Fasting – Choosing Weakness out of Love – Part 1
A Conversation with Rainer Harter from the Gebetshaus Freiburg
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Part one of a three part series where we examine:
- What is fasting?
- Why we do it?
- What does a lifestyle of fasting look like?
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So today we are going to talking with a friend of our family, a very precious man, Rainer Harter. He will talk to us today about fasting.
Rainer has found and lead the house of prayer here in Freiburg for 15 years.
He has authored four books. One of which has recently come out, and is called “Die Gebetshaus Bewegung” which in English means, “The Prayer House Movement”.
He is an amazing musician and has recorded three worship albums, and he travels around the German speaking world at various conferences and seminars.
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I’ve had the honour of knowing him personally, be challenged by his teaching, and worship with him and his team almost since I arrived in Germany, so almost 10 years now!
So I’m really excited that I’m here with him today and I get to pick his brain!
Dani: To begin with, what are you most excited about right now?
Rainer: My greatest excitement right now is the desire – and the discovery of this desire in me – to come closer to Jesus. That excites me most. It seems that He really is most important in my life. And to discover that in myself, I like that. That makes me excited.
D: How would you explain briefly the idea of fasting to complete beginners?
R: I first want to say – to make clear by way of contrast – what I believe fasting isn’t. Fasting is not a way of talking God into something. It is not the attempt of trying to please God. It is not a sign that I am particularly spiritual. Fasting, to me, is connected to hunger, also spiritually – a hunger for God.
In a nutshell, I would say to someone who isn’t used to fasting:
fasting expresses that my hunger for God is greater than my hunger for the things the world has to offer. And with that I mean food, I mean watching TV, I mean money, I mean a lot of different
things. Also things that are precious to me. But because Jesus is more precious to me, I want to take time to fast, to show Him my longing for Him.
I can tell you the passage in the Bible that speaks a lot to me about fasting, which is Matthew 9, verses 14 to 16; this famous story of when the disciples of John came to Jesus and said, “Why do we all fast, but your disciples don’t?”, and then Jesus says, “How can the friends of the bridegroom fast as long as the bridegroom is with them? But when he is taken away from them, then they will fast.” That means Jesus calls himself the bridegroom. He calls us his friends, and when He is taken away from earth, like He now is, then his friends will fast. And from this story I get the understanding that fasting means longing for Him; fasting as an expression of yearning for Him, of “I long for you!”
And all of us know, when you yearn for something, you are ready to pay a price. When you desire someone, you will do everything you can to get them. And this desire is what fuels my fasting. I think that is a healthy motivation for fasting.
Not performance or effort, but the expression of “I yearn for you.”
D: So this leads into my next question, from my church background fasting is known of, but not typically practiced regularly. When it is practiced it is mainly an individual, or personal action. I’ve observed that fasting in this tradition is done when the person is in a great need of God to act, or they need a breakthrough in their life. You kind of answered that already, that it’s not really just a way for God to act, there is more behind it.
R: Well, there is a lot more to it, but – and the biblical examples show that – it is legitimate to fast when you need a breakthrough, or need an answer, or need healing, or another intervention by
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“I love fasting with a community. I love being in a community where people deny themselves for the same reasons that I deny myself – out of passion””
God. So it is perfectly ok, but as far as I know, it was always concerning specific issues. Whereas the lifestyle of fasting is something different, in my opinion. So there are these one-off situations
when I say, now I need a breakthrough, now I will fast. But the normal fasting, the regular fasting that is rooted in my everyday life, and which is described in Isaiah 58, that has a different approach. So both are possible; one is sporadic, the other regular.
D: What would you see the difference in perhaps the outcome between a lifestyle of fasting and just fasting once in a while?
R: I think this one kind of fasting, when there are extraordinary challenges, is solution-focused – I’m looking for a solution. And this other kind of fasting is a fast where I am seeking a person, I am seeking relationship. I don’t primarily seek that person’s help, their intervention; I seek the person themselves. That’s the difference I see: solution-focused or relationship-focused.
Fasting, Choosing weakness out of passion
D: Would you see a difference between personal fasting even if you are doing it relationally oriented and a communal fast as a group?
R: I can only give you a personal answer: I love fasting with a community. I love being in a community where people deny themselves for the same reasons that I deny myself – out of passion. And they inspire me with their devotion. Their denying themselves is like a perfume which rises up and which I can perceive, and which causes me to say “This is a wonderful fragrance, I want to be part of it.”
[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”28″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#020202″][mks_separator style=”solid” height=”2″]Not performance or effort, but the expression of “I yearn for you.”[/mks_pullquote]In the Bible, we find clear appeals to community to fast. We also fast as a house of prayer; in a little while, we will fast together for a week. What we do is that we offer to everyone who is working and volunteering here to fast as a community. We did that last year for the first time, to fast together at the same time. And we found that it brought us as a community closer to each other. We felt this dynamic of “we are seeking God, and we are seeking Him in a special way, and we are seeking Him together.” What we do is that people either fast food completely, or they eat at night, if they need to take medication or are older or for other reasons. Or they cannot or don’t want to abstain from food, but they will fast something during this week. So that during this week, we are all fasting together, in different ways.
It’s beautiful what it does to the people involved, and spiritually I would describe it as this fragrance that rises up – people who as a community say: “We want you so much, Jesus!”
For all my Germans speaking friends:
You can also find Rainer on his blog right here: unterWegs Sein
And check out the Gebetshaus(Prayer House) Freiburg website
Or if you are more into eating food right now, here is an article I wrote about how to enjoy it more! –> Tasting Butter for the First Time