Helpful Tips on How to Fast
What is fasting and how do you do it (especially if you’ve never done so before)?
Fasting is a spiritual discipline where we abstain in some significant way from food and/or drink for a set amount of time. There are many degrees of fasting, but the overall goal is to practice some kind of bodily self-denial in order to remind us of our reliance on God for strength and life. As we experience the discomfort of hunger and lack, we remember how much we need God to fill that need in every part of our lives and in our world.
There is no one correct way to fast. We read in Matthew that Jesus fasted from food and drink for forty days in the wilderness, but we also have the example of Daniel and his friends, who abstained from the bread, meat, and wine of the Babylonian king’s table.
How to fast: three ways to incorporate fasting into your day
1. Fast for one meal.
Then, when you would usually eat, use the time to pray or meditate on Scripture instead. If you select this option, consider fasting over the lunch hour and use our guide for a noon personal prayer time. One thing to keep in mind: be careful not to over-eat during your other meals that day. Instead, look for your contentment and satisfaction in the intentional time you spend with God.
2. Fast from a particular kind of food, or from something other than food, for the whole day.
For some of us it feels unrealistic to miss entire meals, perhaps you have a health condition or an obligation in your schedule that makes doing so unwise. As an alternative, consider following Daniel’s lead and abstaining from meat, bread, and alcohol for the day. Sacrifice your usual morning coffee or after-dinner dessert. Or disconnect from television, social media, or some other form of entertainment. The key is to exercise self-control by saying “no” to something good, in order to fill the empty space in your day with God.
3. Fast from sundown to sundown.
This is the most common way Christians have fasted throughout history. After the sun sets on Thursday, stop eating (no late-night snacks or desserts!). Fast through the morning, lunchtime, afternoon, and early evening. Then eat dinner after the sun sets on Friday. Fasting for this amount of time will be challenging but should stretch you even more to rely on the sustaining presence of God. For encouragement as you lean on God in this way, read through this collection of Bible verses about trusting God in difficult circumstancesor listen to this podcast from Dave Cover where he leads listeners through a meditation on who we are in Christ according to Ephesians 2:1-10.
Fasting and Prayer are meant to go together
The key to fasting is not merely self-denial, it is the discipline of replacing a good gift from God that you regularly enjoy with time with God himself. Fill the space in your time and mind that is usually occupied by food (or whatever you’re fasting from) by communing with God instead. Remember the purpose behind the fast and follow through on your plan to pray, otherwise you’re just pointlessly going hungry.
Are you looking for more way to grow in your faith and deepen your relationship with God? Check out our post on How to Read Your Bible.