Acts 14:21-23, Daniel 10
Fasting helps us realize “… the betterness of Jesus, above and over all earthly pleasures.” – Matt Chandler
When we hear “Fasting,” we often respond with discomfort and avoidance. It’s an intimidating concept. No food? Deprive yourself of something, for a window of time, that your body relies on? No way.
However, the discipline, or practice, of fasting can be both transformational and beautiful. Remember the first time you did a snatch? It was awkward and clumsy. Yet, what happened the more you integrated it into your fitness and took time to practice the movement? You became better, it became more natural, and for many of you, it’s probably become your favorite lift.
Fasting enables us to shift the focus of our survival and why we’re alive, from relying on ourselves, to relying on Jesus. It’s a reminder of who we really live for and where our true sustenance comes from.
Fasting can be hard, and praying and asking God for strength to get through the hunger is sometimes the only way to push through. It becomes this tangible experience of him taking care of us. Fasting for one day will not kill us, even though it might feel like it will at points.
What is fasting?
Fasting is traditionally understood as abstaining from eating and drinking anything, except water for a 24 hour window of time. During the time you would normally eat, you instead spend that time praying for the intent and purpose of your fast. As you are hungry throughout the day, the hunger is a reminder to pray over your chosen reason/purpose of the fast.
Yet, there are a myriad of ways to fast, and to grow into the more traditional understanding of practice of fasting. This doesn’t have to look one way. Majority of people who do fast, observe a 24 hour water only fast. However, a majority of the general population doesn’t fast at all, mostly because it’s intimidating, it’s inconvenient, and it’s uncomfortable. But we can tell you from first hand experience, that it is an incredibly rewarding Spiritual Discipline.
Don’t think that you have to dive off the deep end.
Why do we fast?
Ultimately, fasting is us surrendering ourselves and our lives over to God. It’s an invitation for him to come in and move. We are offering our will and our desires to him, then trusting him with what happens next. When we fast, we acknowledge that he is the source of our strength in whatever season we’re in. There are some specific cases we see throughout the Bible:
- Fasting over big decisions. Esther 4:16, Acts 13:2-4, Acts 14:23,
- Fasting when someone wants to hear from God. Daniel 10:3, Exodus 34:28, Luke 4:2-4
- Fasting after sinning as a form of confession and contrition. Joel 2:12-13, Nehemiah 1:4, Jonah 3:5-9
- Fasting to intercede on behalf of someone or a situation. Esther 4:16, Daniel 9:3-5, Ezra 8:21-23
When do we fast?
In seasons, or times, where we have big decisions, we want to hear from God, we’re repenting from sin, or we’re interceding on behalf of someone or a situation; these are all opportunities to fast.
Because we live communinal lives, we need to take into account how our decisions to fast may impact other people, but at the same time, that should not keep you from fasting when God is calling you to.
How do we fast?
“Fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose.” -Martyn Lloyd-Jones
As you go through your fast, turn to God during the times when you would normally consume what you’re fasting from. Let the discomfort be the reminder of what you’re intentionally doing, and intentionally surrendering.
In any decision to fast, it is up to the individual and what they believe God is calling, or convicting, them to do. There’s different forms of fasting that God may call them to or want to use. Lay it down before the Lord and trust that the Holy Spirit will guide you.
Maybe start small with one meal. Try fasting through lunch, and during the time you would normally break to eat, you spend that time alone, praying and meditating over the purpose of your fast. Another option that some take is no caffeine, desserts, etc.
All Solid Food
This option and the last one are good for those that may struggle with health issues that complicated a water only fast. Protein shakes, juices, etc are still consumed on this version of fasting.
This is the version most people think of for fasting. This is where you abstain from all food and drinks, except water, for a 24 period of time.
This is one of the more popular prolonged fasts. It’s 21 Days long and consists of only water, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole gains. No meat, dairy, eggs, or sweeteners are consumed. This fast was observed by Daniel, and can be read about in Daniel 10.
Again, there’s various reasons for why someone can’t observe specific food fasts. In these cases, people may decide to refrain from TV, the computer, social media, or some other daily activity that means a lot to them.
Community vs. Individual
Fasting is mostly done on an individual level, however, it can also be observed by a community of people. There’s a richness to be found in practicing this alone but also at times with others.
- In the past, what did you think of fasting?
- Have you ever fasted?
- Why or why not?
- Is there a situation in your life right now that you could fast over?
Begin praying and asking the Holy Spirit to show you any opportunities where you could fast, then go for it!