Good day reader
Please allow me a few words on the topic of fasting and prayer.
Christ said that His servants would fast. In Matthew 6 Jesus teaches by giving instructions on WHEN you give, WHEN you pray and WHEN you fast. Thus, in Jesus’ teachings these 3 are duties for every Christian.
I was only introduced to fasting much later in my life and from personal experience can assure you it is powerful and a blessing. Listening to other’s experiences made it evident that it was also a huge blessing to them. Fasting reaps great rewards—both physical and spiritual. Properly used, it will draw you closer to God, show you His will, bring guidance, and provide direction, help, strength and deliverance from sin. Try it and you will experience it firsthand why fasting is such an essential discipline in a Christian’s growth.
I am not providing a comprehensive write-up on fasting. There are many good books and teachings on the topic (also see sermons from Pastor Roland on 12 January and 19 January 2020 on the IBC Website).
What is a fast? Is it starving yourself? Is it missing one meal—or more than one? Is fasting an obsolete Old Testament ritual—or an effective tool for Christian growth? How should we understand fasting today?
Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period for a spiritual purpose. A fast may be total or partial concerning that from which one fasts and may be prolonged or intermittent.
There are many examples of it in God’s Word. They reveal the true nature of fasting.
- Moses fasted for forty days and forty nights, twice back-to-back, without food or water; the first, immediately before he received the tablets on the mountain with God. And the second, after coming down, seeing the Israelites practicing idolatry, and breaking the tablets in anger. (Deuteronomy 9:7-21).
- King David fasted when the son of his adulterous union with Bathsheba was struck sick by God, in punishment for the adultery and for David’s murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah the Hittite. Nevertheless, the son died, upon which David broke his fast (2 Samuel 12:15-25).
- King Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast throughout Judah for victory over the Moabites and Ammonites who were attacking them (2 Chronicles 20:3). Note: This is an incredible story.
- The prophet Joel called for a fast to avert the judgment of God.
- The people of Nineveh, in response to Jonah’s prophecy, fasted to avert the judgment of God (Jonah 3:7).
- The Jews of Persia, following Mordechai’s example, fasted because of the genocidal decree of Haman. Queen Esther declared a three-day fast for all the Jews prior to risking her life in visiting King Ahasuerus uninvited (Esther 4).
- Saul, later Paul, did not eat or drink anything for three days after he converted on the road to Damascus.
- Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights while in the desert, being tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread and eat them, among other temptations. (Matthew 4:2, Luke 4:2).
- The prophetess Anna, who proclaimed the baby Jesus to be the Messiah, prayed and fasted regularly in the Temple (Luke 2:37).
- David used fasting as an act of humbling his soul (Psalm 35:13).
- The church in Antioch were worshipping the Lord and fasting when the Holy Spirit told them to send Barnabas and Saul for work (Acts 13:2).
- Paul and Barnabus appointed elders with prayer and fasting (Acts 14:23).
Here are a few practical items to effective fasting:
How to Start?
Start with a clear goal. Be specific. Why are you fasting? Write your goal down. Get yourself a journal and take time to record every day the impressions you have, your thoughts, the scripture you read and also what happened to you during that day. All the experiences during the day is connected and it will help you greatly when you reflect on these in the future.
It is recommended to consult your doctor before you start a fast, as some medical conditions or medication can prevent you from fasting.
A day or so before starting, cut back on the amount of food you eat. Gorging yourself before a fast is unwise. Cut back on these beverages ahead of time. The lack of caffeine and sugars (especially if you are a heavy coffee, tea or soda drinker) can cause you headaches during the fast.
Confess your sins to God. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of weakness. Forgive all who have offended you and ask forgiveness from those you may have offended (Mark 11:25; Luke 11:4; 17:3-4). Surrender your life fully to Jesus Christ and reject the worldly desires that try to hinder you (Romans 12:1-2). Ask people to pray for you during your fast.
Deciding What type of Fast?
The type of fasting you choose is up to you. You could go on a full fast in which you only drink liquids, or you may desire to fast like Daniel, who abstained from sweets and meats, and the only liquid he drank was water.
Deciding How Long?
You may fast as long as you like. Most people can easily fast from one to three days, but you may feel the grace to go longer, even as much as the full 7 days of this fast. Use wisdom and pray for guidance. Beginners are advised to start slow.
What to Expect?
- You may experience headaches, due to a lack of caffeine and sugars (especially if you are a heavy coffee, tea or soda drinker). This can happen from day 2 to 3, but then is completely go away.
- You may also experience light-headedness and bad breath. Keep in mind that your body will be eliminating built-up poisons and burn fat. Drinking plenty of water before beginning and during your fast will help and use your tooth brush more often.
- You will experience that you are “colder” than normal. Keep something warm close-by and know that spaces like the home or office might feel too cold. This is normal.
- Naturally, you will have hunger pains. Limit your activity and exercise moderately. Take time to rest. This also disappear after day 2 or 3. By drinking warm water can provide some relieve.
- People expect their energy levels to drop, but on the contrary, after a few days (normally day 3), one experiences an increase in energy levels. One can often during this time do with less sleep at night without a reduction in alertness or energy. It is also during this time that the general senses are sharper. The smell of food or the taste buds are detecting the smallest of impulses. Great when you taste your 1st food or drink after a fast.
- Many distractions can come during a fast. Remember there is a spiritual war ongoing and you are stepping into this war zone. Ask others to pray for you during your fast and stay alert. One key distraction to avoid is screen time. You would be surprised how many food adverts there are on TV. Why put yourself thru the discomfort of watching these? Some people cut back on reading emails or other forms of communication and social media.
- Fasting is rarely convenient. You must set aside the time to do it. At times, it may be necessary to perform your daily duties. You may have to work. But the most profitable fast would occur during free time.
- Avoid wasting the time of fasting—by not studying, praying or meditating—reduces the fast to a mere hunger strike.
- During your fast, spend time listening to praise and worship music. Pray as often as you can throughout the day. Get away from the normal distractions as much as possible and keep your heart and mind set on seeking God’s face. Set you mind on God and His things.
- During the fast, the Holy Spirit might reveal more things in your life to confess. These might require you to act. This might mean contacting someone in your past or visiting an old friend. This is part of the healing and reconciliation process and has great value.
- Remember to replace the time for preparing food and eating with prayer and Bible study/reading.
- Take some time for walks or to do things to “clear your mind”.
- You can become restless during a fast and from time to time be troubled by your own “non-spiritual” thoughts and desires, like food. Let all these, like hunger pains, act is reminders for why you fast. There are times during a fast when things appear to be less spiritual than you hoped for. Just persist.
- Moderate exercise can still be done.
- Some people might experience that they are awake at night. Use these times for prayer. Remember, your spirit is more sensitized during a fast and many people or situations might cross your mind. Pray for all these and present them to the Lord. Do not be discouraged by these. You are putting aside dedicated time for the Lord and He will respond to these.
- If you have a family or children still at home, remember your absence from meals can disrupt them. Explain the fast to them and include them in the journey by sharing your experience. They will observe you and this becomes their 1st exposure to the discipline of fasting. You might also want to inform close friends about your fast.
Have the proper appearance.
Remember what Christ said in Matthew 6:16-18. Bathe or shower as you would normally do. Comb your hair. Dress and act normally. Brushing teeth is permissible. No one should be able to tell by your appearance that you are fasting—only God should know.
How to End?
Don’t overeat when the time comes to end your fast. Begin eating solid food gradually; eat small portions or snacks. Salads, raw foods and vegetables allow for more health benefits. You just detoxed your body, think about healthy alternatives when you break the fast.
God cannot be manipulated and His timing, although perfect, is not our timing. Revisit your fast journal after a few weeks and months. This will help you with understanding and in some cases to connect the dots for you. You do not need to wait for a corporate fast to fast again. One day private fasts during the year will continue to build your faith.
This is a cryptic introduction to fasting, but I want to encourage you to try it. Take a leap of faith with God and put your trust in Him to deliver what he promised in the Bible.
Peace be on you!