This morning I woke up and the first thing that popped into my mind when I looked out the window was "I can eat today!!" Before I break my fast, I want to reflect on my spiritual and physical journey these past 80 hours of no food. I am by no means an expert on prolonged fasting, so please consult your doctor (or priest) if this is something you'd be interested in attempting, but I have successfully completed 4 other prolonged fasts of this intensity and this is what I've observed thus far.
Let me preface this post by saying I went into this fast with a spiritual intention. However, I started this practice four years ago for the physical benefits. I am well aware of the research regarding the health benefits of prolonged fasts. Some of the wildest impacts of prolonged fasting include the process of autophagy A process by which a cell breaks down and destroys old, damaged, or abnormal proteins and other substances in its cytoplasm (the fluid inside a cell). The breakdown products are then recycled for important cell functions. Basically, focusing cell energy on where you need it most by starving the rest of the body. Here's a study of the breakdown from the National Library of Medicine. Of course, this process carries with it also the benefits of reduced inflammation, improved insulin resistance, and everyone's all-time fav, ✨ weight loss ✨.
Evolutionarily, prolonged fasts were a norm. Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers who experienced periods of food scarcity due to a lack of available food. During these times, they would have had to rely on their stored body fat for energy until they were able to find or hunt for food again. This ability to adapt to periods of fasting allowed them to survive and thrive in environments where food was not always readily available. The human body is quite literally wired to withstand long periods without food. It is only in our modern era of accessibility and abundance that we have been conditioned to consume food multiple times a day. But I digress.
This particular fast, though, was of a spiritual nature. In the Bible, as well as almost all religious texts, fasting has immense spiritual and physical power. I believe God talks to us more during this period because it's easier to work through us when we're not so preoccupied with consumption and we empty so He can fill us- but that's just my interpretation so take it with a grain of salt. In fact, it's mentioned several times throughout the Bible that if you have a problem or issue you'd like resolved, fast, pray, and believe and it will be done unto you.
There are several instances in the Bible where women fasted and had their prayers answered. Here are a few examples:
Hannah: In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah was barren and prayed fervently to the Lord for a child. She also fasted and wept before the Lord. God heard her prayer and blessed her with a son, Samuel.
Esther: In Esther 4, Esther asked all the Jews to fast for three days before she went to speak to King Xerxes on behalf of her people. Her prayer was answered, and the Jews were saved from extermination.
Anna: In Luke 2:36-38, Anna, a prophetess, fasted and prayed in the temple night and day. She recognized Jesus as the Messiah when Mary and Joseph brought Him to the temple to be dedicated.
Widow of Zarephath: In 1 Kings 17:8-24, the widow of Zarephath fasted and prayed to God for help during a famine. God sent Elijah to her, and he multiplied her small jar of oil and her handful of flour so that she and her son could eat for many days.
In each of these cases, the women's prayers were answered as a result of their faith and devotion to God.
I noticed that time really slowed down during this 3 day period. I was moving slower, more intently, and I spent a lot of time in meditation and prayer. I felt very Muslim praying 5 times a day like I did. Our brothers and sisters across the way know what they are doing in that regard! After I completed about 20 hours, I told God I didn't know exactly what I was fasting for- just that I felt called to do it. I told Him that I was confused about its purpose. That very same night I had a vivid dream of why I was fasting. He answered my question through my dream, sub7anAllah! I held that vision for the entirety of the fast. Each time I felt weak and was about to break the fast, I remembered His promise.
I won't lie and tell you it was easy. It gets easier the more you practice fasting and silencing the mind, but the first couple of times are quite the challenge. It truly is a mind-over-matter phenomenon. The hunger pangs will pass. You constantly have to remind yourself of the purpose of your fast. Remember the prayers you started with, they will keep you going. After about the 48-hour mark, I started to get really hungry. I was fighting the inner battle of "Should I break it or should I not?" I decided to shut up that monkey part of my brain by drinking a cup of vegetable broth and go to bed. Life is all a negotiation with your Spirit, after all, so find what works for you.
Overall, I'd say God answered my prayer. In the most random and mysterious way possible, but He answered nonetheless. I experienced it firsthand. If your intention is serious and you put in actual effort to negotiate between ego and Self, God will listen- I promise. Constantly reevaluate your intentions and the purpose of your fast. Make sure your heart is coming from the right place. Remember, God is not a genie. Do so with reverence and respect. This is a practice I intend to implement several times a year- whether it be for wisdom, repentance, or request. I implore you to tap into your own inner guidance and get serious about your own fleshly discipline. God's door is always open.