More Than A Diet
Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that You would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” God granted his request. (I Chronicles 4:10) The Prayer of Jabez is the type of prayer we can pray every day.
Friends, God hears every word we utter. He knows our deepest thoughts and desires. What He loves most, however, is our intentional decision to make it a priority to connect with Him authentically and fervently on a consistent basis.
January 2022 was the beginning of a turning point in my life. My husband, young adult children, and I had joined a new church about 7 months prior. In those months leading up to January, church leaders referred often to their 21-day fast that would start January 9 and take us to the month’s end. Now, I have fasted for up to 3 days before, only consuming liquids, but that was prior to a medical procedure I needed to have completed. I have fasted for a single DAY when I wanted God to hear a plea or when interceding for someone else. However, I had NEVER fasted for 3 full weeks.
For those who may be new to fasting, there are several ways to fast. Our pastoral leadership didn’t impose a “one-size-fits-all” fast for our congregation, but instead shared a variety of fasting options.
Daniel Fast (fresh fruits and vegetables with no meat)
Liquid fast (only consuming liquids the entire 21 days)
Sun-up to sun-down fast (eating only prior to sunrise and post-sunset)
Fasting from something that interferes with your walk with Christ
Abstaining from social media or junk food
Essentially, it was up to each member to decide. My husband and I chose not to consume food from sunrise to sunset. This meant that after around 8:00 or 9:00 PM each evening we would not eat any food until about 5:00 PM the next day. We determined this would be the best plan for us because we both LOVE to eat. We recognized this would hit us where it hurt! For our family, food is not only delicious, but it is comforting and enjoyable. We even eat sometimes when we are bored! But we were committed, so on January 7 and 8, we deliberately went out of our way to select foods we particularly enjoyed from some of our favorite restaurants. Then, we prayed we would be able to endure; however, in our minds, we weren’t so certain.
The purpose of the fast is to draw closer to God. Whenever feeling a hunger pang, the goal is to pray. For example, when we (out of habit) started to walk toward the kitchen but remembered we were fasting, we were to pray. Prayer is the focused act during fasting that ensures we are not just “dieting.” Prayer is the spiritual food we digest when we fast. The more we consume, the more we will be filled with the Holy Spirit. Now, my husband and I have always considered ourselves to be faith-filled, spiritually-transformed individuals, but this fast showed us more about who we really were and how we needed to grow.
I need to add one additional thing. In addition to NOT EATING, we were also engaging in prayer EACH MORNING online with our pastors and leadership team from 6:33 AM to 7:03 AM. Did I mention EVERY morning? This was a dedicated time to seek God, asking Him to enter in, guide and order our steps, and keep our minds focused on our commitment. In our church, prayer is a priority, so this was another opportunity to honor God.
The first couple of days weren’t so difficult. We were proud of ourselves and felt like we were remembering to talk to God more than usual throughout the day. After the first 5 or 6 days, we started to struggle a little bit, checking our watches to see how close it was to 5:00 PM so we could eat. That’s when we realized we weren’t praying enough during the day. Instead, we were allowing work and other distractions to keep us from the goal. Busyness is the enemy of quality time with Christ. We made a commitment to change that.
We set timers to help us stop and pray. We encouraged each other and held each other accountable. We connected with other church members throughout the day to ask, “How are you doing?” This helped us to stay on track. We turned a corner and began to seek God not only on our behalf but also for others. That was it! We found the secret sauce! We had been praying for God to do things on our behalf – to get us through the fast without cheating – but this was SO MUCH BIGGER than us!!
When the focus changed from “self” to service, the fast took on an entirely new direction. We began to see breakthroughs and strongholds broken. We saw God move and change situations that seemed unlikely to be resolved in days, even moments. For example, I had a family member who called me and asked me to fervently pray over a dire situation with her adult child. I did as she asked. Multiple times. In a matter of mere hours, that SAME day, the situation was not only resolved but there was also a financial miracle associated with it as well!! This fast was truly changing peoples’ lives…including our own.
I won’t forget the days when it was past 5:00 PM, and neither my husband nor I were running to the kitchen to grab food. On those days I was so grateful to God for creating new habits in only 21 days! The fast has taught me so much about the importance of connecting with God. It helped me to realize that I cannot be grounded without Him. I need to seek Him always. When I wake up, before meals, and prior to bed are not the only times God needs to hear from me. I talk to God ALL DAY LONG, and He listens. He hears me. I feel His spirit consume and calm me. It is precious and beautiful. He loves me so much, and I am grateful.
Since the fast, whenever I start to feel burdened or heavy with life, I choose to fast and pray. It is an amazing refresh and allows me to remember to put my trust in the One who loves me most. Most recently, I have been burdened by the state of education and the heavy hearts of educators across the country. I have been praying for God to reveal and remind them how important they are to the students and families they serve. I believe there is a mighty movement of God happening. We are in a position to witness some of the most magnificent miracles…if we will only believe.
One of my favorite acrostics comes from an amazing author and speaker, Priscilla Shirer, in her book, Fervent.
Isn’t that awesome? If you have never fasted and you want to see a mighty movement of God, don’t just diet. Fast and pray. Watch God move mountains in your life!