One of the most difficult spiritual disciplines is fasting. There is a semi-well known TV preacher who starts every year leading his church in a 21-day fast. He claims that’s why his church is thriving and has grown into a mega church. I’m not sure about that but I do know that a biblical fast can be beneficial to the believer. Not necessarily to grow a church congregation, but to grow you spiritually.
Fasting takes incredible discipline. It is not a diet and not something you enter into lightly. This isn’t a weight loss plan but a way to adjust your priority back to God.
The most important part of fasting is your motive. You’d better have a pure motive if you are going to voluntarily go without food. I was taught in the church that fasting was a way to get God’s attention and to change His mind. This isn’t a good plan to get your way. Fasting is getting your attention on God. Too many people get this backwards. You can’t make God do anything even with fasting. Fasting is how you align yourself with God.
Do you have to go without food to do a fast? Some people say they are going to “fast” TV or social media. That really isn’t a biblical fast but those actions are still good things to do. There are, however, different ways to fast. Most think they you have to go totally without food for a specific time. Certainly this is the ideal method of fasting but you can also do a partial fast or do without some of your favorite foods. There is also a “Daniel fast” which Daniel did in the Old Testament where he only ate fruits and vegetables. (Daniel 1:12) I wouldn’t recommend the extreme fast where you go 40 days without food AND water. We aren’t Jesus and it could be detrimental to your health to be that ambitious.
So how long should you fast? The preacher I mentioned earlier traditionally calls for a 21-day fast. That’s a pretty good length of time. Be very careful trying a 40-day fast. That one is pretty brutal. A 3-day fast is pretty reasonable. The type and length of time is between you and God.
That’s another important thing about a fast. It’s personal. Don’t brag about it. You will defeat the whole purpose of fasting if you advertise it to get attention or sympathy. (Matthew 6:17-18) It is important to let your household know of your intentions to fast so they will know why you aren’t eating or the change to your routine.
When you decide to go on a fast, this is when people will come out of nowhere to offer to buy your lunch or your favorite restaurant will have a special on your favorite meal. Once when I was in the middle of a 3-day fast, that was when someone in my house decided it was a good time to bake some chocolate chip cookies. This is why it is one of the most difficult spiritual disciplines.
Now I am not an expert on fasting and definitely not someone who can brag about being good at it. I have had some limited success but I have also failed and have had false starts many times. It isn’t easy and it’s not fun.
Do you HAVE to fast? No. It’s not a commandment or requirement to get to heaven however, it is important and something we all should do.
Here are some tips I have learned about fasting:
- Don’t jump into a fast. Don’t immediately decide you’re going without food tomorrow. Work your way into it gradually. I suggest starting with one meal and working your way to your goal.
- Do something else when you normally would eat. Usually this is a good time to pray, read your Bible or meditate on God. Don’t sit and think about being hungry and missing the meal.
- Allow your body to adjust. You will probably get a headache when you begin your fast. Hang in there. Let your body adjust to the change.
- Don’t advertise your fast. Bragging about fasting will cancel out your sacrifice.
- Drink more water. More water intake will help with your headaches and help with the hunger.
- Don’t get discouraged if you give into food. Regroup yourself mentally and start again.
- Don’t feel guilty if you have any health issues and can’t physically fast. If you legitimately can’t fast, God understands.
- Gradually end your fast. Don’t have a buffet right away. Once after I fasted I decided I was have Hardee’s for breakfast. Big mistake. It made me sick.
- Leave the results to God. Don’t be focused on fasting changing God, let it change you.
If there is one thing I can leave with you is fasting isn’t to change God’s mind, it is to change you and help you to focus on Him. Certainly fasting can produce results but don’t just be consumed with the results. God will honor your sacrifice but He also sees your motives. Fast for the right reasons and when you stomach growls due to lack of food let that be praises going up to God.
Fasting is a fast way to get back to God. If you have lost your focus or need to get a closer relationship with God, fasting will help bring you back.