that my historical horizon also adds significantly to these new experiences. All of this impels me to do something new, to participate in something new and even if I am afraid, I don’t stop and walk forward and if the doors open, I will enter.
I cannot fail to mention how I have learned from the birds of the sky. With sparrows with branches in their beaks. With the different songs of the birds that moved me several times. I have learned to look at heaven and see how the Lord is glorified through His creation. How He loves the creation He created and how He loves and cares for me (Mt. 6. 26). I have learned how pedaling a bicycle in different countrysides with birds around can generate sincere prayers, from a guy who needs every day of the Father’s love, direction and mercy.
These are some of the deep learnings that I have lived, being showered with ups and downs, for some moments of doubts and fears and for other moments of joy and courage. I have learned to walk with the Father in this adventure of life that He has given me. I have learned every day to refine my faith and improve my sense and purpose of life. I have learned to live and remember the verse in Isaiah 43. 18-19.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” NVI.
These are some of my reflections on this question that my dear friend asked. It is good to feel that the Lord has helped me to understand these steps and to reframe my experiences. This is our Father! A loving Father who allows us to go through different situations, both good and bad, and thus learn more from Him and from ourselves for His glory and the manifestation of His kingdom in our lives and through our lives.
I would like to encourage you to reflect on what you have learned in the last years of your life. Regardless of where you are and where you’ve been, I’m sure you can have good insights. I encourage you to write about it and thus bless other people as well. May the Lord use you in this way and may your experiences, even with risks, be filled with the presence and joy coming from the Father!