Saturday, January 21, 2006

On Prayer & Fasting - For Chin

Hi Chin. Sorry it took me quite a while to get back to you. I would have wanted to email you privately, but you didn't leave an address. So public it is and I hope others will be able to make use if this post as well.

Prayer and fasting doesn't have to follow a specific, standard process, although it helps to prepare for it. Physically, you have to ease your body into it. Like a few days before, start cutting down on the amount you eat. Then taper off to fruits and vegetables a couple of days before. Plan your schedule so you don't do anything taxing (and don't accept dinner dates!). Scale down your physical activities as well (though you can still exercise).

Then commit to a type of fast before you start, like if you will have a water fast (you take water only); a liquid fast (broth and fresh juices, no artificial stuff or sugar; definitely no blendered burgers and fries); or a one-meal a day only (no pigging out at buffets!). Commit also to how long you will fast. As I mentioned previously, at the start of the year, we have a 7-day fast, and throughout the year, once a month. Other people fast from other things; my pregnant friend who had to eat skipped TV the entire fasting period instead. Others give up chatting, smoking (which I believe everyone should give up anyway), reading--something that is important to them.

Preparing spiritually might be a bit harder. This is what differentiates fasting from dieting or going into martyr mode. One of the best books I've read on fasting was "The Mystery of the Empty Stomach" by Joey Bonifacio (it's available in Victory Christian Fellowship bookstores in the Fort and Galleria). Fasting is all about your relationship with God, and he (Joey) likens it to a relationship between a bride and a groom. Us girls, I think, can relate better to this than men ever can. Think of it like when you're preparing for your wedding (or to see your boyfriend), you get so caught up in the preparations, that before you realize it, a day has gone by and you haven't eaten, but you don't mind. The thrill of seeing your groom and preparing is enough to keep you going. As my brother would perhaps put it--food, shmood.

I guess the best way to prepare spiritually is to up your prayer life. After all, fasting is a way to get even closer to God, to be more sensitive to him. So even beforehand, you can get into the mood by reading the bible more, talking to him more, being more conscious of his grace. And have faith. Believe that you can get through the fast.

While you fast, really try to seek God. And when God pinpoints specific areas in your life, make a commitment to change. During the fast, for me at least, it helped that I had some prayer points and something to reflect on (let me know if you want one, I can email you a copy). It helps me keep focused and reminds me why I fast. Of course, it's also a great way to count down till the time I can eat again!
Breaking the fast is like the reverse--start with fruits and veggies again, with smaller portions, before you go back into full blown meals. Believe me, rushing into full meals will make you sick! Then after the fast, keep up the prayer life. And be expectant--believe that you will get the breakthroughs that you are praying for. It helps to write these down, so you have a record of what God has done. You'll be amazed (I still am, when I read my faith goals over the past years).
I do hope this helps you, Chin. I'll be praying for you as well. God bless you beyond your wildest imagination.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Denial, Desire, Devotion

Yesterday evening, The Hubby and I (and probably more than a million people around the world) finally broke our seven-day fast. After four days of taking only water and three days of only liquids, the feel of actually chewing solid food was close to orgasmic.

This seven-day prayer and fasting is an annual habit--a great way to start the year. It's leaving off all personal, earthly desires and making yourself totally open to God's plans for you this year. It's a way of saying, "God, I rely only on you to sustain me." And man, it's amazing how he does.

Take note: I absolutely adore food; eating is one of my favorite things to do. Ask anyone--I get very grumpy when I'm hungry (isn't that like a man?). And The Hubby! Meals on time have often been the cause of our minor tiffs. His delicate tummy also can't handle absence of food for long. So you'd think that depriving ourselves of food would make us weak and very cross. On the contrary.

We were so perfectly fine. No hunger headaches, no wobbly legs, no cross-eyed stumbling around. I even was able to exercise a little, and my focus at work was superb. I tried this before--not eating in order to get thin. After several hours, I was sneaking in a few bites, which eventually evolved into an all-out pig out session. I can only say that it's the motivation--the desire to please God, to really open ourselves to him, to try to hear him--that made the difference.

They say that denying yourself earthly pleasures makes you more attuned to God, to what he has to say (of course it also makes you more attuned to the smell of the neighbors' cooking--kare-kare on the left side and ginisa on the right--as well as the very subtle smell of mangoes and very well-sealed packs of cookies). They're right. I find that God actually does have a lot to say to me.

One of the things that we talk about is my nasty habit of clinging to the past--past mistakes, past offenses, past decisions. I realized that I have this habit of living somewhere in between regret and what-ifs. He's getting me out of my comfort zones, and though I resist, he patiently coaxes me out. Though it sometimes feels like he upturns whatever box I've kept myself in.

Another thing we get into is my relationship with The Hubby. For the past year, I've been struggling to learn how to be a wife, and The Hubby are still feeling each other out (with the occasional feeling each other up--and that's allowed! We're married.). I just realized that I've been trying too hard, trying to be that perfect wifey that I have in my mind, without really considering what kind of wife The Hubby wants, what God wants. So it's a big change in perspective.

I also discovered that it really pays to keep God in the center of your marriage. For the first time, The Hubby and I started praying together. As in really praying, not the usual thank-you-Lord-for-the-food-and-other blessings quickie that we usually do at meals. But praying with passion and conviction, praying for others, praying for ourselves and our plans, praying for each other. It was amazing. Not only did I feel closer to God, but I never felt so close to The Hubby as I did after we prayed. And lighting spiritual passion lit up my other--ahem--passions too ;p I guess what they say is true: for women, you have to really be in synch mentally, emotionally and spiritually to get optimum physical in-synchness. And The Hubby says amen to that.

Prayer and fasting also gives us a chance to start fresh. It's breaking free of all things that hold us back, that bind us, that keep us from fulfilling our purpose here. After all, didn't Christ die to set us free? It's exhilirating to know that I am free. I. Am. Free!

Oh, and as a side effect to fasting and starting over, we lost some pounds and some flab here and there. It's like we get to start fresh with a semi-new body as well. The Hubby and I have committed to eat better and exercise more this year.

So here's to a year dedicated to God, overflowing with his abundance and grace!

After our first meal after the fast, The Hubby asked, "Do you know what I want right now?" I nodded. We were totally in synch. We gazed deeply into each other's eyes, slowly licked our lips... and lustfully tore open our packs of Boy Bawang cornick.