Fasting at Christmas

Christmas is near, and many of us are probably planning to do a lot of things. Whether you are hosting a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party, preparing a holiday meal for friends, or buying Christmas gifts for the family…the list of things you could plan to do with your time is probably not short. I know there’s no lack of ways in which I could plan to spend my time.

As the holiday approaches, though, have you considered planning to fast? This isn’t typically on the top of my list, either.

“Why fast?” Well, Jesus offers up some suggestions for when we fast (Matthew 6:16-18) not if – which seems to indicate to me that we should all be participating in this spiritual discipline at some level.

But why the suggestion to fast during the weeks leading up to Christmas? Consider a few of John Piper’s thoughts on fasting, out of his book, A Hunger for God, and maybe you’ll follow my logic for making this recommendation:

“Desires for other things” – there’s the enemy. And the only weapon that will triumph is a deeper hunger for God. The weakness of our hunger for God is not because he is unsavory, but because we keep ourselves stuffed with “other things.” Perhaps, then, the denial of our stomach’s appetite for food might express, or even increase our soul’s appetite for God.

Perhaps more than any other discipline, going without food quickly reveals the things (food and otherwise) that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside of us with food and other things.

It’s just my opinion, but it seems to me that Christmas time might be a perfect time to consider denying ourselves the very thing we tend to indulge in at this time of year. At Christmas, I think, we stuff ourselves with “other things” perhaps even more purposefully than any other time of year. We stuff ourselves with food, to be sure – Christmas cookies, holiday hams and party appetizers – but also with plenty of other “stuff.” The advertisers are on their game, constantly reminding us of all the things we don’t have that are sure to boost our happiness…if only we owned them. A time of fasting in the midst of the hype can be an intentional step we take to combat Christmas avarice and remind ourselves that Christmas is really a time to focus on Jesus and celebrate what He did for us.

Also, as we move toward the end of the year, fasting can be a way to direct our hearts to focus on the changes we might consider making in the coming year, when we are all naturally drawn to reflect on our lives and make certain “improvements.” I’m not talking about that last 10 pounds we want to lose, or the closets that need to be cleared out and organized…but those spiritual deficits and hidden sins we’ve been reluctant to confess and let go of, perhaps because our relationship with our Lord and Savior has been too lukewarm to ignite the motivation to change in these ways.

Below are some very practical and helpful tips for preparing yourself for a time of fasting. These were written by Lynn Roush, biblical counselor at The Crossing. I found these immensely helpful, and wanted to share them with you.

How to Prepare for a Time of Prayer and Fasting

Preparing Your Heart:

  1. The purpose of fasting must always be centered on God. Make a plan to set aside time during your fast to read God’s word and to engage in an extended time of worshipful prayer.
  2. Spend time in the days leading up to your fast asking God to reveal sin in your heart. Examine your heart before God as He brings sin to mind and humble your heart in a spirit of repentance regarding anything brought to your attention. Anticipate this being a time of personal renewal in your love and desire for God above everything else in your life.
  3. The spiritual benefit of fasting is that it can reveal what controls our hearts. By depriving our bodies of physical comfort and nourishment, we have an opportunity to examine the thoughts, emotions and desires that surface during this time. Pay attention to those things and approach God in prayer about them.
  4. Write down concerns, requests and intercessory needs prior to your time of prayer so that you can bring these things before the Lord.
  5. Prepare your heart by meditating on Scripture that focuses your mind upon God. Seek Him out during this time using the truth of Scripture to guide you.

Preparing Your Body:

  1. Decide ahead of time what type of fast you will be doing. This could range from missing one meal to fasting an entire day or several days in a row. Commit to what kind of fast you will be doing and plan on it. If you have never fasted before, it is wise to start slowly. (Seek the advice of a physician if you have a medical condition that requires regular food intake or you have been diagnosed with an eating disorder.)
  2. You are fasting from solid food, but should still plan to drink plenty of liquids. Some drink only water, but you can drink juice as well.
  3. Eat smaller meals leading up to your fast.
  4. Do not draw attention to the fact that you are fasting unless you are seeking prayer support or partnering with others to fast and pray with you.
  5. As you experience the pangs of hunger throughout the day you are fasting, let them remind you of your spiritual hunger and your need for God. Those can be moments where you stop what you are doing and focus on God.
  6. You may be tempted to break your fast early because you think that you cannot follow through. Use this opportunity to seek God earnestly and ask Him for the strength to continue your fast, relying and depending on God’s strength during this time.
  7. You may not have a “mountain top” experience during your fast. Do not be discouraged, as the benefits of fasting are often not seen immediately. In the days and weeks following your fast, look for ways that God has used that focused time of prayer in your heart and life. Make a plan to fast again.

Fasting, among other things, can help us draw nearer to God, and to not only see in our own lives those areas where God may be calling us to repentance, but to ignite our hearts for Him. This Christmas, may we all recognize that our deepest desires really are fulfilled only in Him.

Revelation 3:15-17
“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

John 15:5
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”

John 17:26
“I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

John 4:14
Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become to him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

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