This morning we conclude our week of prayer and fasting in the parish for the various events happening around the world and our nation, things we do and do not like, and as we prepare for the national election. At the time of writing we do not know what the result will be but sitting here now reading this blog it will all be over and a new government will be in power. We pray God’s will be done and that this power is exercised under God, so we must keep praying for our politicians, whether we like them or not. God has placed them there as St Pauls says even if we don’t know why: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” [Rom 13.1]
Since we have dedicated ourselves once again to fasting, I thought it timely to write for everyone’s edification about what the fast means, and why we fast and pray. Here I will limit myself to speaking about the routine of fasting. Next time I will write about the reason for the fast.
Most people routinely fast for half a day [12 hours]. If you finish eating by 7pm at night and don’t eat again until breakfast at say 7am the next day, then you have fasted for 12 hours already. That’s why it’s called ‘breakfast’ because you have just broken your overnight fast.
When you realise this, it doesn’t take too much to see how you can extend those hours even further when you fast. You could finish eating by 6pm at night and not have breakfast until 8am the next day, which means you have fasted for 14 hours. Wow, imagine that.
This simple strategy gets you into the practice of fasting; you train your body, mind and spirit for it. It doesn’t take much then to extend the fasting hours by skipping breakfast and not eat until lunchtime, say 1pm, in which case you have now completed 18 hours [from 6pm until 12 noon]. I began to train myself like this over the years. One can also engage in a partial fast where less food is taken in. I use this approach to prepare for the full fast where no food is eaten for a set period of time. It’s also useful when coming of a fast because of the care needed to return to normal eating.
Beginning in this way I found that once I was able to get over the hurdle of my body telling me to eat, my mind being in control and my spirit dedicated to God, I could then skip lunch. After a while of training I was able to skip the evening meal at say 6pm. Then I would go to bed, wake up the next day and find that I had fasted from 6pm on Day 1 until 6am on day 3 – that’s 36 hours.
Most people can do 40 hours – that’s why the well-known movement 40 hour Famine is so popular. In fact, it’s on again this year from 19-21 August. Check out the 40 Hour Famine website for more details. But remember these are secular fasts; a spiritual fast must be dedicated to the Lord and not to fund-raising. I’ll talk more about that next week. And of course remember if your doctor doesn’t advise it then take care.
Next week I will continue with more about the fasting and praying. In the meantime be blessed and I pray your involvement in the week of prayer and fasting was spiritually uplifting.