You might think: “How does denying myself from McDonald’s help my mother recover from cancer or draw me closer to God?”
From a human point of view, fasting makes no sense. We need to first understand that fasting is spiritual.
It is a personal commitment to turn away from what gives us pleasure to seek His presence. It is an act of faith to believe that God will act on our behalf.
An example is seen in Daniel 1, where Daniel and his friends denied themselves of choice meat. They believed that God would strengthen them as they chose to honour Him.
Getting the why right
Fasting creates a deeper hunger and dependency on God.
There are many things in this world that distract us from God. When we choose to fast, it creates that space to draw closer to Him.
“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” (Joel 2:12)
God could have just asked them to pray more or to read His word more. But He included fasting so that His people will be intentional in making time to draw near to Him.
Even Jesus himself, before He began His full-time ministry, went through 40 days of praying and fasting to strengthen His walk with God, so that He could overcome every temptation and struggle.
When should I fast?
There are no hard and fast rules on when one should begin a fast, but here are some common motivations that underpin the decision to start:
- Seeking for direction/wisdom
- Entering a new season of life
- Praying for breakthrough over an issue/sin
- A desire to draw closer to God
- Being part of a corporate fast (e.g LoveSingapore’s 40 days of prayer and fasting)
Some fasts can be as short as three days. There are also people who fast until they see the breakthroughs that they are seeking God for.
Regardless, it would be good to set a specific timeframe to help you be more focused on what you long for God to do.
Sometimes, you might be tempted to give up halfway. I would encourage you not to because fasting is a commitment that you have made to God.
“When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfil it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfil your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfil it.” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5)
What can help give you the strength to press on is turning to God through prayer and remembering why you are fasting.
It is also good to share the reason with your cell leader and church friends. Be in a community that encourages you not to give up!
What should I fast from?
Fasting from food and/or beverage is common. This can be carried out in different ways such as:
- Partial fast: During a certain time of day
- Complete fast: For 24 hours
- Esther fast: Over 3 days
- Daniel fast: Meat and indulgent food
- Liquid fast: Solid food
Other things that people fast from include those that bring pleasure to the soul. Social media, Netflix, YouTube, gaming or shopping are just a few possibilities.
To help you make the decision on what to fast from specifically, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I have any health condition that does not allow me to fast from food? Am I on medication that needs to be consumed after food? If in doubt, seek medical advice.
- What is my comfort food or a must-have in my daily consumption?
- What is something that is occupying most of my time every day?
Answering these questions will better equip you to narrow the options down and choose a fast that will be meaningful.
What should I do when I fast?
Fasting isn’t just about abstaining from a particular food or item. Avoid the act of fasting without making the effort to build your relationship with God.
The reason why we fast is to seek His presence. It is not for you to find other things or food to replace what you are fasting from.
During the season, make time to draw closer to God through prayer, worship, reading His word, reading Christian books, or listening to Christian podcasts or sermons.
Meet up with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are also fasting. By sharing with one another what God has been doing in each other’s lives, you can spur one another on.
It is also important to be intentional in “fleeing” from anything that is related to the food/item that you are fasting from.
E.g. If you are fasting from meat, don’t go into fast-food restaurants hoping to just get mashed potatoes. You may fall into temptation just by smelling the meat. Fasting from Instagram? Remove or hide the app in your phone so that you will not be tempted to log in.
Do whatever it takes to guard yourself from the opportunity to fall.
(Editor’s Note: You might also want to consider scaling back on any vigorous activities during your fast as well as break your fast gradually with lighter meals.)
You are ready!
Here are a few final tips to make your fasting experience even more enriching:
- Write down what you hope to hear from God.
- Prepare things that you will need when you seek Him. Maybe it’s a journal, a physical Bible or even a Spotify playlist full of your favourite worship songs.
- Schedule a few dates with your cell leader or mentor to go through what God has been speaking to you during the fast.
Be hungry for God to speak to you and give Him the space to move in your life.
Be excited because it is going to be an amazing time with the Lord!