Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Nil by mouth

We at Crossway Moreland are encouraged to devote part of or all of the first week of every month fasting. This means going without food, going without certain types of food, or abstaining from certain leisure activities. The idea is to use the time that you spend doing these things praying instead. The idea is to help you to grow spiritually, to seek to discern God's will for your life in a certain area, or to intercede for the needs of others. Some Christians do what is called a Daniel fast. Like the Old Testament prophet Daniel, they abstain from eating luxury foods for the duration of the fast.

This might get me into trouble, but with some creative exegesis, I've come up with the concept of the Ezekiel fast. Ezekiel was mute except when God had a message for him to give to the people of Israel (Ezekiel 3:25-27). Apparently there is some conjecture over whether God caused Ezekiel to lose the ability to speak, or whether it was a self-imposed ritual dumbness. Either way, it added to the impact of his prophetic utterances, and it lasted until news reached him of the fall of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 24:27).

The idea of the Ezekiel fast will be to go without talking to anyone for an extended period of time. This reminds me of a joke about a man who joins an order of monks who practice a ritual silence that restricts them to speaking two words per year. As you can imagine, this would be quite a stretch for me, especially since I'm so extroverted and talkative, and I'm not sure that I'd be up to the task. I'm tempted to take a softer option and abstain from television or DVD viewing instead.


Kitty Cheng said...

If I were to take part in the Ezekiel fast, it would certainly be easier for me to abstain from tv / dvd viewing than to abstain from talking lol.

I have also started to fast (go without food) a day a month, so I can focus more on intercession as well.

James Garth said...

The Ezekiel fast reminds me of a movie that went into limited release recently called "Into Great Silence", about monks from a strict monastic order who take a vow of absolute silence, and go about executing their daily duties in a rigorous self-imposed silent solitude.

I fluctuate between extremes on this behavior; sometimes I think God must value their piety and devotion, other times I think God must be furious at them for injecting such effort into such an ultimately vain pursuit, when so many more pressing problems in the world need fixing so urgently...

Re: food fasting, I used to criticize the concept, but not any more. Now it intrigues me greatly, especially in how it relates to the exercise of intercessory prayer and other more charismatic movements of the spirit.


Anonymous said...

I have done this no talking thing, (it's hard to believe I know) and I find that you actually learn to listen better. But thing I find really frustrating is that people always want to know what is wrong with me! They think I am cranky or ill when I don't talk. Not only that but I find it is really hard to start talking again once you stop, although I always manage it.

I do have issue with people being totally silent all the time though, the reason is that our society already struggles to build solid face to face relationships as it is. Texting, emailing, blogging (sorry Ross) and even talking on the phone, is not nearly as beneficial as having a face to face conversation. It is true that 90% of communication comes from what we don't say and 10% comes from what we do say.
But if we choose our words wisely, so that they build people up and don't tear them down. An we seek to tame our tongues than maybe Nil By Mouth wouldn't be so necessary
Enough waffling on from me

Ross McPhee said...

None of these modern technologies should be a substitute for human interaction. Email may be good in a work context, especially in a large organisation, because it's an efficient way to communicate and get things done, but I've found that it's not all that good a way of building or maintaining relationships. An email is just words on a screen, but there is no way to convey your personality. If you're introverted to begin with, all these things do is put another barrier between yourself and the other person.

I dabbled in a bit of creative writing long before the advent of the Internet and applications like blogging. One good thing about it is that it allows aspiring writers like me to effectively bypass the middleman and self-publish. Because the Internet is so pervasive, this is the democratisation of media, which allows the populace to bypass traditional channels of mass media, and potentially allows a diversity of voices to be heard, at least in theory.