Thinking Fast

Every January, my church does a congregation-wide week of fasting. It looks different for everyone. Some do a complete fast from food for three days, while some omit a meal every day for the week. Others cut out sugar or sodas, or any food they feel an addiction to. And then there are those who don’t do a food fast, but rather abstain from Social Media, television or other non-edible distractions.

The church provides a prayer guide for the week, which includes specific prayers for our local community, the global community, church leadership, and, of course, our own growth with God.

My first experience with fasting was last year. I chose a version of the Daniel Fast and consumed between 700 and 800 calories a day for a week. I convinced myself I was doing this with the appropriate motivation. Prayers were prayed, scriptures were read, the talk was talked, and it even looked like the walk was walked.

When we do a spiritual fast, we are supposed to turn our focus to God every time our stomach growls or we yearn for dessert or our fingers itch to check Facebook. But as I practiced my first-ever fast, I found myself thinking more about what my low calorie count was doing for my weight every time there was a rumble in my midsection.

By the end of the week, I felt no closer to God than I had when I started. Imagine my utter disappointment when my weight hadn’t even budged.

This January was different because I changed the way I approached fasting. With the right mindset, I was able to put my energy and my focus into earnestly seeking God. My guided prayers were from the heart, not just words on a page recited. Worship was profound, supplications were honest, thanksgiving was sincere.

I’m not going to lie and say it was easy. It wasn’t. In fact, it was much more difficult the second time around. It felt more sacrificial. The first time when I would suffer, I immediately distracted myself with something else – work, a game, social media – and contemplated how my noble abnegation would show results on the scale.

The second time, however, I began my day thinking about who God is. Who He really is. It’s difficult impossible for our feeble human minds to grasp the magnificence of God. But when you begin to consider the vastness and beauty of his entire creation – galaxies, stars, mountains, oceans, creatures – everything he spoke into being – it’s breathtaking. And when you recognize that this same God loves us humans with all of our evil flaws even more than anything else he’s created, it’s downright overwhelming.

This set me up well for the rest of my day. From there, my process looked like this:

Redirected Thoughts

I “took every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Instead of letting the inappropriate thoughts that popped up get a toehold, I quickly shifted my thinking to the sacrifice Jesus made for me, making my hunger unimportant. That perspective tends to humble a person real quick.

Humble Confession of Sin

Once we humble ourselves, it’s a little easier to see where pride has dug in its heels. From that place of humility, I was able to see my sin a little more clearly. There’s a difference between asking God to forgive some abstract sin you can’t put a name to and confessing a sin that is glaring. There is also a feeling of lightness and joy that comes from that repentance.

True Thankfulness

That joy lends itself to complete gratefulness. For me, it highlighted just how much I have. I was going without food deliberately, not because I didn’t have any. And I belong to Jesus. That alone is worthy of all the thanks I have to give.

A Heart for Others

Praising God for who He is, humbly confessing and repenting, and deep gratitude has a way of softening our hearts. My family often teases me about my lack of mercy. It’s usually pretty low on those spiritual inventory tests. Not only that, but I may or may not have told one or both of my children to, “squirt some tears, punk”, at one time or another.

But when my heart is softened, my compassion for others can feel rather piercing. Praying for others with that kind of burden for people is an earnest prayer. (James 5:17-18)

For me, thinking appropriately was the key to a successful fast. I had to wrangle my attention back to why I was denying myself and, from there, turn that focus to God. Once my deliberations were set on God, the natural progression of my prayers took over. And while this “blueprint” worked well for my fasting, I find it helpful every day.

I suppose that’s just one more benefit of thinking fast.


Grace & Such strives to advance Christian growth among women. While we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we also recognize human interpretations are imperfect. Grace & Such encourages our readers to open their Bibles, pray for wisdom and study for themselves what the Word says. For more about who we are, please visit the About Us page.
Jennifer Mobley Thompson
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  1. Natalie Liounis on March 13, 2018 at 8:14 AM

    I fall into the trap of focusing more on the lack of calorie intake than I do on Jesus when I try to fast, too. There have been several times when I’ve gotten the motivation to fast, starting later in the day or the next day, just to realize that I’m doing it selfishly–you can’t just spring into a fast. You have to prepare for it. I am praying that I would think to fast sooner, so my motive would be pure and I can prepare for it both physically and spiritually.

    • Jen on March 14, 2018 at 11:29 AM

      All of our busyness makes it just that much more difficult, too. My head is always racing in several directions and it’s hard for me to rein them in and focus.

  2. Ruth on March 13, 2018 at 8:25 AM

    I love that you don’t consider that first fast a failure….just a stepping stone to the next time….and I love the grace of redirecting… so easy to get distracted…

    • Jen on March 14, 2018 at 11:30 AM

      Distraction is my worst enemy, I think.

  3. Diane on March 13, 2018 at 8:27 AM

    ‘… this same God loves us humans with all of our evil flaws even more than anything else he’s created…’ Ah yeah, that! What a wonderful journey you’ve been on with refocusing on God in a different way, from a different place. Gives me much inspiration to fast more regularly!

    • Jen on March 14, 2018 at 11:31 AM

      I’m definitely not waiting a whole year for the next fast. If I could just get all my stuff done so I could really focus…

  4. Sarah B. Robinson on March 13, 2018 at 8:37 AM

    Our mindset is crucial, isn’t it? Lent is always such a special time for me to set aside my agenda for His…there is a new 7-Day “study” on my Biblegateway app from Kathie Lee Gifford, entitled, “The Rock, The Road and The Rabbi.” Starting the day off with these devotions and short Bible passages has been the highlight of my day. Nice how that works, especially during this glorious Easter season, such a powerful time in our church history. And I’m glad to read how your church sponsors a fast each year. Walking alongside other believers during a deeper time can be so strengthening, relying on God’s word and prayer. His mere presence is fulfilling. Now to apply this throughout my day…God bless!

    • Jen on March 14, 2018 at 11:32 AM

      I’m not sure why I’m just now, at my age, really focusing on the mindset. As you say, it’s crucial to everything spiritual, I think!

  5. Tara Watson on March 13, 2018 at 10:37 AM

    What an interesting perspective, from last year to this year. It’s amazing what a shift in mindset can do in every area of our lives.
    I love the prayer blueprint. I often times find myself apologizing to God for my scattered thoughts and prayers. I know that He loves me for me, but sometimes I’m disappointed with myself because my brain feels so cluttered with #reallife that I can’t seem to focus during my prayer time.

    • Jen on March 14, 2018 at 11:34 AM

      Preach! If that isn’t my biggest problem, it’s definitely way up there. It’s a very common struggle for creatives, though I suspect non-creatives might struggle, too.

  6. Rebecca Preston on March 13, 2018 at 11:44 AM

    Yep. What can happen so often with any Spiritual practice is that our motives are not always pure. Sometimes down deep we think, “Oh, God will answer my prayer if I do this” or “Certainly, God will bless me, if I do that.” And we are so disappointed when this or that doesn’t happen. I believe God recognizes our human weaknesses, and gives us grace as we sort out our motives and intentions. I agree with you, when we enter these things right from the start with humility, it puts us in the perspective of willingness to learn whatever God wants us to learn. Thanks for sharing your experience, Jennifer.

    • Jen on March 14, 2018 at 11:41 AM

      God’s been teaching me a lot about pride and how we’re just like onions. We pull one prideful layer away, only to find there’s another layer of pride underneath. As someone who always thought she was pretty humble, I’m finding out that’s not the case and what an obstacle that has been in my walk. *sigh*

  7. Cole // Cole Smith Writes on March 13, 2018 at 7:21 PM

    Sooo hard not to feel gleeful about shedding a couple pounds when I’m supposed to be focused on Him. And hard not to feel detached. When something really bad is going down, we should fast–because that’s the thing to do, like I gotta check off that box. Fasting is hard; guess that’s why it’s important, huh?

    • Jen on March 14, 2018 at 11:47 AM

      “Fasting is hard; guess that’s why it’s important, huh?” LOL I think so! Though, I have to say, it took me 50 years to figure that out.

  8. Diane Tarantini on April 11, 2018 at 1:37 PM

    This post is really great, Jen. You touched on a lot here. Can I just say that I love the description of your church? It sounds awesome!
    My husband and I have been doing quite a bit of intermittent fasting lately and once you get used to it, going long stretches without food gets so much easier. That’s why next time I do a fast, it’s not going to be a food-fast. It’s not that hard any more.

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