Daniel. David. Moses. The WHOLE nation of Israel. We know the greats of the Bible fasted for days on end, but is it really relevant to you and I anymore? Most Christians don’t abstain from pork or make sacrifices of pigeons or wheat at altars anymore, so why do we bother fasting? Is fasting a relevant practice during Lent? Some people argue that because of God’s great, once-and-for-all sacrifice of his Son, Jesus, fasting and any other type of spiritual discipline is irrelevant. But Paul AND Peter write about it in the New Testament, AFTER the crucifixion. Were they caught up in religious or legalistic habits? The Bible would argue “no.”
Fasting may be the most neglected of all the spiritual disciplines today. It’s easy to dismiss it as an old and quaint practice. But we miss an important and meaningful opportunity for spiritual growth when we don’t fast and pray, and it’s not just for the “hardcore believers” or the “elite super Christians.” In fact, fasting and prayer should be for all practicing Christians… Biblical bases for fasting can be found in the FREE eChart below!
Why is Fasting So Important Anyways?
Most of us know that fasting is not to get what we want from God as if He’s a year-round Santa Claus or wish-granting genie. The central point of fasting is training for self-control according to 2 Peter 1, Galatians 5, and 1 Peter 1. Fasting food helps us make the connection that our faith is just as important as the sustenance we receive from meals. It’s not only a practical illustration, but it also fosters humility, reliance on the Lord, compassion, gratitude, and self-control.
Is there a big decision that you need to make? Maybe you feel that the Lord has called you to change the course of your life. Perhaps you’re starting a new chapter of your life at a new job, school, or with a spouse. Jesus fasted in the wilderness to seek his Father’s guidance in Matthew 4, so we can take that as an example and fast for wisdom and discernment in those difficult or confusing seasons of our lives. Paul did the same in Acts 9. Cornelius, Anna, and Daniel are found fasting for favor from the Lord in Acts 10, Luke 2, and Daniel 9, respectively. We can take these as examples to fast with the purpose of aligning our lives with God’s will and favor. One of the exciting factors of becoming closer to the Lord is that we get more familiar with His heart, His will for our lives, and what blesses Him.
“First, let [fasting] be done unto the Lord with our eye singly fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven.” –John Wesley, as found in the collection on Sermons On Several Occasions
I Want to Fast. What are Some Good Fasting Ideas?
There are different kinds of fasting that are possible today. Some fast sweets, meats, or food altogether, solely drinking water. Note that health restrictions may limit the types of fasting that you can do. Always check with a physician before embarking on more ambitious fasts, especially if you have existing health conditions. Fasting doesn’t even have to be dietary however: it’s common for people to fast media such as TV or use of their phones. Here are some different options for fasting:
- Food (check with your physician before doing a complete fast)
- Media (TV, movies, texting, internet, social media, etc…)
- Sweets (candies, cake, etc…)
- Daniel fast (animal products, caffeine, fried foods, yeast, processed grains and sugars)
Take a moment to pray and ask God what He would like you to abstain from in order to grow closer to him in this special season. What are you fasting this year for Lent?
Why is Lent Special?
There is something special about fasting and praying with others. Though the lenten season is not a biblical command like the feasts of the Bible, the tradition is a body-wide reminder that fasting is crucial to spiritual growth. When we fast and pray in community, we can be there to encourage each other. There is also something powerful knowing that there are others experiencing the same emotions, difficulties, and joys in the process. Lent is a time in which the greater body of Christ can fast together. Get together with your Bible study, prayer partners, small group, or pastor and ask them to join you in fasting and meeting to pray on a weekly, or even daily basis. Share your purposes for fasting and your discoveries about the person of God with your group/prayer partner along the way! Fasting in community will bring an exponential amount of fruit because you will be even more aware of the change in your lives through conversation.
Click here for a FREE eChart on prayer and fasting:
So you’re fasting for the first (or second) time? Here are some good tips to follow:
- Fasting from email? Set up an automatic responder so that important contacts will know you will not be checking email until a certain date. Be sure to include an alternative way they can contact you in emergencies.
- If you are doing a dietary fast, make sure to stay hydrated and consider refraining from strenuous activity. Soreness, especially in the lower back is a sign of dehydration.
- Start slowly: if you’re fasting from food completely, start by skipping one meal at a time and build from there.
- Be patient with yourself: if you lapse from your fast, don’t be hard on yourself. Decide to be more mindful from then on, ask the Lord for His help, and keep going.
- Your body, in addition to your soul and spirit, will go through changes as you’re fasting. Don’t go to a buffet or eat an entire chocolate cake the day your fast ends! Your body will have gotten used to going without food or going without meat and the proper enzymes that used to break certain food products down will be either out of your system or very low in quantity. It’s always safest to consult with your doctor when changing your diet.
- Start with small snacks and meals that won’t irritate your system, and gradually build your normal diet back up.
- Some foods to go easy on or avoid in the beginning altogether may be: beef, acidic foods (tomato, orange juice, etc…), sugary sweets, dairy, and so on.
- The BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast) diet can be helpful if your stomach is especially sensitive.
- Fasting is a subtraction from your life, making room for the Lord to move and speak: add to your life by choosing to spend time in prayer and the Bible for a set amount of time each day. Build up this spiritual muscle for an increase of growth and knowledge of the Lord!
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What other tips on fasting would you recommend to others?