No doubt fasting has physical benefits. To be aware of these benefits would be helpful, and we will seek to understand them over the next twenty days. The primary benefit of fasting, however, is its power to focus our prayer life toward God.
Prayer is simply that activity which intentionally directs our communication with Christ, resulting in our growing more fully in Him.
Fasting is the word we use for abstaining, usually from food. As a verb it means: “1. to abstain from all food. 2. to eat only sparingly or of certain kinds of food, especially as a religious observance” (dictionary.com). The English word “fast," as an adjective, means "speedy, quick, swift.” At one time, however, it had another common meaning: "firmly fix." You could say, "he fastened the rope to a nail." You could also say, "The nail held the rope fast." So, the word “fast” was once commonly used not just for speed, but also in regard to holding something in a fixed position.
This is the thought behind fasting— it is the holding of our hearts in a fixed position to Christ, for a defined season, so that depth, love, and insight can grow.
We live in a world that, by nature, seems to destroy concentration, especially inner and spiritual concentration. Scriptures teach us that lust is the driving force for the cultures of this world (1John 2:16). Sometimes the only way to break the strangling power of lust in our lives is to reestablish inner concentration with the help of fasting.
Fasting is a gift that God can use to give you an extra boost of concentration. In the book Unseen, author Sara Hagerty makes the point of creating “white space” in our heads/lives for God to speak into. Fasting is one of the best ways to do this. Hagerty writes, “It’s one thing to get rid of the noise. It’s another thing to know how to invite Him into the white space” (165). Once the external life is restored to an ability to concentrate, and we invite Christ into that space, then our internal life can once again spiritually flourish.
To spiritually flourish is to enjoy a life where the inner-life relationships, love, vision, Jesus-thoughts, and Holy Spirit-energy are once again thriving and filling us, and filling us so deeply that our inner life pours out into this world.
It is so easy to assume our bodies have a spirit, in which case we should take great care of our bodies. It is actually truer that our spirit has a body. We are spiritual beings who have bodies, in which case greater care should be given our spirits. Sometimes it is necessary to make our bodies quiet so we can feed our spirit; what we feed our spirit will determine who we are.
Because we are spiritual beings with bodies, from time to time we take a time-out and tune out the noise of our bodies and minds so we can tune up the power of our spirits. Over the next twenty days, you will want to consider abstaining from some things so you can “fix" or "fasten" your concentration on Christ in a more elevated way.
We will carefully and slowly address the issue of food-fasting, along with other things. The last thing we desire is a religious fast or a secular fast for personal development. We are seeking the kind of fast built on the foundation of delight— delighting in renewing concentration on what and Who is really life.
Yesterday we talked about fasting time, a specific time in order to read this material and work though what you read.
Today we are moving toward considering food abstinence. We are beginning to consider not eating some foods or some meals, so we can work on the process of more fully concentrating on Christ.
Here comes an odd twist. If you are going to say no to eating some foods, you will want to say yes to the intake of something else.
Every cell of your body requires water. Seventy percent of your body is made up of water. The average adult U.S. resident drinks thirty-two ounces of water a day, while at the same time eliminating eighty ounces a day through breathing, sweating, and elimination. Lack of hydration creates many symptoms people live with unaware. Lack of hydration can incur various brain-related issues: the inability to focus, poor memory, brain fatigue, brain fog, headaches, sleep issues, anger, depression, and the list goes on. Attention-deficit disorder (A.D.D.) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (A.D.H.D.) are real conditions, but let me add as a personal testimony that hydration is potentially even more important than medicating the ailment.
The link between brain function and hydration is staggering.
Here are some stated effects of hydration or the lack thereof, from Merlin and Nancy Hearn.
1. Water gives the brain the electrical energy for every one of its functions.
2. When your brain is fully hydrated, you will think quickly and be more able to focus and experience clarity.
3. Studies on dehydration show that if a person is only one percent dehydrated, they can experience a five percent decrease in cognitive function.
4. If your brain drops two percent in body water, then short term memory can become fuzzy, focus problematic, and computation of numbers challenging.
5. Some researchers have linked dehydration with the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. While this might not be able to outright prove itself, it should make us ponder.
6. When the body is dehydrated, the body cannot detoxify properly, which leads to inflammation, compromised immune system, and illness.
If you are dehydrated, you will probably notice one of these symptoms:
a) Little or no urine
b) Urine that is not light yellow to colorless
c) Dry mouth
d) Sleepiness or fatigue
f) Extreme thirst
j) Dizziness or lightheadedness
It would be irresponsible to encourage anyone to consider fasting before encouraging them to shift their focus from food and beverages to drinking water.
Determining a water-intake habit for the next twenty days will hopefully extend to the rest of your life, as it is foundational for your body and spirit.
It is essential to make water the focus of your consumption before a flavored beverage and before food. This might seem way too practical, but rivers and wells and water are images in Scripture and spiritual life with Jesus. Remember, your material body is mostly water.
The goal of fasting is concentration; you want your mind in optimal performance.
He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. Psalm 78:15 ESV
He will drink from the brook by the road; therefore, he will lift up his head. Psalm 110:7 CSB
Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple and there was water flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the temple faced east. The water was coming down from under the south side of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Next he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around the outside to the outer gate that faced east; there the water was trickling from the south side. As the man went out east with a measuring line in his hand, he measured off a third of a mile and led me through the water. It came up to my ankles. Then he measured off a third of a mile and led me through the water. It came up to my knees. He measured off another third of a mile and led me through the water. It came up to my waist. Again he measured off a third of a mile, and it was a river that I could not cross on foot. For the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed on foot. He asked me, “Do you see this, son of man?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. When I had returned, I saw a very large number of trees along both sides of the riverbank. He said to me, “This water flows out to the eastern region and goes down to the Arabah. When it enters the sea, the sea of foul water, the water of the sea becomes fresh. Every kind of living creature that swarms will live wherever the river flows, and there will be a huge number of fish because this water goes there. Since the water will become fresh, there will be life everywhere the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside it from En-gedi to En-eglaim. These will become places where nets are spread out to dry. Their fish will consist of many different kinds, like the fish of the Mediterranean Sea. Yet its swamps and marshes will not be healed; they will be left for salt. All kinds of trees providing food will grow along both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. Each month they will bear fresh fruit because the water comes from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be used for food and their leaves for medicine." Ezekiel 47:1-12 CSB
Yes, this is an odd vision. Ezekiel, who saw the vision, was a prophet. He would receive visions from God during a time when the Jews were held as exiles, trapped in Babylon, forbidden from going home.
In April 573 B.C., the hand of the Lord came upon Ezekiel and he experienced another spiritual vision. In it he saw the land of Israel from the view of a high mountain. The city he saw was so incredibly large that it could not have been built with human hands. Therefore, the city Ezekiel saw was a symbol of the Messianic city, the eternal and ultimate city of God, demonstrating that God's city would one day be exalted as the city ruling over all other cities.
In the middle of the city was a temple, also a symbolic place. It symbolized Christ and His people gathering to worship Yahweh.
From beneath the threshold of this temple, a small river began to flow. As the river traveled farther from the temple, it grew in size until eventually making its way to the Dead Sea. The lifeless waters of that sea were then purified by the river, and the waters of the river became a huge source of life and healing for the entire world.
The point of the passage is clear: a river flowed from the center of the world's worship, and its waters provided life and healing for a world to come.
Just as that symbolic water will be a source of life and healing in the ultimate Kingdom of Christ, so today's water, a gift from God, is a source of healing and life to our bodies.
May we once again place water, not food and beverage, at the center of our appetite. May Jesus restore a proper desire for water, so all our other consumptions can take their place after we have consumed an adequate amount of water.
Do you pay attention to your water intake? Are you aware of the symptoms of dehydration? Healing is found in just drinking enough water each day. Eighty ounces should be our minimum while fasting.
Consider right now a drinking plan for the next twenty days. As you take each drink, ponder giving great thanks to God.
Daily Journal Thoughts
Under your "Prayer and Fasting Commitments” page, write down the date. Write out the commitment you feel the Lord is asking you to make concerning hydration. It might read something like this: “Jesus, by Your grace, I commit to drinking 100 ounces of water daily, and, with each drink, giving You thanks for my life and healing.”
Go now to the journal portion of your notebook. Write the date.
Begin to write out a prayer. You might want to ask God to empower you to drink 100 ounces (or whatever your amount) and hydrate every day. If you know you have not drunk enough water, ask Jesus to heal and bring life to your body as you engage in the discipline of drinking more water. Ask for Jesus to help you drink all other beverages in moderation. Finally, ask Him to remind you to give a short, at least mental, "Thank You," every time you take a drink.