I've talked about it before but its illustrated powerfully when you are preparing to fast--you are at your best when you function within a spiritual squad. Our pastoral team (my key squad) has been in conversation over email sharing our various fasting plans for the 21 day fast we began yesterday. This conversation has done several things for me:
- Hearing about other pastors' specific fasting plans caused me to create my own plan. I've learned that what is left unsaid prior to a fast becomes a point for easy compromise during a fast. A fasting plan keeps me from wiggling out of my commitments, indulging or unnecessarily struggling. Its particularly helpful after I've shared my plans with others.
- Knowing that others are fasting in the same way right along with me gives me an invisible sense of camaraderie. I'm not alone. That renews my sense of purpose because I'm in it together with brothers.
- Practical helps like Dwayne's phrase, "water is a faster's best friend", remind me how to stay on track in practical things during the fast. And it reduces the number of headaches I experience.
Our conversation really began by me simply asking, "hey, is anyone fasting the entire 21 days?" From there most of the team shared how they are participating in the fast. Don't be afraid to ask people in your squad about their fast. A corporate fast is done together (duh) so you're not being unspiritual by sharing how you're fasting.
Haven't started fasting yet? Start by making a plan. Answer these questions as specifically as possible:
- How long will you fast?
- Example: "sundown, February 26 to sundown, February 29"
- What will you fast from?
- Example: "only 3 glasses/bottles of juice per day, no coffee, as much tea as desired, one cup of clear broth per day, no web-surfing, no television."
- What will you add to your spiritual practices during the fast?
- As my daughter Lena said yesterday, " a fast is not just stopping eating--it means praying when you would be eating."
- Example: 30 minutes of worship and prayer for breakfast lunch and dinner, meditate on the book of Ephesians for the duration of the fast.
- Why are you fasting?
- Now its not enough to answer this with, "because my church said to do it." That's a good start but having personal spiritual goals during your fast will give your fast prayer purposes that bind it together and that allow you to praise God for what He does after your fast is complete.
- Example: "hear God more clearly, break out of spiritual dryness, receive direction on an important decision."
I'll give one more piece of advice--read a good fasting book before and during your fast. It will motivate and inspire you. I recommend Jentezen Franklin's book Fasting. May your fast be fruitful.