What is Fasting?
Fasting can be described as set time to voluntarily separate oneself from some aspect of one’s normal activities to make room for God. Typically, this is a time of separation from certain foods and liquids in one’s diet and it is normally accompanied by prayer.
Biblical Prayer & Fasting
Fasting was an expected discipline in both Old and New Testament times. Jesus taught his disciples and the crowds in his ‘Sermon on the Mount’ with the words, “when you fast,” not if you fast. Many, if not most fasts in the Bible were for 1 day, usually during the hours between sunrise and sunset. (Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 14:24; 2 Samuel 1:12; 3:35) Other fasts were 3 days and nights (Esther 4:16) and 7 days (2 Samuel 12:16-18; 1 Chronicles 10:12). The longest fasts in Scripture were the 40 day fasts by Moses, Elijah and Jesus.
- Seek change (Nehemiah 1:4)
- Repentance (1 Samuel 7:6; Nehemiah 9:1; Jonah 3:5)
- Guidance (Ezra 8:21)
- Help in Crisis (2 Chronicles 20:3; Esther 4:16; Daniel 9:3)
- Spiritual Authority (Acts 13:2; 14:23)
- Fresh Anointing (Matthew 4:2; Acts 13:3)
- Divine Direction (Judges 20:26; Acts 13:2-3)
- New Level of the Holy Spirit Power (Luke 4:14)
- Answered Prayer (Nehemiah 1:4; Esther 4:16)
- Intervention of God (2 Chronicles 20:3)
Emphasize the Positive Purpose
When thinking about fasting it is often the case that many of us immediately focus on and emphasize what we will be giving up for the time of the fast. Instead of focusing on the negative, it can be helpful to emphasize what you will add to your life and what you will gain from the fast. Fasting with prayer should always be with a positive purpose in mind. For example, fasting with prayer is intended to heighten your spiritual focus, intensify your passion for God and the things of God, and allow you to gain self-control over your fleshly cravings and human will.
Examples of circumstances that may move you to fast: sensing a desire for God to move in your community, family, or personal life; you are deeply convicted by the sinfulness of the people of God or a people group you identify with; when desiring to specially separate yourself from the things of the world to be closer to God; when desiring a stronger faith to take hold of the promises of God; when anticipating a new opportunity for ministry.
A Plan of Action:
Decide on the Purpose.
2 Chronicles 7:14 gives an excellent outline for priorities in your fast. You may want to choose a purpose from an example given in the notes above.
Make the Commitment.
How long will your fast be? What type of fast (water only, water and juices, etc.)? What activities will your restrict? How much time each day will you devote to prayer and God’s word?
(The foundation of fasting is humility and repentance)
Confess your sin to God and accept His forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Seek forgiveness from those you’ve offended and forgive those who’ve hurt you (Mark 11:25; Luke 11:3; 17:3, 4). Ask God to fill you with his Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; 1 John 5:14-15). Surrender your life to Jesus (Romans 12:1-2). Be aware of and don’t underestimate spiritual opposition (Galatians 5:16-17). Begin your fast with an expectant heart (Hebrews 11:6).
(Take reasonable precautions.)
Consult your GP (physician) first, especially if you take prescription medication or have a chronic ailment. Some people should not fast without professional supervision.
To make the drastic change to your eating habits a little easier so that you can focus your attention on the Lord: a) Do not rush into your fast. b) Avoid sugar, caffeine and high-fat foods and eat smaller meals before starting the fast. c) Eat raw fruit and veg for a couple of days before starting a fast.
Begin your Fast
A final few thoughts on Fasting:
- The goal of fasting is not to manipulate God to do what we want. Instead we fast to draw us into closer alignment with God’s nature and God’s will. (Isaiah 58:2-6)
- Fasting should never be used to show-off spiritually. Instead it is something to be done in secret, only before God. (Matthew 6:16)
- Fasting reminds us of the genuine source of our sustenance for life. (Matthew 4:1-4)
- Fasting is an opportunity to welcome God into more of your life, your family, your church, your community and this world. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
- Fasting is a “normal” part of life for followers of Jesus. (Matthew 6:16-18)
- “Fasting without Prayer is just Going Hungry.”