Small Fasts

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Every now and then I read a little bit more of The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. It’s an old book, from the 17th century to be exact. The title alone challenges me. We would all do well to practice the presence of God. We do not, of course, change God’s presence by our practice. We merely change our awareness and the frequency of our communication with him.

“Pray without ceasing” is impossible if we define prayer as hitting our knees and shutting our eyes in order to talk with our Lord. That phrase must have some other definition. I believe constant prayer means, in great part, a constant awareness that we are in the presence of God. Furthermore, we are constantly able to talk with him and to ask him to make us ever better at hearing his direction in our lives. We can present our requests and our words of thanksgiving anytime, anywhere.

Recently, I’ve discovered something that helps me practice the presence of God. I warn you that it is not fun or fancy or innovative. It is what I can best describe as a small fast.

Many months ago, someone dear to me had a great need, a situation that would not resolve for the better part of a year. However, I’m a wimpy faster, very seldom going without food for a full 24 hours, let alone any longer than that. Even the most devoted in that spiritual discipline cannot go hungry for months at a time. How could I sustain a fast for so long?  I gave up one category of food—one I knew that I would miss. And miss it I did.

Perhaps it is the missing that matters most. Each time I made that small sacrifice, I was reminded to pray for my loved one. I must confess that there were days when I didn’t “make it.” But there were more days when I did, when I went back to prayer over and over and over again because of that mini-fast. Toward the end of the fast, the needs of my friend made it very clear that prayer and fasting were in order. Smaller, longer-term fasts are now a part of my spiritual arsenal. Would they fit in your armory as well?

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