As we take this spiritual journey as a church, we encourage you to commit to a personal fast. Check out the information below for tips on how to fast!
WHAT IS A FAST?
Fasting is an outward sign of an inward attitude. It is a time when spiritual nourishment replaces physical nourishment. We substitute food for prayer. In doing so, we build a closer relationship with God.
WHY SHOULD I FAST?
- Many people in the Old Testament fasted when they had a special need or an emergency. David fasted when his son was sick (II Samuel 12:16-23). Esther fasted before she told King Xerxes about a plot to destroy the Jews (Esther 4:16). Jehoshaphat fasted before he went into battle against the Moabites and Ammonites.
- Fasting was often a sign of mourning or repentance. David fasted after the Philistines defeated the Israelites and killed Saul and Jonathan (I Samuel 31:13). Nehemiah and Daniel fasted for the sins of their countrymen (Nehemiah 1:4; Daniel 9:3). The king of Nineveh commanded all the Ninevites to fast in repentance for their sin (Jonah 3:5-10).
- Some fasted to receive revelation or direction from God. Moses fasted before he received God’s law on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 34:28). Daniel fasted before he received a vision (Daniel 10:2-3). In Acts, church leaders fasted to know God’s direction in ministry (Acts 13:2-3, 14:23).
- Jesus fasted before He began His ministry (Matthew 4:2; Luke 4:1-2).
- Isaiah prophesied that God wanted His people to fast for the poor and oppressed (Isaiah 58:3-14). Along with Jeremiah and Zechariah (Jeremiah 14:10; Zechariah 7:3-10), Isaiah prophesied that God would reject a fast that was only ritual and not accompanied by action that would lead to justice for the poor.
WHAT ARE SOME FASTING ERRORS?
- Fasting is not to punish your body. Although fasting may aid in physical discipline, which is important (I Corinthians 9:27), the Bible never tells us to punish the body in order to build up the spirit.
- Fasting does not earn God’s favor. The only way to earn God’s favor is to put your faith in the death of His Son on the cross and His resurrection. Jesus warns all people against using any ritual to reach God (Luke 18:12).
- Do not let fasting become a source of guilt. Anything that brings condemnation on a believer is not the will of Jesus (Romans 8:1-2).
- Fasting should not be entered into lightly.
- Fasting does not guarantee a certain result, but there is always a reward (Matthew 6:16-18).
HOW SHOULD I FAST?
- The length of Old Testament fasts varied, and no time frame is given for New Testament fasts except for the forty days Jesus fasted. Like Jesus, Moses fasted for forty days (Exodus 34:28). Daniel fasted for twenty-one days, but this was not a total fast (Daniel 10:2-3). David fasted seven days after Saul’s death (I Samuel 31:13) and when his child was sick he fasted until the child died (II Samuel 12:16-23). Esther fasted for three days before her audience with King Xerxes (Esther 4:16). Most fasts lasted one day, which for Jews usually meant until the sun went down (II Samuel 1:12).
- Most fasts meant abstaining from food. While Esther’s fast included abstaining from water as well as food (Esther 4:16), Daniel fasted only from good food and wine (Daniel 10:3).
HELPFUL STEPS FOR FASTING
Below are some helpful steps to get you started on your fast.
STEP 1: SET YOUR OBJECTIVE
Why are you fasting? Is it for spiritual renewal, for guidance, for healing, for the resolution of problems, for special grace to handle a difficult situation? Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in your fasting focus. This will enable you to pray more specifically and strategically.
STEP 2: MAKE YOUR COMMITMENT
Pray about the kind of fast you should do. Jesus implied that all of His followers should fast (Matthew 6:16-18; 9:14,15). For Him, it was a matter of when believers would fast, not if they would do it. Before you fast, decide the following upfront:
- How long you will fast – one meal, one day, a week, several weeks, forty days (Beginners should start slowly, building up to longer fasts)
- The type of fast God wants you to undertake (such as water only, or water and juices; what kinds of juices you will drink and how often)
- What physical or social activities you will restrict
- How much time each day you will devote to prayer and God’s Word
Making these commitments ahead of time will help you sustain your fast when physical temptations and life’s pressures tempt you to abandon it!
STEP 3: PREPARE YOURSELF SPIRITUALLY
The very foundation of fasting and prayer is repentance. Unconfessed sin will hinder your prayers. Here are several things you can do to prepare your heart:
- Confess every sin that the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and accept God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
- Seek forgiveness from all whom you have offended, and forgive all who have hurt you (Mark 11:25; Luke 11:4; 17:3,4).
- Make peace with others as the Holy Spirit leads you.
- Surrender your life fully to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master; refuse to obey your worldly nature (Romans 12:1,2).
- Meditate on the attributes of God: His love, sovereignty, power, wisdom, faithfulness, grace, compassion, and others (Psalm 48:9,10; 103:1-8, 11-13).
- Begin your time of fasting and prayer with an expectant heart (Hebrews 11:6).
- Do not underestimate spiritual opposition. Satan sometimes intensifies the natural battle between body and spirit (Galatians 5:16,17).
STEP 4: PREPARE YOURSELF PHYSICALLY
Fasting requires reasonable precautions. Consult your physician first, especially if you take prescription medication or have a chronic ailment. Some people should never fast without professional supervision.
Physical preparation makes the drastic change in your eating routine a little easier so that you can turn your full attention to the Lord in prayer.
- Do not rush into your fast.
- Prepare your body. Eat smaller meals before starting a fast.
- Eat raw fruit and vegetables for two days before starting a fast.
Your time of fasting and prayer has come. Here are some helpful suggestions to consider:
- Medication should be withdrawn only with your physician’s supervision.
- Limit your activity.
- Exercise only moderately.
- Rest as much as your schedule will permit.
- Prepare yourself for temporary mental discomforts, such as impatience, crankiness, and anxiety.
- Expect some physical discomforts, especially on the second day. Withdrawal from caffeine and sugar may cause headaches. Physical annoyances may also include weakness, tiredness, or sleeplessness.
The first two or three days are usually the hardest. As you continue to fast, you will likely experience a sense of well-being both physically and spiritually. However, should you feel hunger pains, increase your liquid intake.
STEP 5: PUT YOURSELF ON A SCHEDULE
For maximum spiritual benefit, set aside ample time to be alone with the Lord. Listen for His leading. The more time you spend with Him, the more meaningful your fast will be.
- Begin your day in praise and worship.
- Read and meditate on God’s Word.
- Invite the Holy Spirit to work in you to will and to do His good pleasure according to Philippians 2:13.
- Invite God to use you. Ask Him to show you how to influence your world, your family, your church, your community, your country, and beyond.
- Pray for His vision for your life and empowerment to do His will.
- Return to prayer and God’s Word.
- Spend time in intercessory prayer for your community’s and nation’s leaders, for the world’s unreached millions, for your family or special needs.
- Get alone for an unhurried time of “seeking His face.”
- Avoid distractions that may dampen your spiritual focus.
Tips on Juice Fasting
- Drinking fruit juice will decrease your hunger pains and give you some natural sugar energy.
- In cold weather, you may enjoy a warm vegetable broth.
When your designated time for fasting is finished, you will begin to eat again. But how you break your fast is extremely important for your physical and spiritual well-being.
STEP 6: END YOUR FAST GRADUALLY
Begin eating gradually. Do not eat large meals immediately after your fast. Suddenly reintroducing solid food to your stomach and digestive tract will likely have negative, even dangerous, consequences. Try several smaller meals or snacks each day. If you end your fast gradually, the beneficial physical and spiritual effects will result in continued good health.
Here are some suggestions to help you end your fast properly:
- Break an extended water fast with fruit.
- Gradually return to regular eating with several small snacks during the first few days. Start with a little soup and fresh fruit such as watermelon and cantaloupe. Advance to a few tablespoons of solid foods such as raw fruits and vegetables or a raw salad and baked potato.
STEP 7: EXPECT RESULTS
If you sincerely humble yourself before the Lord, repent, pray, and seek God’s face; if you consistently meditate on His Word, you will experience a heightened awareness of His presence (John 14:21). The Lord will give you fresh, new spiritual insights. Your confidence and faith in God will be strengthened. You will feel mentally, spiritually, and physically refreshed. You will see answers to your prayers.