What is fasting?
Fasting is abstaining from something (food or otherwise) and replacing that thing with prayer and time with the Lord.
The Bible mentions three different types of fasting:
- Total fast – No food or water
- Normal fast – No food
- Partial fast – Abstaining from things like sweets, meat, bread, etc (e.g. Daniel’s fast – Daniel 1:12, 10:3)
Who should practice fasting?
In Matthew 6, Jesus is instructing His disciples in foundational elements of their spiritual life when He makes the statement, “and when you fast…” (Matthew 6:16). Jesus was expecting His disciples to fast and wanted them to know the right way to do it. The same is true for His disciples today (i.e. us). Jesus makes it clear that all believers should practice fasting as a way of prioritizing the things of Heaven over the things of this earth.
Why do we fast?
So often in this life we are like Esau, who sacrificed his life-long gift (his birthright as the first-born) to satisfy his temporary hunger for a bowl of food (Genesis 25:29-34). When we fast, we are asking the Lord to increase our appetite for Him and His ways at the expense of our appetite for temporary things on this earth (i.e. food, etc). There are many situations where the Bible encourages people to fast to bring about a resolution (i.e. when seeking wisdom/guidance (Judges 20:26) or to bring about deliverance/healing (Mark 9:29), etc), however, we believe that we are called to incorporate fasting into our lives just like Anna in Luke 2:37. For most, this will not mean that you fast every week, instead, we encourage you to establish a rhythm of fasting to listen to and walk more closely with the Holy Spirit. There are breakthroughs in both our spiritual and physical lives that will only be made available to us as we pursue the heart of God through fasting.
How do I fast?
What you fast and for how long will look different for different people and situations. The best thing you can do is to ask the Lord for wisdom in the “what” and “how long.” Whatever you choose to fast, it is important that it is something you have an appetite for on a daily basis as the goal of fasting is to replace your hunger for something temporary with a hungering after the Lord and His presence. If you plan on fasting food, it may be helpful to consult with your doctor to make sure that you will not harm yourself by doing so. Everyone’s health/abilities are different and intention of fasting is never to harm the body that the Lord created.
Fasting is more than just the abstaining from food or something else we want. The goal of fasting is nearness to the heart of God and clarity in hearing the Holy Spirit. If this is our desire, then our hungering for whatever we are fasting must be directed to our hunger for the Lord through prayer. If you have a typical time that you usually engage in the activity you are fasting (i.e. eating food), make a plan to spend that time praying and worshipping instead. There may be some times that you cannot do it at the same time (i.e. when you are spending a meal with others), but plan time to spend with the Lord around that.
Hebrews 11:6 says that God “rewards those who seek Him.” When you fast and pray, expect to hear from the Lord. Buy a journal (if you do not have one) and make time to write down what you hear from the Lord. When the Holy Spirit begins bringing thoughts to your mind, put them in your journal! Our God is such a good Father, and when we ask He promises we will receive (Matthew 7:7-8)!