A large part of the reason that Christians throughout history have continued to follow Jesus' instructions when he said, "When you fast...," is that fasting can have the effect of increasing our ability to pay attention to God. In our Apprentice Groups, we practice a kind of fasting that has nothing to do with food: a 48-hour media fast. I've heard the author of the Apprentice Series, James Bryan Smith, explain this by saying that in generations past, fasting from food was one of the most effective ways that Christians could train themselves to deal with the things that distract us from God. Today, however, our options for distraction have multiplied so dramatically that fasting from food may not be the best place for many of us to start, but instead he gives the suggestion of a 48-hour fast from media. Here is part of his description of the exercise:
This week I am asking you to consider fasting from all media for two days. This will be challenging, but don't be alarmed: so far no one has died from it. The forty-eight-hour media fast includes
- the internet
- newspapers and magazines
- radio stations
- video games
- iPods, mp3 players and stereos
What will you do with your time? How will you entertain yourself? Try playing a board game or card game with your friends. Read a book... Take a walk, get coffee with friends, exercise. You are beginning to change your mind, which has been filled with false narratives about who you are and what life is about. For forty-eight hours free your mind from the junk; give some space to the Holy Spirit to renew your thinking. This is your way of saying, "I am not under the dominion of the media. I am going to show that I can live without it." (1)
I think he's on to something that is profoundly wise. Some of us may have attempted "normal" fasting (from food), considered ourselves to have failed at it, and given up on it. There could be a variety of reasons for this. For me, for much of my life, one reason has been that I've eaten so badly and been addicted to unhealthy foods that fasting was a more intense fight against the addiction than I could handle. Whether or not that is also the case for you, perhaps another place to start is to do what Smith suggests and free ourselves from the noise of all of the kinds of media that constantly surround us. That opens up space for God to work in us, which is the goal of any kind of fasting–or any kind of spiritual practice.
Again, as we have already done a couple of times this week, I invite you to consider this kind of fasting as you look ahead to Good Friday. How will you want to shape your life that day? From which things will you want to free yourself so that you can give your attention more fully to God?
A Prayer for the Day:
Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures: Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties, may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary, and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.*
A Prayer for the Week:
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.*
*From The Book of Common Prayer (1) See James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character of Christ
[This is part of 40 Days of Prayer: Daily Emails for Lent]