During Lent one year I encountered Spiritual Disciplines in a new and defining way, thanks to the Inspire Movement and their Virtual Bands. This was written in response to being asked to fast.

I think the importance of today is about going deeper into the spiritual discipline of fasting {safely}. I haven’t tested myself since ‘the time’ and maybe I have shied away from the test in case the natural me takes over again.

There is compelling evidence that a one day fast every week helps us in our obedience and our prayer life and I know that fasting for an extended time does bring the experiential manifestation of the Spirit ever so close. So it is not like I am deliberately turning away from that experience, it is to keep self-pride and self-sufficiency at bay that I have to couch a fast in rules specifically for me. To keep concupiscence from the door of my heart and to keep pride effaced from my mind.

At Lent we hear of people giving something up and there are those who will have a full fast, but the balance of why we do what we do has to be thoroughly thought out, what are our motives behind the fast. A church recently announced a fast and a member jumped at the opportunity, not for a closer walk with God but to fit into size 10 jeans. Our motives are everything.

The call placed on our lives explicitly and implicitly tells us of aiming toward Christlikeness, and so the argument of a 40 day fast has to be raised. But look at Jesus and look at ourselves. He was perfect so it took an extreme situation for him to be tested by the temptations of Satan that we could see there were very real temptation and a very real choice made. Think about it – if we have read that Jesus fasted for one day and the devil popped up and started tempting him with bread, knowing he was perfect, we would say that’s no test. But 40 days is extreme even for the perfect one and so we see in that passage of scripture Jesus enduring hardship, doing without sustenance for forty days and nights and then not succumbing to the devil, but being victorious in the spiritual battle.

For us, a day is hard enough to bear, in this world of instant gratification, with food stalls at every junction and petrol station. I fasted for just short of six weeks four years ago. People on the outside thought I was doing it to lose weight as I did lose some, but I was in the battle. I physically could not take food, the feel of solids in my mouth was abhorrent, I felt sick all the time and I did try to eat, but it all fell to nothing. Knowing my health could suffer from prolonged food fast, I drank milk and soup as much as I could bear but solid food turned my stomach. People tried to help by suggesting I ate something I really ordinarily would crave but it didn’t work and made some interesting bathroom visits.

Then one day I got healed from a long term habit, I was in Dublin, and the next meal time I tucked into a slice of pizza, I couldn’t finish it because I was full. But I knew the time of fasting was over. It took time to remember how to eat and when but over the next few months I relearned, with the one rule – I must eat at least once a day. At first the rule was I must eat by six o’clock but as time went by and I trusted myself more it can be nine or ten at night but the rule remains steadfast.

So today I am being encouraged to fast, over the last few days I initially baulked at the idea, thinking myself not strong enough to withstand the temptation of a longer fast. Yesterday I wrote of my intention to join the fast but with the proviso of the rule.

The scripture reading today takes us to Jesus answering some people about fasting (Mark 2:18-22) and he does it by talking about the old and new. He is the fulfilment of the Law, he has come so we can experience life with him. As we move to become more and more like Jesus, as he becomes more at home in our lives and we become more at home in him, then we learn to let go of those hindrances to that closer walk. So I am stepping out in the steadfast faith he has given me and I am embracing the concept of fasting for a time for that deeper walk, deeper prayer life and deeper discipline.

Jesus can reprogram our story about ourselves, not just an intellectual assertion or renewing of our mind but allowing Jesus into our lives in a practical everyday way, and with other believers that help us be honed all with the help of the Holy Spirit.