Fasting is the spiritual discipline that gives us mastery over our body. There are two disciplines that we consider “material” disciplines. One is fasting, the discipline over our body, and one is tithing, the discipline over our resources. Fasting is simple. It is simply denying your body something that it is in the habit of having. By doing this, our spirit, that is our will, asserts its rightful place as the decision-making center for our personhood. When our body, in its pursuit of its carnal desires and habits, becomes the decision-making center of our being, we become ill, sick, uncentered, and isolated from the person God made us to be. Fasting keeps us in good and right relationship with our body.
How you begin and conduct your fast will largely determine your success. By following seven basic steps to fasting, you will make your time with the Lord more meaningful and spiritually rewarding.
STEP 1: Set Your Objective
Why are you fasting? Is it for spiritual renewal, for guidance, for healing, for the resolution of problems, for special grace to handle a difficult situation? Ask the Holy Spirit to clarify God leading and objectives for your prayer fast.
STEP 2: Make Your Commitment
Pray about the kind of fast you should undertake. Before you fast, decide the following up front:
- How long you will fast—one meal, one day, a week, several weeks, forty days? (Beginners should start slowly, building up to longer fasts.)
- The type of fast God wants you to undertake (such as water only, or water and juices; what kinds of juices you will drink and how often)
- What physical or social activities you will restrict
- How much time each day you will devote to prayer and God’s Word
Making these commitments ahead of time will help you sustain your fast when physical temptations and life’s pressures tempt you to abandon it.
STEP 3: Prepare Yourself Spiritually
The very foundation of fasting and prayer is repentance, cleansing and clarity. Here are several things you can do to prepare your heart:
- Confess every sin that the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and accept God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
- Seek forgiveness from all whom you have offended, and forgive all who have hurt you (Mark 11:25; Luke 11:4; 17:3-4).
- Make restitution as the Holy Spirit leads you.
- Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit according to God’s command in Ephesians 5:18 and God’s promise in 1 John 5:14-15.
- Surrender your life fully to Jesus Christ; refuse to obey your worldly nature (Romans 12:1-2).
- Meditate on the attributes of God, God’s love, sovereignty, power, wisdom, faithfulness, grace, compassion, and others (Psalm 48:9-10; 103:1-8, 11-13).
- Begin your time of fasting and prayer with an expectant heart (Hebrews 11:6).
- Do not underestimate spiritual opposition. (Galatians 5:16-17).
STEP 4: Prepare Yourself Physically
Fasting requires reasonable precautions. Consult your physician first, especially if you take prescription medication or have a chronic ailment. Some persons should never fast without professional supervision.
Physical preparation makes the drastic change in your eating routine a little easier so that you can turn your full attention to the Lord in prayer.
- Do not rush into your fast.
- Prepare your body. Eat smaller meals before starting a fast. Avoid high-fat and sugary foods.
- Eat raw fruit and vegetables for two days before starting a fast.
Your time of fasting and prayer has come. You are abstaining from all solid foods and have begun to seek the Lord. Here are some helpful suggestions to consider:
- Avoid drugs, even natural herbal drugs and homeopathic remedies. Medication should be withdrawn only with your physician’s supervision.
- Limit your activity.
- Exercise only moderately.
- Rest as much as your schedule will permit.
- Prepare yourself for temporary mental discomforts, such as impatience, crankiness, and anxiety.
- Expect some physical discomforts, especially on the second day. You may have fleeting hunger pains, dizziness, or the “blahs.” Withdrawal from caffeine and sugar may cause headaches. Physical annoyances may also include weakness, tiredness, or sleeplessness.
The first two or three days are usually the hardest. As you continue to fast, you will likely experience a sense of well-being both physically and spiritually. However, should you feel hunger pains, increase your liquid intake.
STEP 5: Put Yourself on a Schedule
For maximum spiritual benefit, set aside ample time for rest, prayer, study and worship.. Listen for God’s leading. The more time you spend seeking the Lord, the more meaningful your fast will be.
STEP 6: End Your Fast Gradually
Begin eating gradually. Do not eat solid foods immediately after your fast. Suddenly reintroducing solid food to your stomach and digestive tract will likely have negative consequences. Try several smaller meals or snacks each day. If you end your fast gradually, the beneficial physical and spiritual effects will result in continued good health.
STEP 7: Expect Results
If you sincerely humble yourself before the Lord, repent, pray, and seek God’s face; if you consistently meditate on God’s Word, you will experience a heightened awareness of God’s presence (John 14:21). The Lord will give you fresh, new spiritual insights. Your confidence and faith in God will be strengthened. You will feel mentally, spiritually, and physically refreshed. You will see answers to your prayers.