Fasting from food is one of the classical disciplines followers of Jesus have practiced for centuries. It is an act of devotion to the Lord. Be careful how you talk about your fast, how long you have fasted, or even the “feel” or “experience” you may have enjoyed or wrestled with during the fast. Jesus said fasting is best done “in secret” where the Father can connect with us.
Read Matthew 6:16-18.
The “why” of fasting can be summed up by Jesus: “When you fast…” Jesus seems to imply it is an expectation of those in His Kingdom.
The purpose of fasting in Scripture is encouraging: For personal holiness (Psalm 69:10); To be heard on high (Ezra 8:23); To change God’s mind (Jonah 3:5, 10); To free the captives (Isaiah 58:6); For revelation (Daniel 9:2, 3, 21, 22), and to buffet the body (1 Corinthians 9:27).
There are several types of fasting for you to consider: The normal fast is done by drinking water only; The absolute fast is done without food or water, and is done for no more than three days; The partial fast has many variations – liquids only, certain types of foods, or certain meals; another type of fast concerns the length of it. Scripture reveals some who fasted 40 days.
When you fast, it is important to start off slow, maybe with a partial fast by skipping a meal and using the time for reading and reflecting on Scripture, worship, and prayer. Next time you might skip two meals in a day, then three on another day, drinking only water. A variation could be to fast breakfast and lunch, drinking water and or juice, and then a light dinner. When you are able to do this without feeling faint or famished (because you will feel hungry), you will be ready to ask the Lord about moving towards a longer fast of three, five, or even seven days.
To prepare for a longer fast, be sure not to indulge yourself with heavy meals like you are storing up food for a period of hibernation. You can slowly taper off your food intake the week prior to beginning your fast, even transitioning to fresh fruit the last day or so before the fast begins. It is also wise to recognize the need to slow down and cease your coffee intake a few days before your fast begins to help your body acclimate to the caffeine withdrawal (and possible headache).
During your normal fast, plan to drink a lot of water (4-8 glasses per day, but not ice cold water). Shower or bathe daily. Practice deep breathing, exhaling as fully as possible. Avoid strenuous exercise, but walking is fine. Of course, monitor your body as it adjusts to the lower food intake, so you are aware of but not caught off guard by the potential for bodily weakness.
A few ideas for breaking the fast: Watch your quantity of food intake and slowly resume your regular eating habits. Avoid sweets like candy and cakes the first week. Eat slowly. Stop at the sign of fullness. Slowly resume your workout routine. Do not try and do too much too soon. If there is any concern about your reaction to fasting, please consult your doctor beforehand.
Grow devotionally. Read Scripture for fasting examples, i.e., Nehemiah 1:4, 8, Esther 4:16, Isaiah 58: 6-9, Matthew 4:2 and 9:15, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. Ask someone who has fasted to walk you through the first steps of preparing to fast, executing the fast, and breaking the fast. “When you fast,” remember you are learning to love God through this ancient spiritual discipline.
Love is a verb,
©2017 by Mike Olejarz