Fasting and Prayer

One day my daughter suggested that we fast once a week. Fasting was occasional for me – when there was a pressing need. Fasting as a regular spiritual discipline? I was game to try and so was my wife. 

We decided that our fast would begin after the dinner of the previous night. Then on the next day, the fast continued through the skipped breakfast and lunch, until we broke fast with dinner. 

For me it was not difficult to find the periods of prayer in the morning and afternoon, and a joint prayer with my wife before we broke fast. I have retired. Those who work have to schedule the fast in such a way they have time to pray and reflect.

Some Spiritual Benefits

What I experienced in terms of spiritual benefits are common among those who fast.

  • I was more alert and deliberate when I prayed.
  • I saw my trust in God strengthened and my love broadened. 
  • I felt greater self-control through the Spirit’s help.
  • The Lord broadened my scope of concern beyond myself and family to Singapore and the countries of South East Asia.
  • I saw answers to my prayers. Once we prayed for two Nigerian children and their nanny who were feared to have been kidnapped. This week we received news that all three were found far away from home kidnapped by a syndicate, and the nanny was an accomplice.
  • There was added anointing, conviction and confidence when I preached.
  • A bonus physical benefit was my pants became loose at the waist.

The Spirit Teaches and Guides Us How To Fast

Initially, the Lord taught me to answer this question he once asked a blind man before healing him, “What do you want me to do for you?” I listed what I wanted, and slowly shared with the Lord each situation and my needs and concerns. I took my time to feel, reflect, talk to him and listen and receive assurance that my prayers were heard. I did it on my knees with the written list of prayer needs. Gradually I realized that while fasting, the Lord was also putting on my mind and heart the matters he wanted me to pray about. For Singapore, and for nations that are suffering from the pandemic, like neighbouring countries, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei, Philippines, and Indonesia. Sometimes I asked him questions, “inquired of the Lord”, to know his mind on what redemptive fruit has come out of the evil of this historic pandemic. Fasting and prayer is not merely about making our requests known to God with earnestness, but also inquiring of the Lord, deepening our communion with God, letting him share his burdens and concerns with us, and humbling and repenting before him.

Different Forms of Fasting

There are of course many different kinds of fast each suited to the lifestyle of the one fasting. It may be different for the mother of three young kids, the working professional, those in National Service or in schools. There are different forms described in the Bible and you can learn more about them by googling the topic.

Pray and launch into the deep by fasting a day and let God teach you more as you move along in faith. Or you could do this gradually – skipping a meal, then two, then three meals. Find some friends to join you in a pact and doing it together gives added strength of purpose.

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Fasting for soul and physical health

fastingFasting is not a legalistic must. However, Jesus did expect his followers to be led by the Spirit to fast. He spoke of a time  “when the bridegroom will be taken from them, then they will fast” (Matt 9:15).  Interestingly,  it seems fasting is not only good for the soul but also for one’s physical health. We have of course known a little about this health benefit, but perhaps not in the specifics recent research has indicated. There is some research to show that fasting can protect us from brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s  and stroke. Have a look at this report by Robin McKie, science editor at Guardian……and be encouraged when you fast!

Researchers at the National Institute on Ageing in Baltimore said they had found evidence which shows that periods of stopping virtually all food intake for one or two days a week could protect the brain against some of the worst effects of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other ailments.

“Reducing your calorie intake could help your brain, but doing so by cutting your intake of food is not likely to be the best method of triggering this protection. It is likely to be better to go on intermittent bouts of fasting, in which you eat hardly anything at all, and then have periods when you eat as much as you want,” said Professor Mark Mattson, head of the institute’s laboratory of neurosciences.

“In other words, timing appears to be a crucial element to this process,” Mattson told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver.

Cutting daily food intake to around 500 calories – which amounts to little more than a few vegetables and some tea – for two days out of seven had clear beneficial effects in their studies, claimed Mattson, who is also professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Scientists have known for some time that a low-calorie diet is a recipe for longer life. Rats and mice reared on restricted amounts of food increase their lifespan by up to 40%. A similar effect has been noted in humans. But Mattson and his team have taken this notion further. They argue that starving yourself occasionally can stave off not just ill-health and early death but delay the onset of conditions affecting the brain, including strokes.

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