I approached this book with a little skepticism. The title, A Woman’s Guide to Fasting, seemed like an arbitrary focus on gender. I could not imagine why women would need a special book on a biblical discipline intended for all Christians. But Lisa Nelson hooked me on page 1 with her personal testimony, and I remained riveted through all eight practical, idea-provoking chapters.
A Woman’s Guide to Fasting is as much about prayer as it is about fasting, thus making an important contribution to our denomination’s current emphasis on seeking the Spirit for personal and corporate revival and reformation. Though Nelson does not share Adventist understanding on certain biblical teachings, such as the state of the dead, her teachings on fasting are definitely Scripture driven. She does not see fasting as a way to obtain favor with God or as duty or ritual but as a way to hear the voice of God more clearly and enter into a deeper relationship with Him.
Though Nelson acknowledges that there can be fasts from television, the Internet, or shopping, her book focuses on fasting from food. Spiritual fasting from food is not to diet, lose weight, or look better but to seek after God through the physical act of abstaining from food.
The reward for true fasting is the transformational work of God on the heart.
Nelson describes several different kinds of food fasts, including liquids, or liquids and certain foods only, with varying durations. For health reasons,
she does not recommend a total fast of no food or water whatsoever. Repeatedly, she emphasizes the danger of becoming self-righteous when fasting; we do not become more holy through the act of fasting itself or become more virtuous the longer we fast. Instead, the purpose of fasting is to have more time to spend with God in prayer and worship and a clearer mind to yield to His will. Fasting should not be done to manipulate God to acquiesce to our will and way but to help bring us into harmony with His will. Other objectives of our petitions during fasting could include intercession for the salvation of a loved one, for guidance or comfort during a personal crisis, for divine help in overcoming sin, or for the gift of repentance or forgiveness.
The book contains many suggestions about prayer during fasting, such as praying God’s Word aloud, meditating on a passage, memorizing Scripture, and speaking Scripture promises audibly. I appreciated Nelson’s emphasis that fasting and prayer should not center on achieving a “mountaintop” experience but rather provide an opportunity to praise and petition God through living sacrifice and submission.
—Reviewed by Cindy Tutsch, DMin, Associate Director, Ellen G. White Estate, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.