The first step in our new series, “Your Second New Year” is to take some time in prayer, journaling and perhaps, fasting before the Lord. I want to give you all some info about how this may look for you and answer some questions in regards to fasting. I mentioned last week on my instagram stories that the spiritual discipline of fasting has been something I’ve incorporated more regularly over the past 3 years of my life. It’s been such a great thing for me and I want to share a little bit of that with you. When I say “little bit”, it actually is a lot BUT I feel like I am just scratching the surface and could each give each of these disciplines way more time, but I think this will get you what you need for our challenge!
First off, let’s discuss what this time of prayer and journaling may look like for you before we dive into our vision boards.
Q: How long should I spend doing this?
A: As long as you feel you need! If this is a new practice for you, it may not take you long simply because it’s uncomfortable or unknown territory. For those of you who are familiar with journaling and praying for extended amounts of time, it could last long. One important note: Just because you allocated, for example, Saturday from 7am-9am to pray, journal, chew over things, doesn’t mean you won’t have things pop up throughout the day. You want to use this as a time, however, to set the stage and foundation for how the Lord will be speaking to you as you move along in this process.
Q: Do I have to journal?
A: No. Of course not. But I have found that having (at a minimum) a piece of paper is so very helpful as I sit in silence. Obviously, there is a huge piece of this time to be reflective for you as you start to consider your life and your priorities, so I would think you may need to write some things down, but you don’t have to get fancy. Believe me- my journaling looks very basic compared to other people’s!
Q: Do I have to pray?
A: Here’s what I would say to that–ask yourself, “Do I want to be lead by my own desires, will, and plans, or God’s?” Let that answer guide you. Each of us have our own experiences and background with praying so this will certainly take on its own look person to person. I think the main point here is to acknowledge that we are not God, and that we need Him to guide us. It’s a humble spirit that we want to have as we look at the various ways the Lord is working in our lives. We always start with prayer!
Q: What kind of things do I need to pray about or reflect on?
A: I created a list of 15 questions to help trigger or prompt your mind and soul. It’s on this free download so start there!
Q: Do I need to fast? I don’t know much about it.
A: No you don’t need to fast! But this is something I pair with every “second new year.” I love what Sam Storms says in Practicing the Power, “Fasting is the first cousin to prayer in the sense that together they are the ordained means by which God is pleased to give us what we need.”
I’m going to move on to answering some questions you have about it. I asked you all via instagram stories (see how much you are missing if you aren’t following me there?!) what questions you had about spiritual fasting so I am going to tackle some here!
I want to first note—there is a big difference between spiritual fasting and intermittent fasting. Yes, I know I’m a health blogger and while this is a health practice I include in my life almost daily, this blog post will not be about that. We can discuss that at a later time! 🙂 This is about spiritual fasting, as in, abstaining from food (or other item) for spiritual purposes. This isn’t about weight loss or a practice in self-control (although you will definitely see how well you do in that area!) but mainly about a discipline that shows your true need and hunger for the Lord.
Also, I am no biblical scholar, nor have the qualifications to give you all the info about fasting, however I have read quite a few books, listened to some podcasts, and have been practicing it over the past few years. So right off the bat, I want to set the stage that I am not the authority! I would encourage you to do some of your own reading and research as to answer your questions for you!
Some of my favorite resources are:
- Spiritual Disciplines by Don Whitney
- Practicing the Power by Sam Storms
- Fasting: Changing the way you see by Lisa Bevere
- Fasting for Beginners by David Mathis
In my experience, many Christians I’ve spoken to about fasting seem to think of it as something they should be doing, but don’t really know a lot about it. It can appear daunting, scary, and something that could be “messed up” and let’s not forget…hard! You ask someone to give up food for one meal and it can seem to be the end of the world!
Q: What are some of the main reasons to fast?
A: I love what Sam Storms says in his book, Practicing The Power, “Fasting is feasting on God, drawing deeply upon his presence, depending wholly on his power, enjoying his goodness, gazing on his beauty, and trusting him to do for us what we could never remotely expect to do on our own.” So when you think about it, there could be a number of reasons to fast! In Spiritual Disciplines, by Donald Whitney (I highly recommend this book!), he states a number of reasons to fast: to strengthen prayer, to seek God’s guidance, to express grief, to seek deliverance or protection, to express repentance and the return to God, to humble oneself before God, to express concern for the work of God, to minister to the needs of others, to overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God, and to express love and worship to God. Whew! Do any of those apply to you?I think the main thing to remember is that it has a purpose.
Whitney says, “Without a clear biblical purpose, fasting becomes an end itself. Every hunger pang only makes you calculate the time remaining until you can eat. Such thinking disconnects the experience in your mind and heart from the gospel and descents into the deception that perhaps your suffering will earn God’s favor.” Boom.
Q: Why did you start the discipline of fasting?
A: A few years ago I hit a place spiritual where I was really confused. I felt like I was in the perfect storm of a thick spiritual battle, mixed with a trial, life change and more. (Sometimes it’s really hard to define what you are going through, so that’s the best way to describe it!) I was reading Beth Moore’s book, Praying God’s Word at the time and had also come across this blog post where it mentioned fasting and how powerful it was for spiritual warfare. My heart’s cry was greater intimacy with the Lord, protection from Satan, and to hear His voice, so I started to fast. I knew that I couldn’t go wrong with it (unless my heart motive was off) so I started the discipline. It has transformed and grew over the past couple years in many ways, than when I originally started with it.
Q: Do you fast all day or just a certain meal?
A: Depends! I’ve done both. I started out with a meal and then going to 2 meals and so on. Sometimes my schedule doesn’t allow for a full day of fasting. I think it’s easy to get legalistic about it all so I try and let God really define for me how long it will be.
Q: Is fasting from food only or can we fast other things such as social media?
A: In the bible, it is only for food because clearly they didn’t have Facebook or instagram! BUT many of the resources I’ve read have encouraged you to choose what works best for you. I kind of think of it as the item that is going to cause you to feel that sense of dependency on God the most. The honest truth is, some people (I am not one of these people!) don’t eat that much in a day to begin with. So fasting from food isn’t necessarily any different than a normal day, however they check instagram every 20 minutes. I think we can see what the Lord would want us to eliminate to feast on Him.
Q: Do you exercise while fasting?
A: Depends! I usually take walks because it is a time for me to spend more time with the Lord via worship and/or praying, plus if I am feeling low in energy, it is a good way for me to feel a little more energized. However, depending on how you’ve been eating, you may actually feel pretty good and may choose to keep your workout for the day (s). Obviously if I fast from something other than food, I won’t be as affected by this, however, in general, when I decide to fast, I try to soak up most of the day in prayer and worship.
Q: Can you give me a sample day of what it looks like for you?
A: Sure! Well, for days when I am fasting/praying for something OTHER than “Your Second New Year, ” I like to choose a day where I’m not booked from the top of the day to the bottom. I prefer it to be a day where I have some more time free, however, we all know this isn’t always guaranteed. Sometimes I feel the Lord calling me to extra time with Him, and it doesn’t always fall on a “free” day, so when that happens, I just do what I can when I can! I start the day without technology i.e social media, and turn on worship music. I get out my bible and devotional book and do what I normally do there. I spend time praising God, “combing through my heart” with areas of sin that need addressed, then I get my journal and bullet point all the prayer requests heavy on my heart at that time. I ask God WHO and WHAT He wants me to pray for and I wait. Sure enough, names and things pop into my brain. I write them down so I can make sure to spend time on them. I still have to work and be a mom, so I’ll move along with my day and tasks, then spend more time later with God depending on what I’m fasting from and for how long.
When I am focusing on “Your Second New Year” specifically, I begin in a very similar fashion. I start with the basic areas of my life and write them down.Then I follow the prompts in the download I created to just get my thoughts going. I write down phrases, or names, dates etc…anything. If I feel He gives me a word, I write it down. I allow myself to sit in this space for a while. I sit and stare. I get on my knees. I sing a song. (I use the restroom!) I write some more.
I allow myself to dream. I think about who God made me. I think about the timing of my life here on earth. I chew over all that and ultimately get to a point asking Him if I’m living in His “pace of grace”, walking in step with Him. I mentioned this before, but don’t expect all your answers and inspiration to come at this specific time. I’ll go on with the day and He will nudge my heart while folding laundry, or listening to a song, or interacting with my kids. I’m sure to note those things in my journal or on my iPhone notes app to reference later. It’s kind of a messy process in the fact that it isn’t linear, but it works really well with me.
Next week, we’ll be working on the actual vision boards but like I said before, this piece is foundational. If you find you need more time to do this, PLEASE take it! Goodness–the timeline for this little challenge is not necessarily meant to match the timeline the Lord is working on with you! I’ll write next week on how we get this info transferred over to some practical form!
I feel like I’m just scratching the surface about these topics so I would encourage you to do a little research on your own. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave them below or somewhere on social media and I will try and answer them either here or in a video! I want to leave you with this–there is no “perfect” way or “formula’ you need to follow to spend time in prayer, reflection, and fasting before the Lord. There are a number of ways this can occur and this is the beauty of an INTIMATE walk with the Lord. You see, He sees us as individuals and knows exactly where YOUR heart is. He isn’t comparing it to my life, your best friend’s, or perhaps you, 16 years ago. He sees you right now and desires to be your everything! Let’s approach this time as a beautiful opportunity filled with grace, freedom, and love so that we can create an environment conducive to hearing from our Savior!
(Second blog post in series is here)