Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Growing up in the church, I remember exactly one time that I participated in a fast. It was the summer before my junior year of high school and we were going through several months of preparation before a youth group mission trip to Mexico. We had several Bible verses to memorize, service project hours to complete, and even some essays to write. The preparation culminated in a (non-mandatory, I'm pretty sure) 30-hour fast. My friends and I faced it much as teenagers would, more of a survival of the fittest competition rather than an opportunity for spiritual growth. I made it through the 30 hours, praying often and consuming only water and juice, and celebrated with my friends at Wednesday night church by engorging ourselves on several 6-ft subs brought in by the youth ministry interns.

Fasting, to me, always seemed like one of those disciplines that was often talked about but rarely practiced. And those who practiced it individually were only the spiritual giants, maybe of the John-the-Baptist, eating locusts variety. Or, as was in my case, people fasted in community for a specific reason, more as an experience than anything else. (Note: I am merely sharing my personal impressions. It's quite possible that many people I knew fasted regularly and I just didn't know about it.) When I moved to Natal in 2007 I was intrigued to find a body of believers that included individual fasting in their regular spiritual diet.

Our church in Natal engages in two to five church-wide fasts per year. Usually they are included in a week-long prayer and fasting campaign, where we are given prayer partners and asked to pray together for a specific subject all week long, and then choose something from which to fast. Food is never emphasized, as it's become pretty obvious that many of us have idols whose absence hurts much more when removed than food. :) Some choose chocolate, some the internet, others video games, some choose meat (a daily staple in a Brazilian diet,) others, soft drinks, while others, full food fasts.

In addition to these church-wide fasts, however, it's not at all uncommon to hear our members mention their fasting on random occasions, never in a "look at me, I'm fasting" kind of way, but in a "really, stop offering me chocolate cake, believe me, I want it, but I'm fasting" kind of way. They always have a purpose for their fast, though we don't always know why. Most recently I've known of sisters and brothers fasting before the big college-entrance exam, fasting until a member who had left came back, fasting for the conversion of their parents, fasting to gain full confidence in God over a troubling situation.

Maybe it's nothing special to you, but I sure think it is. I'm so encouraged to be surrounded by people who take their relationship with God so seriously that they are willing to make these kinds of sacrifices for a greater purpose on a regular basis! And, it might be interesting to note, the specific fasts I mentioned above were all young people like myself, in their twenties, people who are learning very early on in their faith the importance of fasting as a spiritual discipline.

This past Sunday was the last day of one of our week-long prayer and fasting campaigns. The theme this time was "be," praying to grow in our being as God's servants. And...what's the best way to end a church-wide fast? With a church-wide breakfast, of course! So before worship we all came together to break our fast and celebrate the ways in which we had seen God grow us in our being throughout the week. After everyone had eaten and everything had been cleaned up, we shared together in communion to mark the end of our experience.

I feel pretty blessed to be a part of this family.