Why Fast, and How I Failed on Day 1

One of the questions I had as I approached this fast was:

Why? Why should I fast?

In asking this question, I assumed that we should fast. Maybe first I should have asked that question:

Should we fast?

Not wanting to take anything at face value, I did look into the question of whether or not fasting is something that the NT church should engage in.

In the gospels, the Pharisees question Jesus because He and His disciples do not observe the twice weekly fasts the Pharisees had required. Jesus answers them by suggesting that it is not appropriate for the attendants to the bridegroom to mourn while the bridegroom is with them. Some, using these verses, came to the conclusion that a new era of salvation had arrived and that old rituals need no longer be observed.

However, Jesus is recorded as fasting during His time in the wilderness, prior to the start of His ministry. This goes along with other examples of biblical fasts as preparation for ministry: Moses, Elijah, the church in Antioch. Fasting is frequently associated with people seeking and preparing for divine communications. Jesus also appears to take it for granted that people will fast as one of a number of religious disciplines.

What I walk away with is the idea that Jesus did not see fasting as a discipline in its own right, but as an accompaniment to other activities: prayer, evangelism, etc.

Interestingly enough this same idea is presented in the Old Testament.

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? {Isaiah 58:6-7}

The people of Israel had grown frustrated that God was ignoring their pleas and times of fasting. He, in turn, had grown frustrated with them, because their fasting was making no impact on their daily lives. The problem was that they weren’t really seeking out relationship with Him, they just wanted Him to do things for them. God wants us to fast in such a way that our life is impacted, which is seen through our treatment of others.


I have a tendency to be a little legalistic.

For instance, yesterday was day one of our 21 day fast; Josh was reading Eli a story before bed and I wanted to write this post. Three of our four children were in bed, and I had said I wouldn’t go online after the kids were in bed. The legalistic me thought that I was cheating by being online. The rational me knew that I was not violating the spirit of what I’d said I’d do, because the point was to spend time with God, with Josh.

Obviously, since this post is complete, you know which me won out.

What you don’t know is that I failed. Already. On day one.

Josh fell asleep while putting Eli to bed; he didn’t mean to, the poor guy is just exhausted. I didn’t wake him because he had to be at work at 5:30 AM. It’s ok, I read my Bible and prayed on my own. Part of being a parent is learning to adapt to unexpected circumstances and spontaneous changes in plan.

We’ll pray together tonight.

We had some good conversation at dinner last night.

We’re fine.

God is gracious; we saw above that His main goal in us fasting isn’t the fast.

And I guess we didn’t fail, because we still didn’t watch TV or snack…

Have you ever failed spectacularly, from the get-go, on a promise you’d made to God?

For those of you who are joining me in this fast, how did Day 1 go for you?

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25 thoughts on “Why Fast, and How I Failed on Day 1

  1. Thanks for sharing! I am coming to a close on my Daniel fast. And I have realized how purposeful I have to be in order that it not simply become a “habit of health.” His mercies are new every single morning. Praying He grants great wisdom as you seek after Him.

    1. Habit of health. I like that. :) Thank you for the prayers, Lara, and I am praying for you that as you come off your fast God continues to speak to your heart in new ways!

  2. We, too, failed!
    We attended a get together for a Military friend who has returned home last night. Our plan was to spend a few hours socializing and catching up, then head home right when the kids would normally be in bed so that they would fall sound asleep in the car and we could walk them right to their beds when we returned home. Well…that did NOT happen! When we got home around 9:00, they were both wide awake ready to party the night away. This is SO not like my kids whatsoever. Caleb is usually always in bed no later than 8:00 and Emma follows not long after. So, we considered reading and praying while they were just up with us like normal devotional readings, but quickly decided that they would just be a distraction and with this particular type of deep prayer and reading, it would not be a good idea to include them. We, instead, did everything we could to get them to relax and fall asleep. 2 hours later…everyone was in bed!!! By that time it was after 11:00 and my hubby and I were exhausted ourselves. We did both pray, however, we decided to not read together since we both knew it would be rushed and not being done for the intended purpose.
    Tonight we have NO where to go. Praying the nightly routine goes down as normal and come 9:00 or so my hubby and I can spend some time praying and seeking Him.

    I did feel disappointed in myself as well for already failing on day 1, but I know God knows and understands the circumstance and would rather have all of me and not just the “let’s rush through and get this done because we are tired” part!

    Praying for you and your hubby to be able to spend this evening, together, seeking out His plan!

    1. Oh man, we all have nights like those! Which is exactly why I’m not beating myself up. God does know and understand our circumstances and what you said about not rushing through it perfectly illustrates what He was talking to me about fasting. The purpose isn’t the fast, the bible reading, the prayer…the purpose is to spend quality time with Him. It’s not another item to check off the to-do list. Praying for you as well, that you would get the time you’re needing. :)

  3. Failed? All the time! I’ve said for years that I wanted to read the Bible through in a year. Never lived up to it. So far so good this year as my wife and I are doing it together- I guess a little personal accountability doesn’t hurt, right?

    1. Personally accountability works wonders for me. When my grandma was alive I hated telling her that I was wanting to diet…she would call me on whatever I ate that wasn’t healthy or allowed. :)

  4. friend, God had you all over my prayer time last night. Fasting is such a process of discovery… of God… of self… of life. Know I am praying :)
    p.s. my post that linked back to your post went up today :)

    1. That blesses my heart, Jenny! :) I really appreciate it. I’m wearing my grace necklace today and thinking of you. And, thanks for the link.

  5. FWIW, I don’t think you failed here. If you had put being online ahead of your kids, then maybe. But if your hubby was reading the story and you were free of that situation, I don’t think God would begrudge you posting something to encourage His children like this.

    1. I agree. I think it’s just that I have such a hard time with self- control, so I don’t want to even get close to the line. It’s the legalistic me coming out. :) I’m learning to give her grace.

  6. Good post Melissa.

    I often wonder if we have “failed” by not living to our expectations. The thing is, that we have to leave room for what’s important in life. We are not held to strict rules over fasting any more that we are over the sabbath, because we were not created for it, but it for us.

    The heart is where the seed is, and your heart is clearly on the right thing. Continue honoring God with your gifts and tomorrow is day #2 (or is that today?)

    1. “We were not created for it, but it for us.”

      I’ve always loved that idea relating to the Sabbath, and I appreciate you connecting it to fasting for me. There’s so much truth in that statement. God doesn’t make rules for the sake of rules, but He creates boundaries and guidelines that, if followed, will lead us to a deeper relationship with Him and others. Today is Day #2, and I’m hoping that it goes better tonight; only because I’m really looking forward to hearing from Him and the refreshment I know will come with it. :)

  7. Good thoughts… Jesus also said, “When you fast…” in His talk about fasting, praying, and giving in Matthew 6. Since none of us are saying we should have stopped praying and giving, I assume we should still fast as well.

    And Jesus said that “while the bridegroom is here, my disciples don’t fast… When the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast.” That’s now, we’re waiting for His return… So we fast.

    And as far as failing… I think He loves it when we do things because we wanna know Him, because we love Him. We’re attempting to know Him at a deeper level, to increase in our passion and desire for Him. I think you’re doing that. Not an excuse to bail out continually, but just a little grace to say I think you’re heart is pleasing to Him.

    1. “just a little grace to say you’re heart is pleasing to Him.”

      Thanks for that Kely! :) And, I’m sure you have those moments where your kids change the expectations you had for the day. Haha! It’s all about learning to go with the flow…

  8. Hi, friend!
    So, I decided to fast food during the day (basically sunrise to sunset, and Christy is fasting lunches). I was doing a little research on what other people say about fasting (I am always a little disappointed by what many evangelicals say about fasting), and I found an article by a Catholic guy that talked very practically about fasting. One little idea that struck me was that it was viewed directly as an opportunity to give more – I’m not eating my food, so I must be able to give it to somebody else. Since neither of us will be buying lunch for the better part of the month, we have the opportunity to give away the money or meals we had budgeted for. That was an unexpected turn from this little season. My sister is (as I type) having their second kid, so I think we’re going to bring prepared food to them a couple times.

    Anyway, I just wanted you guys to know that we’re walking this one with you. We’re praying for you guys, and taking great encouragement that this is something that God has for US in common.

    1. First off, congrats in being an uncle again! :) That’s so exciting! And secondly, I love that idea. I have heard of people doing something similar (using their funds, resources or time to benefit others), and I think it’s such a fantastic idea! Josh and I will definitely be praying for you and Christy over this season, and beyond (um…can you tell I’ve been watching Toy Story a lot lately?)

  9. have i ever failed spectacularly? absolutely. almost every day in fact. throughout my day i promise uninterrupted Us time but something always seems to crop up to interrupt. ((sigh)).

    day one was okay for me. . .no major breakthroughs or answers to all my problems, but like you said. . .i need to seek this time as a time to KNOW God more, not just see if He will tell me what to do and make my path easier. i need to seek Him and His heart, not merely fast out of legalism and in hopes that it may change my circumstance. i need to seek His heart far more than i seek His hand.

  10. Melissa,

    Came here from Dustin’s blog, “Abraham Chronicles”.

    I appreciate you using Isaiah as your reference to why we should fast. For me, I fast as a form of spiritual warfare. I fast to break the yoke of bondage on a person or a situation. I know of folks who fast because they feel they need to to clearly “hear from God”, but….nope, not me. Fasting is warfare. Plain and simple.

    Consider, Jesus in Mark 9:25-29. He casts out a deaf and mute spirit from a small boy that His disciples could not. Later He tells them the reason they failed is because that particular demon/spirit only comes out through much prayer and fasting. Fasting, here, is shown in The New Testament to be a tool for spiritual warfare, specifically deliverance. Breaking yokes of bondage, yes? (However, let me say that the original Greek does not mention ‘fasting’, it only mentions prayer. Take that for what it is worth.)

    My two cents. Blessings and power to you and yours!

    1. I appreciate your two cents, and I’m glad you found your way here from Dustin’s blog. :)

      Fasting can definitely be a part of spiritual warfare, I think that goes along with what I was saying about fasting not being the purpose but an accompaniment to other spiritual disciplines.

      The only actual mention of Jesus fasting is the period prior to His temptation in the desert; this was a form of preparation for ministry. Fasting is only implied in the other instances that people point to. The Matthew version of Jesus casting out the evil spirit does mention fasting in the original text, so we can infer that they were fasting during the Transfiguration, which happened just previous to that.

      In Acts, the early church leaders fasted and prayed before setting apart Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for their missionary work, and also when they appointed new elders to the churches. This, again, all points to preparation for ministry and clarity of God’s purposes.

      All of these instances are also times of spiritual warfare though, which I believe is a daily part of our lives. So, I guess I conclude that we agree. :) Nice to have you here as I have enjoyed your comments on other blogs around our little community.

      Blessings to you today as well! :)

  11. Melissa…I was about to sit down and write a blog post. But, I thought I would get inspired by your blog first. What do you know that you blogged about the exact same thing, even the exact same passage of Scripture I’ve been pondering all day? I’m not doing the fasting thing, but today has been an epic fail for me on all accounts. It’s been a bummer of a day and I’m so completely drained. Thank goodness His mercies are new every, single morning. And, I love what you wrote about Isaiah because it is so in line with what Ps. Steve has been teaching us and I’ve been so encouraged and challenged by those thoughts. I pray God brings refreshing and strength, to you AND Josh, tomorrow.

    1. Don’t you love how God confirms things in our life through others, no matter the distance? One of my favorite things about blogging is discovering times when God is speaking the same thing to me and someone thousands of miles away. It makes it feel more like a family. :) I’m sorry you had such a rough day. I’m praying that today goes better for you and that you receive the same refreshing and strength you prayed Josh & I would get.

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