Lessons from the Ministry Frontlines: Things Learned Through Prayer

Fasting: An Invitation to Feast
by Leslie Royalty
Nov/Dec 2009

Fasting has been a spiritual discipline since the church's inception. Even before the formation of the Christian church, fasting had been incorporated regularly in Judaism. Countless examples throughout the Old and New Testament as well as in church history convey the regular practice and value of fasting.

Traditionally, fasting has been defined as "an abstinence from food, or a limiting of one's food, esp. when voluntary and as a religious observance."* Throughout Scripture we see that fasting can vary greatly in length of time, whether it is practiced individually or corporately, and also in its purpose. As time has passed, the concept of fasting has broadened from the traditional realm of food to include such things as media, activities, or even speaking etc. Regardless of the specifics, the primary purpose in doing so is to position ourselves with an open and attentive heart before God. This may involve a variety of different postures, such as intercession, listening to God, seeking guidance or direction, preparation for an important event, repentance and cleansing, or a combination of any of these things. By no means is this list exhaustive! Regardless, fasting in general has been characterized primarily by an absence of something or refraining from something. However, I have personally experienced the Lord reframing my view of fasting, causing me to add one more posture to the list. Feasting. Now I realize this is not exactly something one would naturally associate with fasting. In fact at first it seems to be quite contradictory. However, I have been discovering that they are actually beautifully complementary. Please allow me to share.

I have been practicing the discipline of fasting on and off since about my senior year in high school. Since I am still relatively young, that does not amount to many years of experience, but for me personally it has still produced valuable insight. Naturally, there have been seasons of more frequent fasting than at other times, yet as I have continued to grow in this discipline I have consistently experienced its fruit. A particularly defining moment came one morning during my time in college. It was a day I had intended to fast from food. Now for someone who really likes to eat, I rarely look forward to fasting. In fact, it most often requires a good amount of willpower to follow through. It really is called a spiritual discipline for a reason. Because that's what it takes. Anyway, on this particular morning on my way to class, I was aware of all that would be required of me that day (classes, studying, baby-sitting, etc) and was not exactly excited about going without food. Aware of my need for God to sustain me, I began to pray that Jesus would feed me with Himself. Instantly, the verse in John 6 came to my mind, where Jesus says, "I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." That's when I felt the shift begin to take place. I sensed Jesus' clear invitation. "I want you to FEAST on ME today". What a joy! Rather than focusing on what I was going without, Jesus was calling me to come to him and FEAST! Just like I would partake of a big banquet, to dig into him, to drink deeply of HIM. To eat heartily and savor His Word. To allow Him to nourish me and satisfy me with Himself. To enjoy Him, to delight in His presence within and around me. Just as Isaiah 55 says, "Listen to me and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." What an invitation! Then the verse came to my mind, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." As I was still walking to class, I was experiencing that truth in a very real way, for God was feeding me with the Word that he was bringing to my mind in those very moments!

Since then, God has continued that paradigm shift within me. Rather than emphasizing the deprivation and absence of food, I believe God invites us to FEAST on Him. Refraining from eating is simply the means to the end, not the end in itself. It creates the space for us to be able to turn to God, to focus on Him, and feast! Even better, unlike our body's natural response to increased food intake with a corresponding decrease in hunger, on a spiritual level, the more we feast on God our hunger will only increase! I don't know about you, but that's an eater's dream! So I would like to pass along the invitation to you, to come and feast on our limitless God. Enjoy!


Leslie Royalty Nov/Dec 2009 Issue
Leslie Royalty is in charge of Prayer Minister Care at CHM.