Last week, we as a church concluded a 21-day fasting period. During the fast, each person spent time in prayer daily to focus on God and to deepen the relationship. The purpose of the fast was to cut out distractions from our lives such as social media or junk food and in its place spent time to draw strength from God. Along with prayer, it opened up an avenue for us to connect with our Lord and it enhanced that relationship.
Before Jesus began His ministry, he spent 40 days in fasting and in prayer. He wanted to connect with His Father. Despite the devil’s attempts to tempt Jesus away from his fast, Jesus resisted because His relationship with God was strong. Jesus depended on God for strength, not the temptations and distractions from the devil.
Several members of our church experienced great change in their lives during the three weeks of fasting and they volunteered to share their experience and testimony. We hope that these stories can inspire those who also participated in the fast; and encourage those who may be unsure about the benefits of fasting. May God continue to bless you in your journey with Him and may you draw strength from our Lord daily through prayer.
Anger. Frustration. Bitterness. Emptiness. Apathy. Doubt. Lust. Binge Netflix-watching. These are common things people struggle with, and I am no different. The problem is that being a Christian means having a hunger inside to connect with my Heavenly Father, and it means having the Holy Spirit within me to convict me of sin. There is only so long a Christian can ignore those hunger pains and ignore the precious Holy Spirit, before breaking something deep inside. I couldn’t ignore them any longer, and I can sincerely say that in Fall 2014 there was a desperation that had built up inside me; something had to change.
When I had the chance to sign up our youth group for a 40-Day Impact Challenge — a fancy sounding title for a 40 day fast — God had already awakened within me a renewed desire to know God and sense of purpose in my life. This impacted seemingly everything: my daily life, my work and ministry, my relationship with my wife and kids, and my own sense of identity. What happens when you combine a overwhelming hunger with bountiful amounts of food? Answer: giant feast. Spiritually speaking, the food had always been there; it had just been too long since I made time and space to really consume it. And I did so because I was starving.
Not only did this transform my own life, but it created a burning desire to see those I care about have the same hunger, so that they too could join the feat. I started praying for and with my family in ways I had failed to in recent months. I started praying for the youth group students and their families and I poured out my desires to them so they could know just how much God wanted for them. Now, my love for God was showing itself in ways I could not contain.
Besides my own times with God, my favorite part of Trinity’s season of fasting was the phone prayer line. Before God started stirring up the water in my own heart, getting up at 6:00am for anything was a tough sell. I was still so hungry though, and it was such a joy to call in and hear that there were already several people waiting to begin praying together. Like setting a log on fire and putting it among other logs, the more I committed to this lovely early morning routine, the more I wanted.
Still, there is a voice inside my head that tells me this can’t last, and that I’ll slip back into spiritual apathy. Truly, throughout my life as a Christian, I’ve had spiritual highs and spiritual lows. My goal is not to stay high, though. My goal is to remain steadfast, being faithful every day to God in whatever He is telling me and to wherever He is calling me. For me, it doesn’t get better than that.
For Trinity Church’s corporate 21-day fast, I drank only smoothies of vegetables and fruits. I also had vegetable broth occasionally. During this fast, I had a few prayer requests that I prayed to God but instead of focusing on those requests I focused more on my worship towards Him. I know fasting is a spiritual discipline the Lord wants me to do, so I do it to not earn His love but to make room for His love to move through me. Even as I’m making my smoothie, I’m worshiping Him knowing that just giving up something shows how much I love Him.
There was more time for me each day since I didn’t have to prepare meals. Instead of preparing dinner, I would have quiet time with the Lord. When there were times I had physical hunger I would turn my heart to focus on His Spirit to satisfy my spiritual hunger which reduced or removed that physical hunger.
When the fast was over, I really appreciated food to a higher degree as well as the nutritional value of vegetables and fruits. Most of all I appreciated the Word of God because the Word is the bread of life and I know I can always come to the Word knowing that God has a satisfying meal to nourish my soul.
Flashback. Two years ago, I was beginning a personal fast and focused on a specific personal request; I needed a deliberate answer. I planned for it to be a month unless I heard sooner. There was such great pain in my heart and an urgency that pain continued for the entire 30 days until the 31st day when God spoke a few words to my heart and I was comforted and humbled before Him.
Last year’s 21-day fast was more like a workout. There were many requests and I felt more like a warrior planning for battle. I was excited to begin and couldn’t wait to see God’s answers. I treasured my devotional and wrote in my responses. I began making changes to my prayer life and thanking God daily, purposefully starting early in the morning BEFORE bringing all my requests and cares to Him. What a transformation in my morning attitude ever since, in the most positive way imaginable!
This 21-day fast began with much celebration. My husband, whose heart had shown a double abnormality, was diagnosed with two FALSE positives. News of a new job for my son, who had been without a paycheck for three months, came in and many other answers to prayer. I was overjoyed and it seemed as though every day there was a bountiful supply to be thankful for, and fasting didn’t come easily as in the prior years.
Then a good friend came to me, and I heard some news that really enraged me. I was extremely angry with an individual who had caused her and others much pain; it was welling up in me and I knew I had to go to God. I fasted the day for this specifically, bringing my complaint to Him, Shamefully, I carried the anger the entire day only to find upon awakening that He had miraculously changed my heart! I wept for this person, realizing their own struggle and knowing that if it weren’t for the transforming grace of God, I too might be in their shoes. I called my friend and soon we were praying and interceding for this individual. It was as if anger met with grace and compassion and walked away. Our hearts were changed and we knew it. Our deeper awareness of God’s presence was all we needed. It was time for another celebration!
I had never done fasting of any kind before and when this opportunity came up, I was hesitant to do it. But knowing that there would be a challenge and great benefits from it, I decided to give it a chance. I have a frequency of snacking in between meals, especially sweets, and I decided that for the 21-day fast, I would cut that from my lifestyle. Additionally, I was partaking in a study course and their requirement was to fast secular media (TV, music, social media, etc.) for five weeks. It was not easy but I was willing to accept the challenge and to see how God would speak to me through it.
During the fast, there was a 6am prayer time with other people from the church. We would call in this conference line and during that time, we would pray for one another, pray over the church, pray over scripture. We did this every day during the fast (excluding Sundays) and I did not miss one of them. I hate waking up in the morning, but I knew that missing out on one of these would be me taking the easy way out. What I learned was that this ended up being the highlight of my day. To start my day off with God and with God’s people was the best thing ever. And as I continued to pray daily with everyone, God spoke to me on the seventh day of the fast during prayer time. God told me that prayer will be even bigger in my life going forward. I had no idea what that meant, but I was sure that the answer would come soon. And shortly after that Saturday morning prayer time, I received a text from prayer team leader Michael asking me to lead the phone prayer session in a few days. This was a small glimpse of God speaking to me and delivering me. My prayer life was growing.
Fasting snacks was hard. When I hung out with friends and they wanted to get desserts, I couldn’t have any. When there were leftovers for meals, I couldn’t have any. When they brought over cookies during meetings, I couldn’t have any. The temptation was hard to resist, but it got easier as the days went by and I realized that my steadfast dedication would result in something great — plus I lost weight! In addition to not wasting my time on Facebook or watching TV, I made more room for God. That’s the whole purpose of the fast and I found myself listening to sermons more, reading scripture more, being able to appreciate the beauty of the world more. It was time well spent.
As I look back at the 21 days of fasting and praying, I am confident that my perspective of my faith journey is going in the right direction. I am praying more and my confidence in God’s deliverance is on solid foundation. The other things that used to occupy my time are not as important to me. I’m more excited to hear and see what God has planned next for me. For the first time in a long time, I can finally hear God because I’m not letting the distractions impair me.
Last year I “participated” in the fast. I was hungry for God and I’ve heard quite a bit about how it has strengthened, renewed or helped grow a personal relationship with God. I set my heart on ridding myself of junk food and snacking. It was going to be a win-win situation to lose the bad habit and grow in God. I thought it would be great and many church friends were also fasting different things. But days passed and my focus was all about how I couldn’t have that bag of chips. God forgive me for being tempted. I can’t have that piece of candy because candy is definitely not part of a meal. In between meals were a struggle too. I was grateful to have friends who all shared their daily struggles whether it was giving up a soda and feeling empowered or relying on God to stop us from something the flesh wants to consume.
But throughout the fast I only focused on God when I needed to run to Him for help and for strength to hold back from eating my favorite ice cream. I was lifting up my struggles to the Lord but I missed the whole point with the power of prayer. Silent heart prayers were strong enough to keep me sane while holding a bag of chips in the kitchen and being able to put it down. Silent prayers were great when everyone around me feasted like beasts on snacks and what felt like all the glorious junk food in the world. But I didn’t feel my faith grow. I didn’t get to know God.
I did discover Psalm 139:23-24 (link to scripture) and hung onto it dearly. So this year, I definitely wanted to get to know His character and the person He is transforming me to be. I eagerly waited and January passed, I wasn’t sure what I’d be fasting but I knew the importance of prayer. Alas, the 21 days of fasting prayer. That’s perfect! I need more prayer and communication to get to know God. And to top it off, a discipleship program that’s been brought up for many moons. I was nervous though. Social media and media in general made up the majority of my life the past decade. Not only was I to cut off Facebook but I had to tell Netflix, my beloved Netflix, that we needed a break. During most of my free times, I’m either watching something on TV, reading something on my phone or browsing something on my iPad. It connected me with so many things, both important and not so important, and I had to cut that off.
But this discipleship class took my fast to another level. Deactivating Facebook, signing out of Instagram, Snapchat, turning off the game apps — I had to let it all sink in. I now have a smartphone and I can’t use most of the icons on the screen. Should I remove all these icons so I won’t be “accidentally click on them” or be tempted? No, I’ll leave them there to remind myself what I spend my time on and what I will be spending my time on for the days and weeks to come. I prayed for God to prepare me for the chaos and anxiety I’ll feel in the morning. Sunday went by like a breeze but Monday morning was where the struggle began. I got into my car and put my things in the passenger seat, put the key in the ignition, buckled myself in and turned on the- wait that’s right, no secular music, no radio. But I NEED my music. Or perhaps, I don’t. It paved way for me to have real intimate prayer time during my drives to and from work. Praying out loud was always difficult for me. I constantly gathered my thoughts in my heart and mind before verbally presenting them to God. It felt like a monolgue, an awkward one-sided conversation. I left room and silently awaited for something, anything, I wanted to hear His voice but nothing came. My first week had a lot of “hand-holding” because God did listen. He provided an abundance with words of encouragement from so many people in women’s ministry as well as The Bridge Life Group.
The other struggle was sharing with people about this fast as well as tuning the secular out. I was a lot more aware of what my surroundings of media were including what dumb things people and myself included spent their time on. I sunk myself into looking for books and reading, reading about what other Christians think about and how their wisdom and treasures can apply in my life. I prayed for God to speak to me, to really let me know I asked for Him to show me what He sees in me. I never heard an audible voice of God but He made Himself known to me. He delivered me from hardships and revealed just how powerful Philippians 4:6-9 (link to scripture) is. He revealed so many truths about who He is through His word. He casted away my insecurities and the negative chatter in my mind. I am the righteousness of God and He delights in me. He sees me beyond my flesh and I need to do it too.
There were times I felt like I was suffocating from this fast but it was my addiction of media that had me in a chokehold. Again and again I prayed to get my assignments done, for patience because I’m a slow learner and a stubborn child. I don’t know how many times I’ve prayed, “Father God, help me see what You see.” He did! This fast has been a roller-coaster of emotions. He brought His word to life and really did help me see what He sees. He loves me despite how I angrily cried over the withdrawal of media and embraces me. He spurs me on and lets me know I live for Him and He will provide. When I ask for peace, He covers me in peace and I can trust Him. He makes me bold and courageous.
I live in a rough neighborhood and quietly hide in my house in our little gated community. For over a year now, I’ve driven by the park that’s a street over. But the farthest I’ve walked beyond the gate is to our mailbox and across the street. I kept saying how I wanted to take a walk to that park and really see the community here. A close friend brought it up in the midst of a terrible, horrible, really bad storm brewing in me. I felt convicted and I wondered why it was so hard. Well, when I get home it’s usually dark and scary. Not on this Tuesday after the spring forward from daylight savings. God did it, not me, but Him. Spirit led, I was determined and I told my brother I’m going for a walk. I got my shoes on and walked to the gate. My heart started beating fast and I wanted to run back home. But I walked on to the end of the street and carefully observed my surroundings.
I bounced on that sidewalk and smiled at people walking by, people watering their lawns and I kept walking. I turned the corner and crossed the street to the small area that leads to the park. This was a narrow street with rundown houses and suspicious characters but for some reason I smiled on and made it to the park like sheep led to green pastures. Joyful voices of life filled my ears. Teens playing soccer, kids playing basketball, kids on the jungle gym, swinging swings, riding bikes, a father teaching his two small boys how to play baseball, teens gathered at a table chatting and so much more. I walked over and sat alone to silently soak it all in. This is community. The liveliness and joy these people displayed just being themselves. This is the sight God wanted to share with me. This is love. I was in awe. I was physically alone quietly observing but grinning ear to ear. These people and the park were all His creation and their joys and laughter were His too. I didn’t hear His voice but I saw His love and His word come to life. He empowers me and I hope you see Him empowering you. He searched my heart for offensive ways in what I spent my time on for my imperfections. Now I trust in Him and how He will continue to chisel away my offensive ways. I’m in imperfect progress to everlasting life with Him.
May these stories inspire and encourage you all to seek God in the many different challenges we encounter daily. When our focus is on Him, great things can happen and our lives will be changed forever.
For those looking for an outlet to grow in prayer, you can share your requests, praises or thoughts to our prayer team. You can send it in through our Facebook page (LINK HERE) and we’ll be in contact with you. May God bless you!