After the last eight days, you have likely noticed that the resetting of your life requires more space. By space I mean time. You may have some “thank yous” you still want to send out but have not had time to write. Perhaps you are still working on your decree, and you are needing some extra time to write. Above all, Jesus is more than likely putting thoughts in your mind through His Holy Spirit, and you are wanting more time to let those thoughts crystallize so you can really clarify His voice.
My point is that you are likely in the midst of a battle for your time. On one side, you have a fight to keep up with the activities that ordinarily clutter your life, which may even surpass God on your priority list. On the other side, God is seeking to recenter Christ in your life so all your clutter begins to order itself in submission to Him. As Christ retunes your heart, you can engage in activities in a way that will revolutionize your spirit and make the things you do flourish and prosper.
Now, in frustration, you may be feeling like throwing up your hands and saying, “This 21-day fast is a great idea, but I have many priorities pressing in all around me." You might be inwardly screaming, "I just don’t have enough time!" Don't give up; you're right on schedule. This is exactly what a fast is all about— the power to create more time for a limited season to draw closer to Christ, so He can retune your habits and desires.
As a teenager, I memorized a proverb when I began to walk with Christ: “Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established" (Proverbs 16:3). From my beginning days of walking with Christ, I always thought about it this way: if I were to commit everything I did to Christ, the act of committing my deeds and actions would automatically make what I planned to do more likely to actually happen. If my works belonged to God, then all my planning concerning tomorrow would be founded on the certainty that Christ would lead me in doing what furthered my commitment to Him.
Here is the simple example of how it all started for me. When I committed my works to God, one of the first things I felt led to do was to keep the church lawn mowed over a summer. This mowing of the lawn became a commitment. As you can imagine, mowing the church lawn was not always convenient, and I was often tempted to call in and cancel for other plans. The commitment, however, caused my actual plans to be established and unchanged; I would go mow the lawn. I can remember saying no to plans I wanted to make and instead go down to the church for the two-hour mow. My plans were established for me as I dragged myself to the church to fulfill what I had committed to do. While pushing that mower, I began to pray and sing, so mowing the church lawn presented another plan— to pray and worship as I mowed. By the end of the summer, I delighted in saying no to other plans as I looked forward to the two-hour mow, which was accompanied by worship and prayer.
It was there that I learned to pray, worship, ask God questions, and contemplate what Jesus was teaching me in Scripture. The church yard-mowing experience became the spot I learned to first meditate. The committed work of lawn-mowing commenced certain practices in my life that I still practice these many years later. What happened to me in mowing the church lawn was a revolutionizing experience.
Maybe you have committed to the work of fasting for twenty-one days; let that commitment establish your plans.
“Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive, so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." Matthew 6:16-18 CSB
Jesus taught His disciples to pray and had taught them an outline prayer. The prayer He taught them has been dubbed the "Lord's Prayer" for many years. After teaching His disciples to pray, Jesus taught them to fast.
One of the first points everyone makes concerning His teaching on fasting is the observation that Jesus did not leave fasting as an unlikely practice for a few. Jesus rather stated that when His followers fasted, they would simultaneously pray and fast, unlike hypocrites.
Hypocrite was a word used for an actor or one who who would speak and act the part of another character. In Scripture, Jesus used this word to speak of those pretending to be lovers and followers of Yahweh, when in their hearts they were not.
The religious would use fasting as a mask to make others think they were doing some spiritual or good deed. Jesus sought to separate the practice of fasting from every form of pretension or good deed. Fasting, in Jesus' mind, had one purpose: it was to help people get alone with the Father to concentrate on Him. The goal wasn't to do something good, noble, or even spiritual— the goal was to be touched and to touch God.
Jesus’ followers were not to fast and then think of their fast as a sad, difficult experience, where their abstinence from certain activities was incurring an almost unbearable hardship. They were not to act as though lack of food were killing them nor that it was even an unpleasant experience.
Jesus also encouraged those fasting not to be silly and add a bunch of goofy practices, like not washing their faces or avoiding a little oil on their dry skin. They were not to try to make life as miserable as possible. They were to go about their days with normal cheer, for while they were abstaining from food, they were feasting on God. The activity of fasting was actually not seeking to make their life more miserable but more joyous, as they were drawing close to God and dropping unwanted addictions and hurtful practices from their lives.
Jesus was not looking for unnecessary aesthetic hardships, but for well-aimed abstinence of some things, for a short time, to help them draw close to God. Jesus promised that those who presented fasting as a hardship would receive their earthly reward, but those who fasted in secret would receive the touch of the Heavenly Father and their reward from heaven.
This brings us to today's daily commitment. By now you should be wanting to spend a bit more time with Christ, thinking through the things He is seeking to put in your spirit. You might need a bit more time to write your letters of thanks to those you committed to earlier in the fast. Jesus might be putting other acts and ideas on your heart to do, read, and think about. You may find yourself needing more time.
This is when you welcome the idea of fasting a meal a day for the rest of the fast. Most people spend between thirty to forty-five minutes preparing or going to purchase a meal. Here is some time you could pick up in your day to spend with Christ, allowing Him to change your inside.
Beginning tomorrow, you will have twelve days left in this 21-day journey. Taking those next eleven to twelve days and turning them into opportunities to seek Christ can really add up. You could find another eight to nine hours of time with Jesus, allowing Him to revolutionize your heart. It would be like giving a day of your work life to Jesus.
Commit this work, a meal a day, to the Lord, and let Him establish some plans in your life, which might revolutionize you for a lifetime.
Make sure you are concentrating on your water intake as you begin to kick up your fast schedule. Make sure you have stayed strong in avoiding junk food, junk beverages, and sugar. If these foods have not been eliminated, fasting one meal can become more difficult than necessary.
If you do not regularly eat three meals a day, you might put prayer where a meal would normally be scheduled. Adding a prayer time here may, at the end of the fast, help you establish a more consistent and healthy eating habit. Skipping meals is really not a good idea, so if you do pray in that time, it might help you become more consistent.
Daily Journal Thoughts
On your "Prayer and Fasting Commitments” page, write down the date.
Next write out your commitment. It might be worded like this:
“Jesus, I seek by Your grace to fast one meal a day, for the remainder of this 21-Day Fast, to spend time with You.”
Next, go to your "Daily Journal," and write the date at the top of the page.
Begin writing a prayer to God, asking for Him to help you with the next twelve days. Begin then to schedule out the meals you will miss over this time period. Some days you might want to miss a different meal. Check your schedule; let your commitment to the work of fasting establish your plans.
After you have written your schedule down, anticipate the kinds of challenges that might seek to stop you from fasting certain meals. Write those challenges out as you ask for Christ to providentially protect the times you have set aside for fasting.
While you fast, never focus on not eating, but focus on the times you have planned to spend with Jesus. Let what is happening in your times with Jesus— whether He is leading you to read Scripture or inspired books or writing or meditating or planning— capture your heart.