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Solo-Fast-Retreat

The Solo Fasting Retreat: A Spiritual Practice of Restoration

The art and science of fasting do not seem to be very well-known. In conversing with others, they are typically always intrigued, but I have not yet met anyone who has attempted it – at least in the way it is described in this blog. Those who do practice fasting have a reason to do so. For the purpose of this essay, participating in a solo retreat will be defined as receiving a spiritual blessing — simply, a deeply devoted time with God. All food is given up. This can enable a practice of a total focus on spending time with God in an intimate way, in His creation or even in a different setting of one’s choice – and utilizing a favorite hobby or pastime in a parallel way.

Looking at the practicalities of fasting, it is not easy. Hunger pangs become real. To deprive ourselves of even one meal a day can be exceedingly difficult. To do so for days might seem almost impossible and unimaginable. There really needs to be a reason to attempt it. Simply, from experience, it can be to focus on Christ totally and profoundly. God’s Word gives guidance. Fasting is found throughout both the Old and New Testaments, over fifty times!

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting…”  Joel 2:12a

And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. Acts 14:23

And…when fasting, Matthew 6:17-18 gives instructions that “it should not be obvious to men, but only to your Father, who is unseen.” In essence it is a spiritual activity between you and your Heavenly Father. It is very personal, not an outward-showing practice. He lovingly watches and cares for those who participate in fasting.

Why a solo fasting retreat?

From personal experience, I practice this retreat each year, traveling from home to a state park. My needs are simple: a tent, sleeping bag, a camp chair, a fire pit, my mountain bike, whittling tools and wood, kayak, fishing gear, and drinks. Most importantly, I spend many hours in the Bible, in my prayer journal, and with other devotional material. I am set!

How are the three days divided up?

  • Coffee 😊 – first thing, and time in the word and in prayer around the campfire.
  • Planning out my time.
  • Mountain biking on trails – great exertion exercise.
  • Whittling – canes, hiking sticks, crosses mostly – noting the beauty of the wood, as shapes begin to emerge.
  • Fishing, with more mobility with my kayak. This is exercise, too.
  • Hiking time – slow, deliberate, taking notice, learning. Beauty!
  • Deep reflection and big chunks of prayer time – reflection from the year past and praying through the year to come.
  • For me, being blessed by being in the midst of Creation, filled with gratitude for this incredible gift.
  • Drink lots – especially water!
  • Come away refreshed from what could certainly be an incredible, faith-filled experience.

What is the value?

Fasting helps one to focus on Christ! As Christians, we strive to do this daily. But “life” tends to get in the way, with multiple distractions, our work, spending time with family, answering emails, and so much more. When hunger pains set in, it becomes really difficult to think of anything else. If one trains themselves to take the time of hunger and to give it to the Lord and truly focus on the cross, it can be life changing. When one can accomplish this, an entirely new perspective can be realized. What is shared in Scripture comes alive…

Should anyone attempt a solo fasting retreat?

Doing so certainly takes discipline and the knowledge that one might not be able to completely fulfill a goal of a set number of days. That is okay. Perhaps it can be a “duo” retreat, with a spouse or a good friend, with the purpose of enriching and encouraging each other during this journey. There are so many different varieties and opportunities to choose from when one fasts. Remember, though, that it is important to keep an eye on one’s health, ensuring dehydration or other negative consequences of not eating meals or snacks do not occur. Checking with one’s physician before attempting fasting is always a good idea.

Closing thoughts…

Our lives are meant to glorify God in every aspect of who God made us. They should center around continuous equipping, faith formation, and joyfully living out our vocation of serving and of living out the Great Commission. Biblical fasting can enable a time of deep spiritual restoration in a meaningful and innovative way.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

I Thess. 5:16-18

Thomas Wrege is an educator and principal, with 38 years in Lutheran school leadership. He has a desire to further the kingdom of God by providing rich resources that engage others to further their mission of sharing Jesus Christ throughout the world. He loves to be innovative and to collaborate with others in ministry.