On Sunday, we asked whoever was willing to fast and pray this week for healing for Bev. We haven’t taught on fasting for awhile, so I thought I would answer a few basic questions you might have. If you have any other questions, please let me know.
1) “What is fasting?”
I describe fasting as “abstaining from food for spiritual purposes” as opposed to dieting which is abstaining from food for physical or emotional reasons. Fasting is, traditionally, abstaining from all food and only drinking water, but there are many different types of fasts one can do. (For instance, the Daniel Fast is only eating fruits, vegetables and grains while abstaining from animal products and sweets.) Essentially, fasting is giving up something that reminds you to pray and be dependent on God.
2) “How do you fast?”
Depending on the type of fast you are called to and the duration of the fast, how you start and end a fast can be simple or rather involved. A few years back I did a 40 day water only fast. I took a couple weeks to ease off of food and then another 3 weeks to work myself back into eating again. For short periods (3 days to 7 days) you don’t really need much of a break in period – especially since you are already a very healthy eater.
On a traditional, water only, fast you generally spend your usual meal times in prayer or reading the bible. Also, as Kent said, whenever you have hunger pains it is also a signal to pray. The website freedomyou.com is an excellent resource for “how and why to fast.”
3) “When to fast?”
There are a handful of different reasons to fast. Most often people fast in order to see God breakthrough in a particular circumstance. It is essential to realize that fasting doesn’t twist God’s arm and “make” Him do something. Rather, fasting increases our understanding of our own weakness, frailty and dependence and, as Paul says, “his strength is made perfect in our weakness.” I think fasting also let’s God (and ourselves!) know that we are serious and committed to seeing something happen. When we choose to give up something essential to our bodies in order to pursue a spiritual purpose, in this case, Beverly’s healing, it shifts a lot of things on the inside. This is also why I strongly recommend fasting for a set number of days. Putting a time limit on a fast helps us from being carried away into unhealthy extremes, especially if we really want something.
Other reasons people fast include: wanting to know God better and grow in intimacy with Him, desiring a greater level of spiritual anointing and power, favor for political and business ventures, and increased understanding of Scripture or a prophetic word.
4) “Is fasting something I choose or does God have to tell me to do it?”
The answer to this question is “yes.” 🙂 In my own life, there have been seasons where fasting has been something I’ve incorporated as a weekly discipline and there have been years where I don’t fast at all except for a “big” fast of 21 or 40 days. One isn’t more spiritual or more holy than another.
When I worked at the House of Prayer I fasted once or twice a week in some fashion for a couple years. I didn’t have a physically active job, it is part of the culture and I desperately wanted to know God better. Since coming on as pastor at the Vineyard, I’ve gone on one 40 day juice fast and fasted a handful of occasions for situations like this.
I do think fasting is a discipline we benefit from and I think it is something Jesus expected his disciples to be doing (for instance, Jesus says “when you fast” in Matthew 6), however fasting is never something we should require or force people into. I only recommend fasting to people in good health – mentally and physically – and for set periods of time.
Again, if you have any questions regarding fasting, please feel free to email me or comment below. And, as always, thank you for reading.