Right now in our ministry Oikos, we’ve begun a 21 one day fast as a ministry and church, and in the midst of it I’m contemplating the purpose behind it and why I or anybody else would fast. Mostly because there’s a lot of different ideas out there about the purpose of fasting, the health benefits of it, and certainly the spiritual effectiveness of doing it.
I just wanted to draw a quick analogy and not belabor the point too much, because Dave Edwards and I have done a pretty decent podcast discussion on fasting before, and you are encouraged to click the play button above or media player below for more if you want to check that out.
Purging & Cleansing
Recently I noticed that my coffee maker was taking longer and longer to prepare coffee in the mornings. I clean the pot and coffee filter regularly with soapy water, but this was not solving the problem. Over time, the coffee maker became less and less efficient, and taking longer to prepare a pot. It was becoming quite useless, actually.
I’ve given it thorough cleanings before, but I couldn’t remember the last time I had done it. So, the other week I filled the pot half full with water and half with pure vinegar. Then, I proceeded to pour this mixture where I normally pour the water into. I turned on the coffee maker, and let the water-vinegar mixture proceed through the machine. This process took about as long as the coffee maker had been taking recently to finish. I repeated this process a second time — again using a pot half-full of vinegar and half full of water, and this time it finished much faster.
The second time I paused it half-way through the process by turning the coffee maker off and letting it sit for about 30 minutes, then I turned it back on. When this was finished, I went through the process a third time but this time using only water. This was to help clean any traces of vinegar out of the machine. The percolating process was now much faster than previously, and since then I’ve been making coffee much faster than before.
What does my coffee maker cleaning have to do with fasting? Not necessarily anything, but the process of fasting and what it accomplishes in our bodies and spirits came alive to me in a much clearer and simple way that helps me describe fasting to others. When we fast we aren’t “getting” God to answer our prayers more so than if we didn’t fast. We aren’t entering further into His presence or any such thing that it’s quite easy to believe fasting causes to happen.
If anything, it purges us.
It cleanses us.
It prepares us.
It reinforces us in our identity.
It helps unclog the channel we’re communicating to God through in our spirits in that we are getting stuff out of the way like the vinegar-water solution helped do on the inside of the coffee maker. It helps the flow of water to be unobstructed in the machine, just like fasting helps unobstruct the flow of the Spirit and sense of God’s presence in our lives. Regularly fasting helps remove stuff in our lives so the Holy Spirit can flow more easily through us.
It’s understandable to see why we might believe the results of this can make it seem like fasting draws God closer to us. If anything it’s just helping us remove stuff that may be in the way in the first place making it easier to experience His close presence and hear Him more clearly.
I’ve you’ve never fasted before, I recommend doing it for some short and simple amount of time, like one day or so. If you want to drink juice, or just water, go for it. But allow this process to take place in your life and I guarantee you, unless you’re diabetic or hypoglycemic or any other such condition where it’s best not to fast from food, you will not regret it.
If you’d like to understand fasting, aside from checking out our podcast above, the following is a great Bible teaching series by Dave Roberson, called The Basics of Fasting.