What happens when you put a spiritual leader on a long, restricted diet? First you get a few complaints, and then this insightful essay, reprinted from CHRISTIANITY TODAY's sister publication LEADERSHIP: A Practical Journal for Church Leaders. The author is Ben Patterson, dean of the chapel at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
Someone said the prospect of standing before a firing squad marvelously focuses one's mind. Other things can have the same effect—like the telephone call from a friend last March in which he told me, "Perhaps the Lord is leading us to fast for 40 days."
Us? I hate to fast. I'd tried fasting, and instead of insights I got irritable.
When Bill Bright reported on his 40-day fast, I held him in awe—the same detached awe I have for someone who can run a mile in under four minutes. It's amazing he can do it, but it would be futile for me even to try.
My friend's call got my attention. As I prayed, the unwelcome conviction grew that a 40-day fast was precisely what God was asking of us. So we covenanted with 30 or 40 people to fast for the 40 days leading up to Pentecost.
The purpose would be to fast and pray for the two things Jonathan Edwards urged the churches of eighteenth-century New England to pray for: the spiritual awakening of the church in our town and beyond, and the spread of the kingdom of God worldwide. The mode of the fast would vary from person to person. Some would take only juices. My wife and I would do a "Daniel" fast and eat only fruits, vegetables, and grains—no meats, fats, or sugar. From time to time during the fast, as the Lord led, we too would have a day of juice only. Whenever possible, we who had covenanted to fast would meet for an hour of prayer on Friday mornings. ...1