Fasting

What is fasting?

Fasting is a spiritual discipline during which a believer’s focus is removed from the physical things of this world and intensely concentrated on the spiritual. Put another way, fasting directs our hunger toward God (Matthew 4:4 Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God). "The purpose of fasting is to loosen to some degree the ties which bind us to the world of material things and our surroundings as a whole, in order that we may concentrate all our spiritual powers upon the unseen and eternal things." ~ Ole Hallesby

Is fasting something Christians should do?

Jesus modelled fasting when tempted in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11), and expected his hearers to fast during his 'sermon on the mount' (Matthew 6:16-18). Jesus also said that when he departed from this earth then his followers will then fast (Mark 2:18-20). In addition, we can see that the early church practised fasting (Acts 13:1-3; Acts 14:21-23).

What are the benefits of fasting?

Generally speaking, fasting will give you a heightened sensitivity to God. By fasting, the body learns to obey the soul; by praying the soul learns to command the body.

How often should I fast?

There is no direct command for the Christian. Paul fasted often (2 Corinthians 11:27), however, God is more concerned with the inner attitudes than with the frequency. For example, in Luke 18:12-14 the boastful Pharisee professed weekly fasting, but was not justified. "Fasting in the biblical sense is choosing not to partake of food because your spiritual hunger is so deep, you determination in intercession so intense, or your spiritual warfare so demanding that you have temporarily set aside even fleshly needs to give yourself to prayer and meditation." ~ Wesley L. Duewel

I’m not looking forward to being hungry – would it be a good idea to make myself really busy so I don’t have time to think about it?

Fasting only really bears fruit if it’s accompanied by prayer. A good practice is to invest the time that you free up by not eating, in prayer (Daniel 9:3). Fasting is a discipline and you will feel hunger pangs, but the sense of God being with you will give you the focus and power you need.

Is there anything else I could do whilst fasting?

Yes. Read the word, confess, worship (Nehemiah 9:3), serve God, pray (Luke 2:37), minister to the Lord and worship (Acts 13:2-3).

Will God answer my prayers if I fast?

Fasting doesn’t change God, it changes us. Fasting doesn’t twist God’s arm behind his back, but it does show humility on our part and a degree of intentionality in us praying about certain things. Although fasting is not a guarantee that prayers will be answered (see 2 Samuel 12:16-18, Psalm 35:13) it can help (Ezra 8:21-23). "A fast is not a hunger strike. Fasting submits to God's commands. A hunger strike makes God submit to our demands." ~Ed Cole

I’ve heard of people fasting things other than food, are such ‘fasts’ biblical?

Although the biblical example known as fasting is the giving up of food, you could consider 'fasting' other things in order to focus on God (i.e. 1 Corinthians 7:5). However a fast has it’s origins in food – i.e. the first meal after a prolonged time without food is called ‘break-fast’.

How long should I fast for?

If you have never fasted before, I would recommend that you start by fasting for one day – or maybe even try skipping a meal first. You can then build from there as you feel led.

If fasting is going without food, but not drink, can I puree all my food so I can drink it?

Good try, but the point is missed here. Fasting is about cutting all food out so that you don’t rely on food to nourish your body, but on God to nourish your spirit.

Is fasting a good way to be spiritual and lose a bit of weight at the same time?

This is a wrong motive, which will not be honoured by God (Zechariah 7:5; Isaiah 58:3). This wouldn’t be a lasting way to lose weight anyway. There are undoubted natural benefits to fasting, as you are naturally cleansing the body, but the focus is on the work going on in your spirit.

Do I have to keep fasting a secret?

It’s not a sin for someone to know you’re fasting, however Jesus did warn against fasting to look ‘super-spiritual’. The Message paraphrases what Jesus said in Matthew 6:16-18 like this: "When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don't make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won't make you a saint”.

Are there different types of fast?

Fasts can vary in length, but there are three main types of fasting: 1) Partial Fast - restriction of diet rather than total abstinence (Daniel 10:3 I ate no pleasant or desirable food, nor did any meat or wine come into my mouth). 2) Regular Fast - no food with water. 3) Extreme Fast - to go without food or water. This is not to be entered into lightly and should ONLY BE UNDERTAKEN IF YOU HAVE A CLEAR CALL FROM GOD (Exodus 34:28 Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant - the Ten Commandment - see also Ezra 10:6, Acts 9:9, Esther 4:16).

Are there any health risks to fasting?

Everyone is different, but generally with a one-day regular fast there should be no issues. However, if you have an existing medical condition or are in any doubt whatsoever - especially if entering into an ‘extreme’ fast - then you should definitely CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR.

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