What is Fasting?
Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is taught in the Bible. Jesus expected his followers to fast, and he said that God rewards fasting. Fasting, according to the Bible, means to voluntarily reduce or eliminate your intake of food for a specific time and purpose.
“When you give up eating, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They make their faces look sad to show people they are giving up eating. I tell you the truth, those hypocrites already have their full reward. So, when you give up eating, comb your hair and wash your face. Then people will not know that you are giving up eating, but your Father, whom you cannot see, will see you. Your Father sees what is done in secret, and he will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 (NCV)
There are many good reasons, and even health benefits, for fasting. However, our CHURCH DAY OF FASTING – WEDNESDAYS for the 40 Days of Prayer Challenge is for three primary reasons:
1. Fasting gives you more time for prayer. You can use the time you’d normally spend eating as time in prayer for what God wants to do among us during this Challenge. In the Bible, fasting is always connected with prayer.
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.‟ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
Acts 13:2-3 (NIV)
2. Fasting demonstrates the depth of your desire when praying for something. It shows you that you are serious enough about your prayer request to pay a personal price. God honors deep desire and praying in faith.
“Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.” Joel 1:14 (NIV)
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Joel 2:12 (NASB)
3. Fasting releases God’s supernatural power. It is a tool we can use when there is opposition to God’s will. Satan would like nothing better than to cause division, discouragement, defeat, depression, and doubt among us. United prayer and fasting has always been used by God to deal a decisive blow to the enemy!
“So we fasted and prayed about these concerns. And he listened.” Ezra 8:23 (Msg)
“God says, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6 (NIV)
Ten Practical Steps in Conducting a 24-Hour Fast
I agree with Richard Foster when he says, “Fasting must forever center on God…. Physical benefits, success in prayer, the enduing with power, spiritual insights–these must never replace God as the center of our fasting.” John Wesley declared, “Let fasting be done unto the Lord with our eye singly fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven.”
With this perspective as your foundation, I believe it is helpful to dedicate your fast for a secondary purpose– for a breakthrough.
It is highly recommended that you consult your physician before conducting a fast. There are some people who should never fast: expectant or nursing mothers, diabetics, and those on certain medications. Bill Bright has some good recommendations regarding medical questions in his book The Coming Revival.
Pick your starting point and stopping point. If you are conducting a 24-hour fast, then you are committing to miss 2 meals. So, for example, you would eat dinner one night, and then not eat again until dinner the next night, thus missing your breakfast and lunch meals.
You do not fast just for the sake of fasting — you fast to glorify God and to intensify your prayers. Thus, it makes sense that you would purposely schedule extra slots of time for prayer. Two obvious time slots would be the meal times that you are missing. In the above example, you could dedicate the time you would have spent eating breakfast and lunch to prayer. As your schedule permits, set aside some additional periods of time for prayer. Some people will be able to dedicate the entire day to a prayer retreat. Others will only be able to come up with 2 time slots. Both are “successful” in my eyes.
Will you conduct an absolute fast (no food or water), regular fast (water only), partial fast (water and juice only), or Daniel fast (vegetables and liquids only–abstaining from “rich” foods). You could also do an absolute fast, which is what I will do.
For those who cannot abstain from food due to medical reasons, you can abstain from rich foods (Daniel fast), television, telephone, people (discipline of solitude), or speech (discipline of silence).
During extended fasts (3 days or more), it is important that you eat smaller meals with low-fat and low-sugar prior to beginning the fast and that you break the fast with juices and raw vegetables. A 24-hour fast does not require quite the same graduations, but it makes sense to eat healthily (low-fat, low-sugar) before and after your fast.
Begin your fast with confession and repentance. Pray Psalm 139:23-24. Repent of specific sins in your life and identify with the sins of your church, city, and nation by repenting on their behalf (Nehemiah 1 and Daniel 9). Claim 1 John 1:9 and 2 Chronicles 7:14. Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18; Luke 11:12-13).
I would encourage you to keep a journal of your prayer and fasting time. Writing letters to God is a great way to communicate with a close Friend. Spend some of your prayer time just listening to God. Journal the things that you think you are hearing from Him.
Different people will react differently to going 24 hours without food. Some common side effects include headaches, bad breath, less energy, irritability, and hunger pains. Some of these are actually signs that your body is doing some work. Because your digestive system is resting, your body is able to work on purging itself of toxins (thus the bad breath). Use the hunger pains as a reminder of your hunger and dependence upon God (Matthew 5:6).
As you break your fast, thank God for the communion you had with Him and for the Breakthrough you will experience. Thank Him for the things He taught you. By faith, thank Him for the prayers He will answer through this time of prayer.