Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fasting With Children

I think fasting is an important spiritual discipline, but it seems like a lost one in our society. Fasting is abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. You fast to draw closer to God, to spend some more focused time in prayer or Bible study, or to cry out to God about a particular situation. I know it is SO hard for a mom of young children to fast, especially when you are their main caregiver! First of all being alone is almost unheard of - but preparing the food they eat is so difficult too.
If you have never before fasted, it is an awesome experience! As a side benefit a lot of health books suggest it for health and not spiritual reasons. It is a great way to cleanse your body physically; you'll find after a fast you have more energy and clarity.

Here are some tips for Fasting With Children.
1. You don't have to do an absolute fast! A normal fast is no food, just water. But the Bible speaks of partial fasts (Daniel 10:3). You can fast from media -tv, computer! Or anything that is an addiction (coffee, Dr. Pepper). Fasting is essentially giving up something - making a sacrifice to honor God. Ideally, focusing that time you would spend on what you gave up -on God through prayer or study.
2. Trade off with your spouse. I don't like to fast at the same time as my husband. This way, he can prepare the evening meal and take care of the children and I can use that time away from the family (and the food) to pray or study.
3. You don't have to hold out in a cabin in the woods all alone in order to fast. The work of your day becomes a spiritual sacrifice. You can take a different attitude into your day, praising God and quickly praying for everything you see. "Thank you God for the feet that fill these shoes left out in the living room, thank you God for my active son who created all this laundry." God really spoke to me when my kids were preschoolers about spending time with Him in little snippets all day long. Some seasons of life, I think God understands that you can't spend an hour every morning with him. When my kids were babies I kept Bibles in several locations and would catch a minute here and there.
4. Lock the kids out. Tell them you are taking a few minutes to read your Bible. This is good behavior to model - letting them see the importance God is in your life. They will be okay! Time it carefully when they are involved in something! Go to the library and get some Hank the Cowdog on CD and let them listen in their rooms while they play. Works for me!
5. It is great to have a cooking day before your fast so that you won't have to be cooking during the fast. A big batch of pasta that can be eaten off of for several days works well.
6. Cover the fast in prayer - before. Pray for simple things like your kids to leave you alone so you can spend time with God. Sounds terrible, I know, but God gets it.
7. Get a great Bible referencing devotional or book to go through. I have been just LOVING going through Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. What an amazing book! I'm gonna be blogging about it some more soon.

Start slowly. If you have never fasted before try giving up one meal or two. Our church just completed a 3 day corporate fast and it was a great experience. I guess there might be some controversy about fasting. Jesus teaches about fasting in the Sermon on the Mount. He's teaching about giving and praying and fasting is right in there with them as part of Christian devotion. He said in Matt. 6:16, "When you fast..." he didn't command it, but it seems he assumed we would do it. Here's a cool statement by Richard Foster, "Certainly we have as much, if not more, evidence from the Bible for fasting as we have for giving. Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice than the giving of money." Pretty wild, huh? Any thoughts?

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