Fasting… Please explain

Fasting can seem like an old or outdated practice people performed back in ‘Bible Times.’ To many, it is intimidating if you don’t know all of the ins and outs. The reality is that it is less about form and more about function. Per the norm: God cares more about our hearts than our rituals.

Fasting is simply setting aside something God gives us to enjoy (food, entertainment, etc.) in order to refocus our attention on and become more aware of our dependence on Him. There are plenty of reasons to fast. But ultimately, it is an acknowledgement of our need for God and for us to position ourselves to better hear from and be moved by Him.

Fasting is:

• Refocusing – Allowing ourselves to be reminded that we are dependent on God. For example, we can start to believe that it is food we are dependent upon as opposed to God, who is actually our true provider.
• Intentional – making a decision to put something aside for the sake of seeking God.
• Voluntary –an individual decision, rather than a mandate, to grow in your relationship with Jesus.
• Temporary – Does not last forever. God does ultimately want us to enjoy His gifts to us.
• Private – Is between you and God. It may be appropriate to share with a close friend and of course a spouse but it’s not a public discipline. (Matthew 6:16)

Fasting is not:

• Gaining God’s approval – Fasting does not cause God to like us more.
• Forcing God’s hand – Fasting is not a hunger strike to force God’s hand and get our own way. ‘God, I did this for you; what will you do for me?’ does not work in our relationship with Him.

Why we should fast:

• Jesus fasted and also reminded His followers to fast. His instructions were for “when you fast,” not “if you fast.” (Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew 6:16-18)
• It can lead to healing and spiritual health in our church and community.
o Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
• Fasting is a biblical way to humble yourself before God (Psalm 35:13; Ezra 8:21).
• It is a focused time to ask the Holy Spirit to show us where we are spiritually…resulting in brokenness, repentance, and growth in our relationship with Jesus.
• It is a time to specifically devote to praying and reflecting on God’s word. If you don’t know where to start, we have included some specific suggestions below.

How to Fast:

There is no “one formula” for how to fast.  Godly men and women in the Bible and throughout history have used a variety of ways and lengths of time. Again, the form is not as important as humbling our hearts before God and seeking Him.

It was common in the Bible for a one-day fast to begin at sunrise and end at sunset.  That would mean not eating breakfast and lunch but drinking water. Then, you can break your fast for a late dinner. Others have just avoided most solid foods sticking instead to a diet of juice, fruits, and vegetables. If you have never fasted, this could be a great starting point.

Are there different types of fasts?

• Absolute Fast (no water or food)
• Standard Fast (water only)
• Partial Fast (restrict certain food and drink categories)
• The widely known ‘Daniel Fast’ fits here.
• Intermittent Fast (Only eat during small daily window, for example: 4pm-6pm)
• Lengths of time can be anywhere from 1 day to 40 days.

What is most important is that you?

1. Substitute prayer and focusing on God for the time you would have spent eating.
2. Allow the cravings for food that you will undoubtedly have throughout the day to remind you of your need and dependency on God.

Are there other types of fasting that aren’t food?

• If your health does not permit it (consult your doctor if there is any doubt) or if you have other things that consume your time, choose something else to fast from, such as technology, TV, or putting off a purchase of some item you’ve wanted.
• Use the time you would have taken for Netflix or social media to pray, read and reflect on God’s word and to worship him.
• Just as with the absence of food, those tech withdrawals can serve as a reminder throughout the day of your total dependency on God and that He is first in your life!

What is an Easy way to Start?

• Choose a day.
• Choose your type of fast.
o Food or Technology
o An easy starting point is to say, “On this day I will have only fruit juice and moderate fruits and vegetables from sun up to sun down.”
• During any time that would be used for what you are fasting from, focus on God (see suggestions below for prayer/reflection).
• Anytime you have a craving, consider praying more, and at least remember your dependency on God and ask Him to move in your life.

Ways to pray/reflect during your fast

• Start with praise, thanksgiving, and adoration of God.  Consider praying through one of the many praise Psalms to get started (check out Psalm 103, 138, 139 among others).

Personal reflection
• Confession (Ask God to reveal anything wrong or sinful in your heart or life that you have not confessed or admitted to Him. Psalm 139:23-24)
• If your heart is heavy or life is confusing, and you find yourself asking, “Where is God?”  consider praying through Psalm 73.  You are in good company! Asaph felt the same way (see verse 17).

Pray for yourself as a disciple of Jesus (growing in your relationship with Him)
• For you to grow in your relationship with Jesus
• For you to live obediently, connect intentionally, serve selflessly, give generously, and share willingly
• For you to love people where they are and to encourage them to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ
• For God’s wisdom (James 1:5)
• For you to grow as a disciple who makes disciples. (Matthew 28:19-20)
• For those around you and their needs
• For specific needs facing you and your family

For Hope Community Church
• For God’s guidance and wisdom for our leadership
• For God to move in the hearts of our people
• For unity throughout our church (John 17:20-26)
• For our church family to live out our vision and mission Click Here
• For laborers for the harvest / our church to serve and minister (Luke 10:2)
• For God’s favor on us
• For us to meet the needs of our communities
• For those we seek to reach to have open hearts
• For us to be a church that makes disciples
• For boldness in sharing our faith
• For the resources we will need to fulfill our vision to reach the Triangle and change the world

Further Resources
For further information on what fasting is, check out this great resource from our friends at CRU.

If you’d like an even larger sample – try this.