First off, let me encourage my fellow foodies to resist the urge to close your browser and move on. Voluntarily giving up food for any length of time just doesn’t sound appealing no matter which way you slice it—I get it. Just stick with me and see if I can change they way you think about this precious powerful gift from God (see, doesn’t that sound nice and inviting?).
Fasting is not just another Christian discipline to be marked off your holiness checklist. It is a powerful weapon that God has given us to live more victorious lives. Throughout the bible, we see fasting employed for the purpose of seeking and discerning God’s will in a given situation. I Samuel 7:5-6 shares one example of the people fasting as an act of repentance. Nehemiah mourned the destruction of the walls of Jerusalem and fasted for favor and success in efforts to rebuild. Often called the fasting chapter, Isaiah 58:6-12 speaks of fasting on behalf of others. The disciples fasted in preparation for ministry to the Lord’s people.
So, why should I fast? Fast when you need:
Prayer and fasting strengthens you to overcome. Prayer and fasting leads to spiritual freedom, stronger faith, and brings about change in real life situations. While Jesus was still on earth, His disciples needed help to cast a demon from a young boy. When they asked why they had been unsuccessful in doing so, Jesus answered, “this kind only comes out with fasting”. Jesus, in essence, is saying that there are some spiritual breakthroughs that will require us to pair our prayer with fasting. Fasting amplifies our communion with God in prayer, both in how we pray and in how we receive God’s response.
What is fasting?
Fasting is the willful and deliberate abstaining from food and/or drink for the purpose of drawing closer to God, discerning His will, and receive power and blessing to do His work.
When you fast, you are subjecting your physical man to some level of lack in order to decrease your flesh nature, so that your spirit man can become more sensitive to the Spirit of God, and you can be strengthened in your inner man.
How do I fast? Do I have to fast from food and drink? Is it safe?
Abstaining from food and drink is the only form of fasting we see in the bible. It’s also the only form of fasting I learned of when I first became a Christian. I’ve since learned that it’s possible to fast things other than foods. That said, my personal conviction is that fasting from food and drink represents a commitment to deny my body not just of something I love, but also of something it actually needs to survive, thus leading me to a heightened dependence on the strength and grace of God. Abstaining from food in any way shape or form causes a great disruption to my sense of well-being! Snickers has assured me that I am not alone in this sentiment. After all, they have created an entire marketing campaign around the concept that we act completely out of character when we become hungry. Our culture has even coined the term hangry to reflect what happens when we go too long without eating. For me, fasting from food is a surefire way to ensure my flesh is feeling subject to the spirit!
There are many different ways to fast from food and drink:
Normal Fast – No food, just drinking water (or 100% natural fruit or vegetable juice). Jesus fasted from all food for forty days (Matt and Luke 4:2)
Absolute Fast – No food or drinks (including water). Saul fasted from both food and drink for three days when he became a believer (Acts 9:9). This fast should never exceed three days.
Partial Fast – Limiting certain types of foods or drinks. In Daniel, we first see where he and three others request to eat only a vegetable diet and water for ten days (Daniel 1:12). In Daniel 10:3 he goes on to fast from meat, wine, and pleasant foods for three full weeks.
Regular Fast – systematically fast, either partially or from all food (Luke 18:11-12). I know people who fast one or two days every week for spiritual purposes. You can many varying rotations.
While fasting from food may require consulting your doctor, especially if you’re under a doctors’ care or take prescribed medicines, it is safe and can also have a positive physical impact.
Giving up food may not be an issue for you. Perhaps you are like my husband who truly does eat for sustenance and can go all day without a bite. Maybe your sacrifice would be giving up TV, or your cell phone, or shopping. If I asked you right now, “what one thing could you not go without?” What is the first thing that comes to mind? THAT could be what you should fast! If there is some activity or thing you hold dear in your heart and consumes a good deal of your time, attention or energy, you might consider fasting from it for a period of time. Remember, fasting involves some level of self-denial for the purpose of drawing nearer to God.
Executing The Fast
The power in fasting comes in making prayer an integral part of your focus. Remember, you are fasting for stronger faith, clarity in knowing God’s will, and/or for doing God’s will/work. Fasting is a spiritual exercise. It’s part of our spiritual armory—a weapon God has given you to help live victoriously as an overcomer. As such, you should expect resistance. The enemy of your soul will not give up ground without a fight. He never does. But you have the victory in Jesus, so here are some tips to help you walk in that victory:
- Write down the goal of your fast. The specific concern(s) for which you are setting apart time to consecrate yourself to God. “Lord, I humbly submit myself to You and commit to this fast in order to________________________.”
- Write down the type of fast you are committing to. “I will eat no ____________________ for the period of ________________ days/period of time.
- Start a fasting journal to capture your prayer focus and take note of what God speaks or does in your life during the fast. You might include #1 and #2 above in the journal as well.
- Schedule prayer time. You don’t need a rigid prayer schedule, but you want to identify at least one consistent prayer slot during each day you’re fasting. Pray whenever you feel inclined, but having a set time ensures that you will quiet your mind, body, and spirit to focus on God.
- Guard your heart and mind. Be mindful of the type of media you take in. Your spirit will become more sensitive to God; you want to minimize interference.
- Don’t make it obvious that you are fasting. Be mindful not to draw attention to the fact that you are fasting. You may want to talk to with your family and close friends as necessary. They could be helpful in supporting you in prayer.
- To end the fast, slowly re-introduce the excluded foods back into your diet, especially if your diet was extremely limited. You might even consider permanently giving up the things that don’t promote a healthy lifestyle. If your fast didn’t involve food, consider if you need to re-introduce that old behavior/habit back into your lifestyle at all!
What Fasting Is Not
Fasting is not an act used to show off your holiness or your degree of spirituality. The pharisee in Luke 18:11-14 prided himself on the fact that he fasted twice a week as if it made him better than the other man in the temple with him. It is not a religious exercise absent of any heart change or devotion to God (Isaiah 58:3-5).
Fasting is not a tool used to manipulate God. When committing to a time of prayer and fasting, the intent is to draw closer to God, aligning our heart with His will. We don’t fast with the intent to bend God’s will to get what we want.
Fasting is not a weight-loss plan or program. That would be a diet. Fasting is paired with prayer and is always practiced with the intent of strengthening one’s faith.
So what do you think? Do you agree that all of us should get in the practice of fasting? Is there some stronghold in your life which fasting could help you overcome?
If you want a deeper understanding of fasting, you might consider reading Fasting For A Spiritual Breakthrough by Elmer Towns, and God’s Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis.