Two Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian LifeSabbath Keeping FastingA Renewed SpiritualityNurturing Hope: Christian Pastoral Care in the Twenty-First CenturyThe Power of ListeningJoy Together: Spiritual Practices for Your CongregationPersonality Type in CongregationsPrayers of the Old TestamentPrayers of the New TestamentSabbathFriendingA Garden of Living Water: Stories of Self-Discovery and Spiritual GrowthDeath in Dunedin: A NovelDead Sea: A NovelDeadly Murmurs: A NovelBeating Burnout in CongregationsReaching Out in a Networked WorldEmbracing MidlifeAdvent DevotionalDraw Near: Lenten Devotional by Lynne Baab, illustrated by Dave Baab

Fasting matters in 2019

Lynne Baab • Saturday October 19 2019

Fasting matters in 2019

I am convinced that in 2019 and into the next decade we need to encourage creative ways of fasting, especially fasts from technology. Parents need to talk naturally to their kids about foregoing certain aspects of technology for finite periods of time. Parents need to model it, and children and teens need to be encouraged to try it.

I’ve been pondering what this might look like, and I was reminded of the interviews I did with Christians overseas for my book on fasting. Friends connected me with people they knew on just about every continent. All of my overseas interviewees talked about fasting from food. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was stunned by how many people talked to me about fasting from things other than food, but none of those interviewees came from overseas.

One of my overseas interviewees, a pastor’s wife in Colombia, told me about the fasts in her congregation. They fast together one week in January every year to ask for God’s guidance for their congregation, and she described some remarkable guidance they had received in that week. They also have a congregational fast day every week on Thursdays. On Sunday in worship, prayer requests for the fast day are laid out.

I was impressed with the variety of ways of fasting in that congregation. People on medication and those who work in physical jobs were encouraged to simplify their meals on fast days. Perhaps they could eat less meat or refrain from eating a favorite food. Children and teenagers were encouraged to give up something special like dessert or other sweets. Healthy adults were encouraged to drink water and eat no food at all.

For people in that congregation, fasting is a part of family life. I imagine that on Wednesdays, parents talk with kids and teens about options for the fast day, and I imagine that parents remind kids about one of two of the prayer requests that might be meaningful to them.

I think this pattern could be carried over to fasts from technology.

Have you tried a Lenten fast from social media or maybe just a weekend or afternoon? Perhaps a week-long fast – or just an afternoon – from online news for the purpose of praying for our world rather than worrying about it? You might reflect on some aspect of technology or something you like to do on your phone that easily hooks you. You could refrain from it for a morning, a day or a weekend. Have you tried turning your phone off entirely for an hour or a half day?

Have you talked to family members and friends about these fasts?

So many things surprised me when I did the interviews for my book on fasting, and another relevant surprise is the fact that so many people talked to me about fasting with others: a spouse, family, friends, small group, or (in the case of overseas interviewees and one American congregation I found) their entire congregation. In response to that, I think one of the important aspects of fasts from technology in any form is talking about it with family and friends, asking for prayer, and encouraging others to join in.

Talking with others before, during and after fasts seemed very significant to my interviewees as they tried to listen to God’s guidance for how to pray during fasts.

One of my interviewees gave me vivid words that have shaped the way I understand fasting. She had fasted in several forms, including many fasts from all food and a fast from leading music at church that helped her deepen her commitment to intercessory prayer. She said that “fasting is like tying a ribbon around your finger to remember God.”

Based on the overwhelming number of hours people spend on cell phones, yes, perhaps we need to fast from technology in order to pray about and reflect on the ways we use technology. But maybe we need to fast from technology or other significant aspects of our lives simply to make space for God, to remind ourselves to pray for the needs we know about, to remember God is present and wanting to speak to us.

Removing anything that plays a major role in our lives, for a finite period of time, frees up time for prayer and brings an awareness of God’s presence. Fasting, the ribbon tied around our finger to remember God, matters today in our highly distracted and preoccupied lives. It matters for adults, teens and kids. We need to talk about creative ways to do it.

Next week: how I changed my mind about autumn. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love to get new subscribers. Sign up below to receive an email when I post on this blog.

This is the last post in a series about fasting. Previous posts:

Next post »« Previous post