Warning: Very long post, but hopefully worth the read, especially the last paragraph =)
As I wrote on September 13th, I felt led to do the Ramadan fast. The fast ended yesterday, so here is my debrief.
Physically: I felt like I was cheating. Yes, it was a little hard the first couple of days like all multiple day fasts are, but once my body got used to eating at night instead of during the day, it wasn't that bad. I was still eating pretty much the same amount of food each day, but instead of eating at 8am, noon and 6pm, I ate at 7pm, midnight, and 5am. I've been a little sleepy during the day due to the break of sleep, but not that much either.
Spiritually: As with all Christian fasts, it is not just about starving yourself. If all you are doing is not eating and not spending additional dedicated prayer time above your normal prayer time, then you aren't fasting, you are dieting or worse, starving yourself. My pattern when I fast is during the time that I normally eat, I instead spend that time in prayer. As with my previous fasts, this one taught me a lot and challenged me a lot.
Lessons: The longest fast I had done previously was a 7 day fast. Fasting for 30 days was definitely a very powerful experience. I drew closer to God than I think I may ever have before. That was the biggest theme during my fast that God spoke to me was to draw near to Him. I even read a book that Mimi gave me entitled, "Drawing Near: A Life of Intimacy with God" by John Bevere. I highly recommend it if you feel your life could benefit from being closer to God...yeah I know...that covers everyone =)
The second big lesson I've learned is the total need to be praying for Muslims, especially the radicals. I've been going through a 40-day daily devotion on the book of Jonah written by Brother Andrew of the Secret Believers book I blogged about a couple of days back. It is a very powerful and extremely convicting study on praying and witnessing to your "enemies." In one of the devotions he asks the very powerful question of if no one is praying for Osama bin Laden, how do we ever expect him to learn about Christ? Can you imagine if bin Laden were to have a Damascus road experience (Acts 9:1-22) like Saul and become the Paul to the Muslim world!!!
Al Janssen, the co-author of Secret Believers, tells of a story on his blog (you may have to join the free site to read it) of a meeting with one of the members of Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Abdul (not his real name) said he had read the Bible, had many questions, but never met a Christian in order to ask the questions. Since that first meeting, they have had several more and who knows where that will lead. I also just read on Drudge that Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the '93 WTC bombing, has converted to Christianity. As a former very radial Muslim, Yousef could have a huge effect on some sitting on the fence if his conversion is true and real and he starts sharing the love of Christ as radically as he "shared" his Muslim faith (obviously minus the bombings and killings).
Direction: One of the purposes of my fast was to get direction for my future after this tour of duty in Iraq. Right before coming, I had started to sense that I'm being released out of politics and back to full time ministry. That will be a big change, so it isn't something I'm taking lightly, hence the fast. Ever since my mission trip to Kazakhstan in '05, my heart for missions has continued to grow. Coming to Iraq last year and then the mission trip to Burundi in May both worked to solidify that calling.
As some of you know, one direction I had been pursuing was entering the Army Reserve in the Chaplain Corp. However, I feel one of the things I sensed from God during my fast is that He wants me in the field sooner. If I were to go the Chaplain route that would mean, 3 years of seminary then 4 years of Army Reserve, so with my one year here, that would mean a minimum of 8 years before I could go full time missions.
My Church in LA, HPC, has a program called Elevate. It is a three year internship where you gain amazing practical ministry experience and at the same time earn your seminary degree. So with that route due to the third year being in the field, I could be full time in 4 years as opposed to 8. I still have more to pray about for the final details and exactly when to start, but as of now, that is the direction I'm leaning and I'm very excited about it!
Witness: The other main purpose of the fast was to create opportunities to witness to the Muslims I work with. On that front as well, God showed up big time. First, of the four people in my office who were fasting, me being the only non-Muslim, the fact that I was the only one to not break the fast early, was a huge witness for Christ. I was asked several times, how I could do the fast and not be Muslim. My response was always that it is what Christ asked me to do, so He is giving me the strength to do it.
The month long fast led to several spiritual discussions as well with a couple of my Muslim co-workers, especially the one I mentioned in my original post about the fast. I was able to share what the Injil (Muslim word for New Testament) says on fasting, specifically Mathew 6:16-18. One of the things God showed me about the Muslim fast is that it is a burden and not a privilege due to it being a mandate and not a choice. Because of that, they were almost always very somber and had the poor pitiful me attitude. I was asked once, "how are you fasting and still keeping your smile?" That is when I shared that verse.
After sharing several other scriptures about fasting in the Injil, I asked if he had ever read it being the Koran says that Muslims are to obey it as well being it is one of the Holy Books. He said that he had heard a couple of verses on the radio once in Arabic from the Injil and it was the most powerful words he had ever heard in his life (you can imagine how my heart started racing when he said that =) He called the radio station who was offering the Injil in Arabic, but he never received it. He tried finding it on his own and couldn't. He bought an English New Testament, but it didn't have the same effect on him. I asked him if he would read it if I was able to get him a copy in Arabic and he said absolutely. So...I went straight to my computer and ordered one! Hopefully it will get here in the next week or so.
I feel even more after this experience that Christians need to fast more. We have lost the importance of it as one of the major spiritual disciplines. A friend of mine posed an awesome question. What would happen if the entire Christian world fasted together for 30 days like Muslims do? The thought of that is mind blowing. I can guarantee that the world would not be the same after those 30 days (I can also guarantee the result wouldn't be to "celebrate" by killing non-Christians). So, what are we waiting for? This will definitely not be my last 30 day fast, and next time hopefully God will lead some others to join me. I'm thinking from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday might be a good time for such a fast. Stay tuned =)