Set Apart – a Fasting Experience by Major Susan Wittenberg
In the autumn of 2006, I was invited to a fasting retreat at Camp Ladore. Fasting always intrigued me, and I had researched it a bit, but I never tried this spiritual discipline on my own. This was also during the time of 24/7 prayer and it seemed that the timing was perfect, and my heart’s pull in this area was confirmed in many ways. There must have been 30 of us joining together in worship, song, teaching and prayer. I remember walking in to the gathering place and looking to the right, seeing fruit and water on the table. I felt a bubbling up joy, just in seeing the display set before me, knowing that we were all there together to do this “new thing”. Colonel Janet Munn led us through a teaching I had never heard before, that is…with my heart so ready to hear it and accept it. I came to camp with true physical hunger but what awakened within me was that of a spiritual hunger that was truly being fed. Spontaneous prayer and reading of scriptures went on through the evening and it seemed that time stood still. The worship in silence and listening to the Spirit while praying for others who may have been strangers at the time, revealed just how real this banqueting was table for the soul.
I came to camp with one question on my mind and I received my answer from others who had no idea of my question. I received two separate notes of encouragement from two different people saying the same thing: the exact thing that only the Lord knew I needed to receive. “You are seen, and you are heard”, “I see you and hear you”; Wow!! Words of bread and life to my soul. I wanted to remain in this place in these holy moments of transformation and I prayed that day I could continue to seek more knowledge and experience into this discipline.
That December, as the year was ending, a friend of mine told me about a church-community fast led by Pastor Jentezen Franklin. Every January his church unites in prayer and fasting, and the invitation was out there for others to join. How excited I was when I thought about the opportunity to be praying into the next year while thanking God for the past year, knowing that thousands of brothers and sisters were doing the same thing. For 21 days I kept a journal; I would listen to Pastor Franklin’s sermons online while sharing this 21-day journey with my friend. Moved by the moments of purging and filling that took place, January became my favorite month of the year. For more than a year I had experienced fasting by not eating (drinking water only) or by following the Daniel fast. I have fasted from social media and TV, and just set aside days to be in the presence of Jesus, being filled with the Gourmet food of His Word and presence. I learned to rest in Him and reach out to others in His love in ways that were not my own.
It’s been more than a decade now, and I feel I must share that the act of fasting in January has become more of a tradition and a personal expectation, I also experienced awareness that the act of setting time aside to fast could be done separately from a larger community. I don’t need others to be doing it, I only need to know that my Lord was courting me in a new way. A new-found freedom for me in the discipline of fasting has been to live out the act of fasting through the year as the Lord leads. I felt the leading of the Holy Spirit, to set one day a week to fast, and it doesn’t always look the same. God is always beckoning me to see Him at work, hear His word and know His love, not just for myself but especially for others. It is interesting to me when I think about it now, how those divine appointments, those outpouring moments of anointing and blessing have come during the days of being “set aside” or “set apart” for Him. When in fasting, I am more apt to see or even courageously reach out toward that person on the street who needs that word or act of kindness; the Lord is supplying from His heavenly resources and not my own. At Camp Ladore back in 2006, I could experience all year long that feeling of wanting to stay in the fasting place, the place of “set aside”. This journey is a very personal one, and it’s different for everyone; yet the promises of His presence through fasting is available to everyone. With each step of faith to fast, His gift of provision is waiting to be opened.
The answer to that question back then, now echoes in knowing the truth that in this love relationship, this dance of life with my Christ, “I am seen, and I am heard” but also “I now see, and I now hear” and this is the best place to be.
So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better than; you do now. As obedient children let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.” 1 Peter:13-16
written by Major Susan Wittenberg, Women’s Ministries Secretary, Greater New York Division, USA East