January 24, 2016

Berry's Bible Study - Fasting and Prayer

Hi there!

If this is your first time seeing this, I started a Bible Study series about 2 weeks ago and intend to do it regularly. I almost posted last week, but wasn't sure if I was forcing it. I don't want to feel like I'm forcing a post and my heart isn't in it, but then I just now thought 'What if someone needed to hear what I skipped writing last week?' Hmm.

Anyways, today I want to go over some verses about Fasting. Typically at the beginning of the year, a lot of churches call for corporate fasts ranging from 3 to sometimes a whopping 100 days! I have to admit that mostly while in Atlanta, I partook in our annual 21-day fast, but wouldn't really fast throughout the year again. Additionally when I was fasting, I was not doing the prayer part - which essentially is either going on a hunger strike, or dieting (let's be honest). I also noticed that sometimes I wasn't paying attention to the spiritual part of it, but would excitedly wait to see how much weight I lost (you know you've done that before too, don't lie).


This year though I'm really trying to be more intentional with fasting. I'm not doing a corporate fast by the way, but using Youversion's 21-Day Fast plan to guide me. I don't know if I should bring up different kinds of fasts now, because that tends to cause arguments but if you want to discuss it, let me know in the comments and we'll have it next week.

The 3 passages I want to share are...

Isaiah 58:3-4: We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers.What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me.

Verse 4 especially jumped out to me, because everyone knows that when you're hungry, you're irritable and the littlest things can annoy you. I'm a prime example here, because I find myself snapping at little things, being more emotional and even more sarcastic sometimes. I think while fasting, it's a good time to pray for an extra measure of meekness, gentleness, and kindness. Remember we're not fasting for ourselves.

Matthew 6:5-8: “When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! 

On the prayer portion, I guess it can be easy to try to impress people. Honestly though, on my part, I'm not sure how/why you'd want to show off via praying. Doesn't that defeat the purpose of prayer?

Matthew 6:16“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get."But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Finally, a point to always remember is that fasting is not for showing off. Looking and being miserable so that others will say how pious, or spiritual or religious you are is not the way to go. You might also be complaining for complaining sake. I know I've been guilty of complaining about fasts before - how hungry I am, how much I miss TV, how I really just want some meat, etc. I'm not doing myself any favors by that. Of course, fasting CAN BE/IS hard and while it's easy to complain, from my devotional, it's better instead to admit to God or your prayer partner that you're having a tough time and pray for strength to complete your sacrifice. 


What are your thoughts on fasting and prayer? I enjoyed reading this post by Lara about the topic.

26 comments:

  1. fasting isn't just the absence of food but also the absence of pleasure. it more beneficial to you and it helps keep the flesh in submission







    AN OPEN LETTER TO MR IKEMBA

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    1. Fasting is definitely about overcoming our worldly and flesh desires, and focusing more on the spirit.

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  2. My dear, some people like to go about with dour and glum faces just to show that they are fasting.
    When I am fasting, I prefer others not to know and go to great lengths to look cheery and happy though sometimes it fails oh when the hunger don reach a level and I start looking stressed or when someone offers me food or drinks and I don't accept, they might guess.
    But on a good day, even those who live with me will never know that I am fasting. How much more outsiders.
    When I fast I notice that I get more spiritual power, and it also reflects in my dreams.

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    1. LOL, I know what you mean about when the hunger reaches one kind level. The weakness can make it very hard to pray. And truthfully, more times than I'd like, I cave. But I pray to get better with each fast.

      Fasting does make your spirit more sensitive and it's easier to hear from God once you spend more time praying and less time on other distractions.

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  3. You raised great points; that first passage of Isaiah struck me because sometimes when we're doing something that we're commanded to do we feel like we're doing it for God when really he's asking us to do it for ourselves.

    Fasting and prayer is a combo that I need to do with intention as well; I didn't know Youversion had a 21 day fast plan so thanks for the tip!

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    1. Oh yeah, the plan is really good. It makes you reflect on different things and helps you along with something new everyday.

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  4. I love the self discipline I get from fasting. Like you rightly pointed out, its important to remember it should be accompanied prayer and spiritually uplifting activities.

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    1. Self-discipline! My word for the year! Fasting does help foster it, I agree.

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    2. Yes,I also love the self discipline I get from fasting. Though for a long time,didn't really get the whole point of fasting because i felt i was punishing myself;maybe because I am a slim person-lol.
      Thanks for the post.


      http://graceadeniyi.blogspot.com/

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  5. Apple of God's eyesJanuary 25, 2016 at 4:58 AM

    I love love this topic. Girl, this one hit home big time. I find that sometimes the year would almost run to an end, and i haven't done one single fast. Thank God for churches and the annual fasts.

    Its so funny that it's the minute you want to fast, or do something spiritual, that someone or something decide to creep you up big time. I remember having to fast one time and someone really pushed the very wrong button in me. I recall scrapping the fast so i can enjoy the pleasure of giving it back to the person (God certainly has funny children).

    I guess fasting is really to help us curb those excesses we assume we cannot curb because we believe "this is just me"..... so God brings fasting to show us "no darling, its not you; lemme show you who you really are".....

    Btw, any of the fellow readers on the 100 days fast, biko remember some of us in your prayers o.... lol

    Really loving this new series..... keep it up girl

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    1. BUAHAHAHAHA! I knowwwww. Like how can I now pray to God when I know I'm quarreling with someone? The thing will just be nagging you. You now have to decide whether to reconcile with the person or pray tomorrow instead of today. Unfortunately pride makes us choose the latter.

      I like the point about the excuse of "this is just me." The truth is that's not how God wants us to be. So when we take time out to read his word during a fast, we begin to get transformed. It isn't something we do by ourselves but through God.

      Glad you like the series!

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    2. omg,i can so relate with this. HAHAHA,i literally get stuck! Sometimes,i literally want to negotiate with God and let God understand certain things,and then i get convicted at the end of the conversation,lol. :)
      I'm loving your blog!!!

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  6. Hey Merry Berry :), I am glad you brought this up as I just had a big debate with my Mom about this.

    I am a 'fast-er' and as serial ex-dieter fasting was a great time to lose weight and get God points! My fasting schedule was usually once a week throughout the year and a longer fast if I wanted something from God. Last year after my regular 21 fast with a church of my choice I went to the hospital for a blood test and the results were bad. I was like God didn't I just fast for you?!

    Anyway for the rest of the year the Holy spirit started teaching me about true fasting. In the old testament most of their lives, offerings, sacrifices and ceremonies revolved around food and drink and taking time out to fast from food was good for them. In my opinion fasting for everybody should be different, some people need to go on a silent fast, media fast or phone fast. Now that is putting your flesh under not starving from 6am-6pm then bingeing till midnight (guilty).

    I also learnt that fasting does not twist God's arm but changes you and positions you hear clearly from him- fasting could be removing anything that stops you from hearing clearly. The best Fast I have had was a total technology fast, gosh my flesh screamed as I resisted the urge to check out facebook, instagram, youtube and daily mail. I also realised how much more time I had to read my Bible and meditate. At the end of that fast I met my husband as I was at the right place as the right time not because I was fasting but because I could hear the voice of the Holy Spirit clearly.

    As people take time out to fast this year, please seek God first and ask him the type of fast to embark on.

    www.Anemistyle.com

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    1. PREACH IT GURL!!!!!

      Social media fasts can be tough! Or TV. Or gossip and entertainment news. It's during those fasts that you realize how much time you spend looking at other people's lives. Not saying it's bad but how about using some of the time to develop your spirit?

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    2. wow, love this comment about true fasting. I really have to make time to truly fast this year - do it wholeheartedly (not just for weight loss and counting the hours till break-time *covers face*).

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  7. About the fasting to see how much weight one has lost, you are on your own o. I've not done that before, lol.

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    1. You'll be surprised how many people are secretly waiting to check the scale

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  8. I’ve always had the impression that the intent of fasting was to tackle and get rid of serious problems. For instance in Matthew 17 vs 14 – 21, where Jesus heals a boy suffering from epilepsy, and when his disciples asked why they were unable to heal the boy and cast out the demon like he did, Jesus responds “But this kind goeth not out save by prayer and fasting” (vs. 21, ASV). The “this kind” reference made me believe that problems/issues do have levels. Some problems can be settled with just prayers, while other types need to be backed up with fasting. Due to this belief, I’ve never regarded fasting as an act to abstain from certain pleasures or subdue the flesh.
    After Nemi’s comment, I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that I’ve always fasted with the intent to “twist God’s arm.” Apart from the corporate fasting (which I just do because it’s mandated), I usually fast when I have a big dilemma, hoping and believing that things will turn around, and because I have given up my physical sustenance (food), perhaps my sacrifice can sway God to have mercy on me, and fix my problem fast. Fasting to me has primarily been an act of plea and prayer, and not so much a moment of spiritual introspection and growth. Instead of focusing on hearing from God, I usually end the fast with some sense of assurance that I’ve done my part (fasted and prayed), so next step is for God to do his thing and fix it.
    Employing my result based focus, I fasted so many times last year, using the New Year’s 100 days corporate fast as a jumpstart, however it was a rough and disappointing year. Needless to say, this year I scoffed at all fasting, because apparently it was not working like I intended it to do. Now I am thinking that perhaps at some point, God may have spoken to me, but my ears were sealed, because my eyes were focused on seeing proof.
    So this series came at the apt time. Matter of fact, your first entry in this series, is one of the main reasons I decided not to partake in my church’s yearly fast. After reading that verse in plain English, I took time to contemplate on my relationship with God, and examine my intentions and expectations. In pondering about whether I was worshipping God with my heart or following rules, I questioned why I was fasting again. I wondered if I was doing it for the right reasons or just following the crowd, and concluded that for me fasting had become a rote performance. Therefore, my much needed reassessment.
    I do think you should bring up the different kind of fasts, because I’m curious and I got some questions. Fasting is now or (has it always been, and I missed it?) synonymous with curbing excesses, self-discipline, abstinence, especially from what gives pleasure, and of course social media/technology. And here I am thinking it means to deny your body food, and while the flesh is literally weak, you press on and draw strength from God, and seek breakthrough concerning what instigated the fast. I feel like if I abstained from social media and also ate stringently (like give up carbs, and I loveeeee my carbs, bread and butter gives me pleasure, and I eat it in excess – I digress), I still wouldn’t feel like I was fasting. I feel like eliminating food completely has to be part of the process. Am I antiquated in my thinking?
    May God help me to know him better and do better.

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    1. I don't think you're antiquated in that line of thinking. People still do food fasts and that's what was done in the Bible. However, the world has changed a lot since then, so modifications have happened along the way. Maybe one way to go from a self-focused fast is to fast for wisdom - let knowledge and understanding be the goal. After all, Solomon asked for wisdom from God and He granted it. And there are so many verses about asking God for wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, etc. You can use those as your meditating verses.

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    2. Oh yes, and something that may be dangerous about fasting with only a particular result in mind is that if it doesn't happen the way you want it, it can be easy to lose focus on God and say that because your wish wasn't granted then there's never a point in fasting.

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  9. I love this series, Berry. :)

    Fasting is a spiritual exercise. When combined with sincere prayer can help you prepare yourself to receive God’s blessings. It is a source of spiritual strength. Through fasting we can feel closer to God and strengthen our testimony.

    Like Favour aforementioned, it keeps the flesh in submission.

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    1. Thanks Nwamaka. I agree that fasting makes you feel closer to God. I still struggle a little bit sometimes, trying to find other things to occupy myself instead of reading the Bible or praying. But I hope I get better and stronger with time.

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  10. I got to this point sometime last year-October. I literally felt empty each time i fasted because it was more like i focused on what i wanted i.e twisting God's hands.I came to realize i always felt empty because i payed little or no attention to my personal relationship with God while in a fast. But now,i know better. I love your blog!! :)

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    1. At the end of the day, the relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit is what counts. Not every time asking for this or that. How's the relationship? He wants us to be close to and depend on Him.

      Thanks!

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Reading your comments ALWAYS makes me smile. I hope you smile when I reply :)