Fasting-A Beginner’s Guide

There are several kinds of fasts that may last from half a day to twenty-four hours to several days for different life circumstances or personal reasons. For your first time, you might want to try first fasting for a whole day or half a day this week. Prayerfully choose a day when you’ll be the least distracted. Reflect on why you want to fast. Is there an area in your life where you seek more clarity or peace? Your reason may be as simple as wanting to draw closer to God.

Once you have chosen the day,length and reason for your fast, determine what you will fast from. You may want to try the traditional fast involving your skipping a meal or two, or abstain from a certain type of food. If your fast involves eating less, make sure you that you hydrate yourself well, preferable with water. When it comes time to break your fast, don’t make up for what you didn’t eat. Eat lightly instead.

Rather than avoid eating, some people temporarily suspend certain activities such as listening to the radio, watching TV or engaging in social media. If you’re not sure what you’ll fast from, ask yourself,what tends to take up most of my attention away from reflection or prayer? When you have selected the nature of your fast, you will need a Place, a Psalm, a Pause and a Promise to fill the void left by what you’ll be abstaining from.

A Place
Find a spot for solitude where you are least likely to be interrupted, and where you feel comfortable being in God’s presence.

A Prayer
Ask for God’s help, and let Him know that you’re new at fasting. Ask Him to speak to you through His Word. If unsure how to express that prayer, borrow the words of
I Samuel 3:10,

Here I am, Lord. Please speak. Your servant is listening.

A Psalm
Psalms are prayers in the format of a poem and lyrics to songs for which we don’t have the tune today. If not a Psalm, choose a book from the Bible that resonates with you or you find easy to follow along. Your reading is not so much for coming up with theological propositions, and much more about helping you experience God’s invitation for you at this moment. Read the passage two or three times.

A Pause
Take a break or several breaks throughout the day,such as during your mealtime. Take a moment to reflect alone when you would normally be eating or watching TV. Read your selected text and pause between the verses to absorb its meaning and message. Wonder or ask yourself:

~What is God revealing about Himself through this reading?
~What is God saying about me and what I need to do?
~Is there something I need to trust Him more with?
~What is His calling for me to do?
~How will I apply this Word to my life?
~What is my prayer after reading this passage of Scripture?

A Promise
You may not sense the effect of your time of fasting right away. The answer you seek might seem delayed. Stay encouraged. Learn as much as you can about God and how much You matter to Him. Believe that “Those who wait on the Lord- WILL renew their strength” -Isaiah 40:31

I’ll add one more to this list. It’s optional, but recommended. If possible, share with:

A Partner
A prayer partner will be a source of accountability and encouragement for you when you are tempted to drop your resolve during a fast. Share your experiences with God’s Word and pray for each other.

A Handout: My Commitment to Fasting

3 Reasons for Fasting

The first time I told my friend Matt that I was going on a fast he gave me a quizzical look. Why would I not eat if I wasn’t undergoing any medical test in the morning or trying to loose weight, he wondered out loud.

Many religions beside Christianity prescribe fasting as a spiritual spiritual discipline. He happens to not belong to any church. I have myself been mystified by the practice ever since I remembered my grandmother declaring that she would fast when my aunt was very sick. By the time the fast was over,aunt Marie was well again. What did prayer and fasting have to do with each other?

A lot when we read the Bible. It shows that fasting amplifies and deepens our prayer and worship experience. I used to believe that God needed us to fast before He would do what we wanted. I have learned over the years that fasting is letting go of something that fills us up so that we may make space for our thirst or hunger for God. Fasting puts us in a condition that readies us for God’s answer to our prayers. Fasting helps to pray for what He wants more than what we think is best. If you are thinking of fasting for the first time, here are some basic principles to keep in mind.

Fasting is God-centered

In Daniel 9:3, Daniel says that he gave his attention to the Lord God. Fasting is a personal decision. And no matter the reason for your fast, it has no meaning unless it begins with a focus on God and not on yourself. Jesus told his disciples: When you fast,don’t be like others who do it to get attention, look holy or for accolades. God is not pleased by the practice when it is reduced to an empty form of religion or not taken seriously. Humbly pray for God to guide you as you learn about fasting and decide on when you’ll begin.

Fasting is a reminder that God is the One Who sustains you

“..I afflicted myself with fasting…” Psalm 35:13

Who would want to “afflict” themselves on purpose!? Daniel even covered himself burlap and ashes when he fasted. (Daniel 9:3).

To deprive oneself of something that’s basic to our life and even pleasurable while it’s at our disposal sounds rather masochistic and weird.
It’s a strange idea to people like Matt,me and you who live in a milieu so entrenched in consumerism and where it’s the norm to throw away a perfectly good phone for the next upgrade.

Daniel and the psalmist’s experience is rendered through other translations: “I humbled myself with fasting”.

Begin your fast with an attitude of humility. To surrender and face our weakness feels risky for those who like to feel in control. It’s uncomfortable to give up control or say no to something good. Yet the road to what is best for us often means sacrificing what’s really seems good right now. Fasting is practicing trust that God will give us what we need at the right time.

Fasting can be a catalyst for a changed way of life

In Isaiah 58:3-4, we can see why God would question the heart condition of the people who in turn seemed to be asking,what-our sacrificing our dinner not good enough for You? See why their fast came up empty:

Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers. “Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.

Let’s not settle for empty religious rituals. When our fasting is God-centered and we allow Him to lead us, our attitude and behavior towards one another will reflect Him much more closely:

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 them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?- Isaiah 58:6-7

Fasting creates space for God’s power to work in us and through us.

Conclusion

There are many kinds fasts and they vary in length of time depending on the circumstances and people’s experiences with it. What you choose to fast from will vary, too. It’s not always about food. There were times when giving up Twitter for a few hours had been more challenging for me then turning down dessert for three days.

Jesus said, “When you fast…” (Matthew 6:16). Looks like He knew there would be times when the practice of fasting would help us. Be open to studying further on its meaning and spiritual benefits. If interested in fasting, perhaps for the first time, take a look at “Fasting for Beginners” post on this blog.

If you wish,share here what has worked or what you have learned after you have fasted,and whether you might decide to make fasting a regular part of your spiritual journey.