Each January, I fast in order to spend more time with the Lord and gain a clearer direction for the New Year. While my fast often means a change in my diet, I also choose a non-food item to sacrifice during this time. My goal is to spend as much time with God as I can, while not giving in to too many fleshly desires. It's rough. But each year I learn something different about myself–both in weakness and in strength.
My boys are still what I would call “young” but they are old enough to start asking some “big” questions and wanting to emulate me. My oldest has even begun to discern that the tenets of our faith I teach him are indeed what I am practicing in my own life.
Any time I begin to get those big questions, I invite them to join me as I “walk out” what I believe, as it's found in the Bible.
This year we're all fasting! If you haven't noticed, I am pretty excited about it. The boys will not be fasting from food because I do not think children should be refraining from meals. (They are refraining from sweets though.) Nonetheless, they have each decided on one item/activity to give up for January and take that time to read their Bible or pray.
I also made some journals for them to reflect in each day during their fast. If we're going to do it, I want them to see how difficult it is to crucify the flesh. I also want them to see that in spite of said difficulty, it can be done. More importantly, I want them to remember the times they felt God speaking to them and realize it was made possible through the time they sacrificed.
Preparing for Fasting
Here's a few things we do to prepare bodies and lives for the discipline of fasting:
- In late December we read Bible passages about fasting for reflection and discussion.
- We decide on the dates of our fasts. (I normally fast for 21 days, but the boys do not have to go that long.)
- I teach them there is no condemnation in Christ. We give it our best, but we don't “feel bad” because we caved or missed a day.
- I explain to them that the “extra” time they have from giving up something should be used for God.
- I do my best not to commit us to lots of outside activities, especially those that will serve sweets. (Way too tempting, and not just for the kids! ☺ )
- I show them how we encourage and build each other. We will not all be strong and weak on the same day–we need each other for support.
- I print out our journals and go over them with the boys.
- We each choose a quiet place in the house we can spend time with God, so we're all clear about our locations and avoid distractions.
As far as the length of a fast, I allow my boys to choose how long they'd like to commit to. However, whatever time frame they choose, I do encourage them to honor that. We are finishers. We go to the end. I do not know how successful they'd be if I “made” them fast for a certain time, but there's something about the freedom and responsibility of choosing for themselves that pushes them to honor their word.
I'd like to encourage you to invite your children to join you as you get close to God in your own relationship with Him. It does not have to be fasting, but any area of your faith that you'd like to not just teach, but also share with your children. In 2015, think about ways you can grow not only in your faith but alongside your children as well. It's a beautiful thing for anyone to hear, “Walk with me,” and even that much more so a child from his mother.
May your 2015 be filled with growth as you seek Him more and share Him with your children. Selah.