So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
The Power of Fasting: 7 Tips To Get You Started
If there is something we all need, it’s effective prayer. These are trying times and we need our prayers to transcend barriers and knock down strongholds. The Bible makes clear that Fasting and prayer is incredibly powerful when executed with ‘right heart motives.’ With the Lenten Season upon us, it’s time to recharge our Fasting batteries and dial in on our prayer lives again — the most important aid for daily spiritual warfare.
As we lean in to this incredibly powerful spiritual discipline, beware of an old saying: “Without a spiritual purpose and plan, Fasting is not Fasting; it’s just hunger.” I would add that without a spiritual purpose in place, Fasting is just a worldly diet. Receiving answers to our prayers does not come from a mere desire to lose weight.
In order to Fast properly, we must first understand what Fasting is and is not. The most common misconception is that Fasting is the same as or similar to that of dieting. While a few exterior results such as losing weight are indeed similar, true Fasting is done for a spiritual (biblical) purpose — to enhance one’s relationship with God. By humbling ourselves before our Lord and sacrificing the desires of the flesh (choice food and drink) for Him, we are given a strengthened (and oftentimes answered!) prayer life in return.
There are many stories about Fasting throughout the Bible. One of the most telling passages is in Matthew 6:16 when Jesus, instructing His disciples, gives to them the basic principles of Godly living. He began His instruction with, “When you Fast…”. Notice how Jesus did not say, “if you Fast.” That’s right, Fasting is an exhortation — we are expected to do it! We are called to a life of Fasting and prayer because Jesus knew that the key to strengthening our relationship with our Heavenly father, sharpening our prayer life, for protection, provision, and preparation for the great work God has intended for us is all directly linked with Fasting and prayer.
In Matthew 4:1-17, Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-14, Jesus spent forty days and nights in the wilderness Fasting and praying before beginning His life-saving ministry on earth. In Acts 14:23, Paul and Barnabas prayed and Fasted in order to better seek God’s Wisdom. The great prophet Nehemiah mourned, Fasted and prayed in order to show the Lord his deep grief in Nehemiah 1:1-4. Jonah Fasted for repentance in Jonah 3:10, the Israelites Fasted in order to gain victory in Judges 20:26, and a prophetess by the name of Anna worshipped day and night with Fasting in order to better show God her deep love and devotion to Him (Luke 2:37). And just think, these are only a select few of the nearly one hundred examples of Fasting and prayer depicted throughout Scripture.
If you are considering a Fast for yourself (which I highly recommend), here are 7 Tips To Get You Started:
1) Easy does it
If you are new to Fasting, start small! Don’t go from no Fasting to attempting a full-out, multiple day Fast. Start with Fasting one meal and gradually work up from there. It is not a race, it is most definitely a spiritual journey. As a side note, it is never recommended to abstain from water during a Fast of any length so make sure to drink up!
2) Have a plan
Keep in mind that Fasting isn’t merely an act of self-deprivation. It is a spiritual discipline for seeking more of God in our every day lives. Having a plan for what spiritual pursuit we’ll undertake during the time we’d normally eat (our Fasting meal) will help us to be successful. We spend a good portion of our lives centered around food, and it is a difficult habit to break. If we don’t have a plan in place, a Fast will be much more difficult to complete. If you choose to Fast dinner for example, plan a thirty minute meditative prayer alone with God in a specified location during that time. This will give you something else to focus on—a set plan—when dinnertime comes.
3) Try different kinds of Fasting
The typical form of Fasting is personal and private, but we find many different forms in the Bible such as personal or communal, private or public, congregational and national, regular and occasional, absolute and partial. Try all different sorts of Fasts, implementing them into your life when it makes sense, and check your motivations often. Make sure your heart’s motive is pure and with the sole intention of seeking more God.
*Personal Note: I take part in a 21-day Daniel Fast every January (as well as 40 days of Lent) … and it has quite literally changed my life. Doors have been opened and strongholds have been torn down that I could never have done in my own strength. Starting after Pentecost, I also try to Fast at least one meal every Thursday. The smaller weekly Fast is purely a gratitude Fast. Gratitude for all God has done, is doing, and will do. God loves a grateful heart–and when we give Him all the glory in gratitude and great humility — He not only hears us, He equips us!
4) Meal prep
Take the time to meal prep if your Fast includes limiting certain types of food and/or drink from the menu (as in the Daniel Fast) or when abstaining from full meals altogether. Meal prep is especially helpful when partaking in longer and more restrictive fasts. Have the right kinds of foods on hand and prepared—it will make all the difference. *Pro tip: Grocery shop and meal prep on Sunday’s for easy grabbing and preparing during the work week. The easier it is to “grab and go”, the more successful your Fast will be. Trust me!
5) Mental preparation
Meal prep is necessary — but so is mental prep! Before you begin a Fast, and every morning, afternoon and evening throughout, spend quality time with God in prayer. Ask Him to help you stay focused and disciplined when temptations set in— and they will set in. You will be tempted time and time again to either give in or give up. Being mentally prepared will help you finish strong when the mental distractions set in.
*During a fast, I pray every morning for the strength and discipline I will need for that day (and that day only!). It works. Take it slow, hour by hour. When cravings hit, pray them away! Might sound a bit strange but prayer definitely works.
6) Something other than food
Fasting from food is not for everyone. Some health conditions will prevent some of the most devout from traditional courses of action. Fortunately, we serve a God Who tells us in Jeremiah 17:10 that He examines the heart of men. So long as one’s Fast is made to include something self-sacrificial (giving up something that is actually difficult to give up), it is assumed legitimate. Don’t worry about the legality of a Fast; rather, do what you can do and give everything else to God. He sees your well-intended effort(s) and will diligently reward you for it.
7) Trust God
Before entering into a Fast (and throughout), tell God that you trust Him with the outcome. We must remember that God is not a genie in a bottle. He is our all-knowing, all-loving Heavenly Father who wants the best for us and knows what we need to achieve it — even if that doesn’t necessarily line up with what we think should happen and on what time-table. God knows the way, the timing, and everything else in between. Our job is to love Him, to be obedient and faithful, and to be grateful for whatever He gives us. Trust God with your Fast. Give your very best to Him and He will surprise you in ways you cannot yet imagine.
As with any discipline, it is always wise to do your research and consult with a physician before beginning a Fast. And remember, God promises to heap blessings on people who hunger for Him (Matthew 5:6).
Written by Meisha Johnson