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What a Proper Spiritual Fast Looks Like

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When my pastor asked the congregation to join him in a prolonged fast, I was tempted to decline. Grace and freedom, you know—the stuff of spiritual “maturity.” God will tell me when to fast, thank you.

Except, our family was facing a huge crisis, so I said “yes."

“I so need to do this!” I emailed my small group. After all, that’s why we fast—so our stomachs will growl loud enough to impress God into giving us what we want.


Maybe if I fast God will heal me.

Maybe if I fast God will get me a job.

Maybe if I fast before tomorrow’s speaking engagement, God will make me sound brilliant and eloquent, and by default—humble.

So I made my list of “soul foods” –the things that, for me, too often distract and mask the God-craving—and I committed to abstaining until month’s end:

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Music CD’s/radio noise

I had barely started experiencing withdrawals when our crisis was suddenly resolved. My mouth watered at the thought of break-fast. But alas, the almond biscotti still waits in patient repose for February’s coffee, wrapped in the drawer beside me where I write. I have more reason to fast.

No—I have right, good, and Biblical reason to fast: I need to shed a few pounds of pride. I have two ears to clear for hearing. A heart out of tune, piping dissonant chords—discord—from my lips. Feet prone to wander. Eyes grown so dim I can’t see Him like I used to.

So I fast on.

I fast to half time and nothing seems different:  I’m strong and every bit as fat with pride and I’m deaf, flat, aimless and blind.

Then I read in the place He talks about fasting:

*Is this what you call a fast? You give up one thing and replace it with another. You still find your soulish pleasures, reading and cramming and stuffing yourself full of alternatives to what you’ve pointlessly given up. Full of distraction, you’re still full of yourself, the finger still pointed outward, the tongue yet wagging accusation and strife. And what good is afflicting your soul if you haven’t turned to satisfying the afflicted soul of another…?

And so I fast on.

(*Isaiah 58, slightly condensed and paraphrased)


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