Compiled by Darren Shelton
Fasting is oftentimes neglected because many people find it so difficult to complete. While there are numerous reasons why people struggle with fasting, we should always be mindful of the power that can be found in fasting. The purpose of fasting isn’t just limited to bringing the flesh into submission. Isaiah 58:6 clearly indicates that through fasting bands of wickedness are loosed, heavy burdens are undone, the oppressed are set free and yokes are broken. There is tremendous power in fasting! God doesn’t want you to be miserable while fasting but because our flesh is strong, it takes practice in order to successfully fast while maintaining a positive attitude. This conditioning is accomplished through gradual fasting and understanding a few principles.
It’s very important to recognize that fasting brings our human will into submission through sacrifice. However fasting doesn’t change the will of God nor compel Him to fulfill our desires. We do draw closer to Him as our carnal nature subsides, thus our prayers become more closely aligned to His will so we’ll see more spiritual results in that respect.
There are three basic types of fasting from food: 1) Regular Fast – no food but drink, 2) Partial Fast – limited food or drink, 3) Full Fast – no food or drink. The variations of regular and partial fasts are endless. People adjust these fasts to meet their individual needs. Some people, for health reasons, are limited in how they can fast and this is fine. The most important thing to remember when fasting is that it is about sacrifice. If someone is fasting but their fast isn’t truly a sacrifice, then they won’t achieve much spiritually through that fast.
Any fast over one day in length should be considered an extended fast. Eliminating sugar and high carbohydrate intake from the diet prior to the fast (while still eating other foods) can greatly help the body prepare for the fast. The body becomes addicted to these things and going straight into a fast without them can result in headaches, nausea and weakness. By weaning your body of them in advance of the fast, you can minimize the body’s withdrawal cravings.
It’s not uncommon to have some side-effects from fasting, things such as headaches, getting cold, feeling weary and sometimes being uncommonly moody. Some people have found that by regularly fasting on the same days of the week (ie. every Tuesday, etc.) that the body adjusts and fast-related headaches cease to be experienced.
If you’re planning to go on a lengthy fast (ie. 7 day fast) then it is helpful to condition your body by going through several 2-3 day fasts in the weeks preceding your lengthy fast. This method of gradually increasing your fasts will help the body adjust more smoothly and hopefully alleviate the painful side-effects. Even after conditioning one’s body, a lengthy fast can be physically draining so some people have found it best to do these during times of retreat (ie. a vacation time where the focus was on spiritual matters.) If one takes a lengthy fast while maintaining their regular schedule, they should be mindful to plan for times of meditative rest during the day. Your boss won’t appreciate you passing out on the job as a result of your fast!
One should never feel guilty about having to break their fast due to intense sickness. In fact, it’s wise to end a fast while feeling good because you’re more apt to readily fast again. If you push your body too hard and get sick as a result, that negative memory could hinder your future fasting efforts.
Here are some tips to help you in your fast:
- While fasting, maintain or increase your regular prayer time. It’s important that you keep yourself spiritually focused while fasting.
- While fasting, it’s wise to also fast from non-work related media (ie. TV, internet, books, music, etc.) so that you can keep your thoughts on godly things. Read your bible often!
- Some people strongly dislike the taste of plain water and so while fasting they may replace their regular drinks (ie. coffee, tea, sodas, etc.) with healthy drinks like juices (apple, grape, cranberry, etc.) or non-caffeinated green teas.
- Jesus instructed us to fast in secret so as not to seek the praise of men (which was a problem in biblical times) but it can be smart to have a fasting accountability partner who can encourage you to complete the fast.
- Taking vitamins while fasting, especially during extended fasts, is both acceptable and encouraged, especially so for people with health conditions. The purpose of fasting is to control the flesh, not to harm it.
The key is to start fasting regularly and then gradually increase the frequency and length of your fasts. If you can successfully fast one day per week for a month, then begin increasing that to two days every other week for a month. Then try three days one a month and perhaps an extended fast (3+ days) once or twice a year.
Fasting should be enjoyable. God wants your sacrificial fasting to be done gladly, not begrudgingly or duty bound. A person who fasts with the right attitude will find great spiritual power as they’re more responsive to the spirit both during and after the fast. You simply cannot spiritually accomplish through any other means, what can be achieved through biblical prayer and fasting!