by Josh Porter
Begin with prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.). Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief the last few weeks’ Practice in triads (5-10 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, consider dividing into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).
Spend a few minutes catching up on life…
Then talk through the following debrief questions:
1. Did you do last week’s Practice? If not, why?
2. With as much detail as you feel comfortable divulging, describe your experience with the Examen and with Confession.
3. If you’ve yet to begin the Practice, how can your Community help you get started and see it through?
Read this Overview
You and I are made up of conflicted pieces, aren’t we? If you are a disciple of Jesus, you have God’s Spirit alive in you. Your deepest, truest desires (whether it feels this way or not) are for the things of God. But we often live in ways that contradict what God says is true of us.
That’s the flesh.
For the authors of Scripture, freedom isn’t the ability to do whatever you want. Instead, freedom to live in accordance with what is most true of you. Consequently, the New Testament is consistently insisting that every apprentice of Jesus grows in the art of self denial. Dying to one’s self. In even more intense language: Crucify your flesh.
Throughout the history of the church, one of the primary disciplines engaged to do exactly that is the ancient art of fasting. When you choose to fast, you relinquish nourishment from food in a focused effort to instead draw nourishment from God.
In doing so, one is capable of growing in disciplined restraint. The will is engaged and emboldened.
Richard Foster wrote: “Fasting reveals the things that control us… If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately… Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear – if they are within us, they will surface during fasting.”
Fasting then becomes a fire which drives out the vermin of the flesh—a kind of specific self-denial that aggravates the darkness within. When these shadows are exposed in fasting, we are simultaneously nurturing the determination of will necessary to put them to death, one by one. We are starving the flesh.
Read over this coming week’s Practice before you call it a night (5 minutes)
Select a time in the coming week to fast. Ordinarily, fasting is done from sunup to sundown (about 12 hours), skipping breakfast and lunch, then having a late dinner. There’s no hard and fast format. You could fast shorter or longer depending on your schedule and daily routine. The point is simply to give it a shot.
During your fast, make use of your hunger. Each time you take specific notice of the fact that you’d like to eat, exploit that sensation as an occasion for prayer. Engage your imagination to “see” yourself as drawing strength from God. In that time, invite God’s Spirit to revel to you anything within that is bent away from what is true and good. Again, imagine your hunger starving away the flesh and providing nourishment for the Spirit of God within you.
Here are a few other things you might try during your fast:
1. Break a Habit – Identify a sin, habit, or pattern in your “flesh” that you want to break. Spend the day in prayer for freedom in that area.
2. Journal – Spend some time in self-reflection. Journal, take a walk, sit quietly and think. Richard Foster said, “Fasting reveals the things that control us.” If you’re afraid, short-tempered, or lacking in will power, ask yourself, “Why do I feel this way?” Treat yourself with compassion, as God does, but be honest.
When you gather next week, spend some time debriefing your experience.
Work through these discussion questions (5-10 minutes)
1. What has been your experience with fasting since we last visited this discipline in the Practices months prior?
2. When you think about fasting this week, are you excited, nervous, uncomfortable, or none of the above? Have an honest conversation, encouraging one another to simply give the Practice a shot.