“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6: 16-18)
Here we see that fasting should be be God-centered, God-intended, and God-ordained as an expression of grief, distress, or repentance; as preparation for God’s guidance and renewal (Exodus 24 and Daniel 9); to reveal things that hinder our intimacy with God; to remind us that we are sustained by “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4), and to help keep our lives in balance.
Partial fasting: abstaining from certain foods (Daniel 10:3).
Absolute fasting: going without food or water for up to three days (Esther 4:16).
Voluntary group fasting: for a specific reason by a specific group of people (Ezra 8:21, 23; 1 Sam. 7:6; 2 Chron. 20:3; Jonah 3:5; and others).
A Great Reason for fasting is for personal revival, but praying for our own needs and interceding for others are also important reasons to fast and pray along with the following:
- It humbles us and reminds us of our own inadequacies and dependence upon God.
- It reveals things that control us…pride, anger, bitterness, jealousy, greed and fear will surface during fasting.
- It draws our focus away from ourselves to God.
- It deepens our relationship with God.
- It helps us keep balance and perspective in our lives… what’s really important.
- It helps us live out the spiritual principle of self denial that says we’re serious about seeking God.
- It’s as if we are saying; “My body belongs to you, and my appetites and desires are devoted wholly to you, Lord.”
STEP 1: Determine Your Goals / Set your objective.
Why are you fasting? Is it for spiritual renewal, for guidance, for healing, for the resolution of problems, for special grace to handle a difficult situation? Ask the Holy Spirit to clarify His leading and objectives for your prayer fast. This will enable you to pray more specifically and strategically. Through fasting and prayer we humble ourselves before God so the Holy Spirit will stir our souls, awaken our churches, and heal our land according to 2 Chronicles 7:14. Make this a priority in your fasting.
STEP 2: Ask The Medical Questions.
Despite the benefits and necessity of fasting, there are certain persons who should Never fast without professional medical supervision. For Example:
- Persons who are physically too thin or emaciated.
- Persons who are prone to anorexia, bulimia, or other behavioral disorders. Those who suffer weakness or anemia.
- Persons who have tumors, bleeding ulcers, cancer, blood diseases, or who have heart disease.
- Those who suffer chronic problems with kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, or other Vital-organs.
- Individuals who take insulin for diabetes, or suffer any other blood sugar problem such as hyperglycemia & hypoglycemia.
- Women who are pregnant or nursing.
STEP 3: Make Your Commitment & Schedule Your Fast
Pray about the kind of fast you should undertake. Jesus implied that all of His followers should fast (Matthew 6:16-18; 9:14-15) For Him it was a matter of when believers would fast, not if they would do it. Before you fast, decide the following up front:
- How long you will fast – one meal, one day, a week, several weeks, forty days (Beginners should start slowly, building up to longer fasts.)
- The type of fast God wants you to undertake (such as water only, or water and Juices; what kinds of juices you will drink and how often)
- What physical or social activities you will restrict
- How much time each day you will devote to prayer and God’s Word
Making these commitments ahead of time will help you sustain your fast when physical temptations and life’s pressures tempt you to abandon it.
STEP 4: Prepare Yourself Spiritually
The very foundation of fasting and prayer is repentance. Any unconfessed sin will only hinder your prayers. So here are several things you can do to prepare your heart:
- Ask God to help you to recall and recognize all of your sins.
- Confess every sin that the Holy Spirit helps you to realize and accept God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
- Seek forgiveness from all whom you have offended, and forgive all who have hurt you (Mark 11:25; Luke 11:4; 17:3,4).
- Make restitution as the Holy Spirit leads you.
- Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit according to His command in Ephesians 5:18 and His promise in 1 John 5:14-15.
- Surrender your life fully to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master; refuse to obey your flesh or any other worldly influence (Romans 12:1,2).
- Meditate on the attributes of God, (Psalm 48:9,10; 103:1-8, 11-13). His love, sovereignty, power, wisdom, faithfulness, grace, compassion, and others.
- Begin your time of fasting and prayer with an expectant heart (Hebrews 11:6).
- Do not underestimate spiritual opposition. Satan sometimes intensifies the natural battle between body and spirit (Galatians 5:16,17).
STEP 5: Prepare Yourself Physically
Fasting requires reasonable precautions. Remember to consult your physician first, especially if you take prescription medication or have a chronic ailment. Physical preparation requires a drastic change in your diet. Proper preparation makes the drastic change in your eating routine a little easier so that you can turn your full attention to the Lord in prayer.
- Do not rush into your fast.
- Prepare your body. Eat smaller meals before starting a fast. Avoid high-fat and Sugary foods.
- Eat raw fruit and vegetables for two days before starting a fast.
- Do not neglect your personal Hygiene and Grooming during your fast (Mathew 6:16-18)
A partial fast is described in the book of Daniel. Although the water fast seemed to be the custom of the prophet, there was a three-week period in which he only abstained from “delicacies,” meat, and wine (Daniel 10:3).
The two primary types mentioned in the Bible are the “absolute” and “supernatural absolute” fasts. These are total fasts-no food (solid or liquid) and no water. Paul went on an absolute fast for three days following his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:9). Moses and Elijah engaged in what must be considered a supernatural absolute fast of forty days (Deuteronomy 9:9; 1 Kings 19:8).
During your special time with God, you should spend time in prayer and meditation to examine your heart, and reveal any unconfessed sin. Scripture records that God always requires His people to repent of their sins before He will hear their prayers. King David said: Come and hear, all of you who reverence the Lord, and I will tell you what he did for me: For I cried to him for help, with praises ready on my tongue. He would not have listened if I had not confessed my sins. But he listened! He heard my prayer! He paid attention to it! Blessed be God who didn’t turn away when I was praying, and didn’t refuse me his kindness and love. (Psalm 66:16-20)
In your prayers, confess not only obvious sins, but less obvious ones as well. The sins of omission as well as the sins of commission experiences. These may be experiences leaving your first love for our Lord: worldly-mindedness, self-centeredness, spiritual indifference, and unwillingness to share your faith in Christ with others, not spending sufficient time in God’s Word and in prayer, a poor relationship with your spouse, your children, your pastor, or other members of your church.
Although fasting is primarily a spiritual discipline, it begins in the physical realm. You should not fast without specific physical preparation. If you plan on fasting for several days, you will find it helpful to begin by eating smaller meals before you abstain altogether. Resist the urge to have that “last big feast” before the fast. Cutting down on your meals a few days before you begin the fast will signal your mind, stomach, and appetite that less food is acceptable.
Some health professionals suggest eating only raw foods for two days before starting a fast. But it may also be very helpful and is highly recommended that weaning yourself off any caffeine and sugar products to ease the initial discomfort of hunger and cravings in the early stages of your fast.
- It is advisable that you drink plenty of liquids during your fast. But obviously, if God leads you to undertake an absolute fast, you should obey. If so, be certain, without doubt, that God is leading you.
- Absolute fasts that last for more than several days need to be undertaken with complete rest and under medical supervision because of the extreme danger of Over-detoxification, breakdown of vital body tissues, and loss of electrolytes.
- When it comes to making your final decision about what type of fast is right for you, the best advice is to prepare yourself before you fast and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. He will guide your heart and mind as to what is best for you. Remember, the most important consideration in fasting is your motive. Why are you fasting? To seek something personally from God’s hand or to seek His face in worship, praise and thanksgiving?
- Set aside a time in the morning for private worship and praise.
- At lunch time spend a few minutes in God’s Word and prayer. Perhaps take a short walk as you pray.
- In the evening get alone for a relaxed time of seeking God’s face or spend extra prayer time with your spouse, family, or a friend.
- Avoid television and other distractions.
- If you are drinking juices, drink the juices at regular meal times.
- Allow more time than usual for rest.
End your fast gradually
If you have make the decision to pursue the challenge of an extended fast here are some things you should serious consider as both pre and post fast practices:
- Do not eat a large meal in Preparation or Celebration of any Fast.
- Break your fast gradually with fruit and raw vegetables.
- If you have been on an extended fast, while drinking juices add the following:
- First Day: Add a raw salad
- Second Day: Add baked/boiled potato, no seasoning or butter
- Third Day: Add a steamed vegetable
- Fourth Day: Begin to resume your normal diet.
Every year Muslims in the world fast in a particular way in the month of Ramadan. The traditions teach that during this month God gives Muslims a chance to double their rewards so to have much wider chance to get into the paradise. Muslims ask for His pardon for their past sins and conduct other meritorious behavior. Every act of kindness, prayer, giving, fasting and anything else that a Muslim can possibly do to please God, is expected. On such occasions, Muslims ask their Christian neighbors about their way of fasting. According to Islamic teaching all people of God, Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus fasted. Do Christians Fast? What is the Biblical perspective of Fasting? Forgetting that the Qur’an says: “O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become righteous.” (Al-Baqara 2: 183)
Many Christians do fast but not as Muslims fast nor do they display it. Some fast every year for 40 days, to commemorate the occasion of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and to prepare for the celebration of his suffering and resurrection. However, this custom is not a law given by God nor is there any record that Jesus himself fasted for 40 days every year, only that he did only once. There is no record of Jesus prescribing such a fast for his followers.
Fasting in the Bible is an expression of preparation for new ventures, of penitence and intercession and prayer seeking God’s aid (1Samuel 31:13; 1Kings 21:27; 2Samuel 12:16ff). In the past fasting was undertaken for personal reasons (Psalm 25:13), as a national act in the face of calamity (Joel 2:15), or as a periodic liturgical observance (Zech. 8:19).
Fasting normally involves abstinence from food to show dependence on God and submission to His will. The great fast in the Old Testament times was that of the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-34), which Muslims also observed in the early days at Madina before the observance of the whole month of fasting was decreed.
God gave a very thought provoking message through the Prophet Isaiah concerning fasting. “For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? 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? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here I am.If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the need of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58 :2 – 11)
In the New Testament fasting with prayer and the breaking of bread was regularly observed. Church leaders fasted when choosing missionaries and elders (Acts 9:9; 13:2,3; 14:23).
In line with such words, Jesus accepted fasting as natural discipline. The gospel mentions him as fasting before the start of his ministry, similar to the action of Moses and Elijah (Matthew 4:2; Exodus 24:28; 1 King 19:8). During his ministry it seems that his companions or disciples did not often fast, in contrast to the disciples of John the Baptist and those of the Pharisees (Mark 2:18-19). The reason was that they were in celebration because the Messiah, as the bridegroom, was still with them. However, Jesus did mention that after his departure and until his return they would fast (Matt. 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39).
Seeing how people fasted, Jesus advised: “When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on you head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your FATHER, who is unseen; and your FATHER, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:16 -18).