We just completed this year’s annual corporate church fast! Every year during the month of January, we consecrate ourselves for twenty-one days, by way of fasting. This is to help prepare ourselves for the year to come.
A few young ladies and I helped one another in accountability during the fast. During the fast, some people decided to sacrifice additional items, which was inspiring. However, some fell off by eating the wrong things, or by becoming discouraged and giving up. I realized we were so distracted by the lack of food and what we were losing out on, that we didn't even notice what we should have been gaining. Here are a few things I’d like to share about fasting.
1. What is fasting?
“Fasting is the willful abstaining from natural pleasures for spiritual purpose.” It is a personal commitment to renounce your natural desires for spiritual ones. It is also a dedication to a period of time to devote yourself to God without distractions.
Fasting is feeding the spirit, rather than your flesh. Fasting requires holiness, which means to set yourself apart from things and others.
2. What is the reason you are fasting?
Many biblical figures showcase their devotion to God by fasting. Jesus, David, Daniel, Esther, and many more endured a season of fasting. You may notice that all fasting is not the same.
Some are for moments of crisis and help from God, some are for honoring God, for hearing from God, for drawing near to God, or for provision from God. Everything we do should have a purpose. So the first thing to determine is the reason you are fasting.
3. What type of fast are you doing?
Fasting can be done either personally or corporately. Fasting is necessary for all believers. In the same way you have a reason to fast personally, there should also be a reason to do it corporately. Corporate fasting is the type of fasting most churches practice.
The church congregation is asked, as a unified body, to fast from specific things for the spiritual advancement of the church. On the other hand, personal fasts vary; they can be full, partial, or intermediate. A personal is only between you and God and is left discreet from others.
4. How long should you fast?
The duration of your fast is solely between you and God. This is dependent on the purpose of your fast. Depending on the nature of your fast, the time frame should mimic the desire. Biblically, the common time frames are three, seven, twenty-one, and forty days. Matthew 4:1-2, Esther 4:16
5. What do you fast from?
A major requirement of fasting is sacrifice. Sacrifice is the surrendering of something that can be of value to you. In fasting, the sacrifice is the demand to devote time to the word of God and to God Himself.
Time that was initially given to something else should now be given back to God. Many people who fast usually focus on the food aspects. An example of this is the well-known “Daniel fast.” This fast references a time when Daniel wanted to prove to the king that his healthier choice to eat vegetables and drink water was better than deviling himself with the royal food and wine.
“He did this for ten days and looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.” (Daniel 1:8-15) If you read further, (Daniel 10:2-3) you’ll find that he fasted again for twenty-one days.
This time, it was from from meat, wine, non-pleasurable foods, and oils. He sacrificed what he thought was best in order to hear from the Lord. “Fasting is the willful abstaining from natural pleasure for spiritual purpose.”
Therefore, whatever was in your way that distracted you from God should be sacrificed to regain the time lost. You must look at fasting as feeding the spirit more than the flesh. We feed all our senses every day, but rarely focus on the spiritual. As a result, we have healthy bodies and malnourished spirits.
6. What isn’t fasting?
Fasting is not dieting; it is not a fitness plan or a way to receive shallow benefits from God. Fasting is not about you -instead, it’s about God. God is the one who we want to draw close to and who we want to honor.
Fasting is not a get fixed quick kit. Fasting requires your desire and desperation of God. Fasting is also not supposed to be viewed as a chore; if you view it as such you have already nullified your fast because your heart is so far from God.
7. What are the benefits of fasting?
A clear mind
Increase of spiritual capacity
A pure heart and mind
An increased desire for the word of God
It can create godly habits, such as giving, loving, and forgiving
It puts you under the protection of God
It gives better access to prayer
It helps with your retention
It brings about spiritual sensitivity
It makes room for God, so the areas of your life that were toxic and obstructed can be drained out
It can help break habits and spiritual bondage
It can bring Godly intimacy
8. How do I get started?
I remember a time in college when I decided to fast. I was about nineteen years old. I can’t remember why I decided to do it, but I just knew I wanted to be honorable to God. I remember being asked to go to a party, then wrestled with the decision to stay home or not. Ultimately, I justified going to it, even though I was supposed to be consecrating myself.
I was immature, and didn’t yet understand that fasting required both maturity and wisdom. Instead of going into your period of fasting blindly, you must first plan. Do your best to answer all the questions listed above, and then mentally prepare yourself for what’s ahead. Begin to gain knowledge.
Make sure you understand all that is required and needed of you. A lack of knowledge and wisdom before fasting can lead to poor choices. Poor planning can lead to an expectation of unrealistic outcomes.
Once you have an understanding, start to prepare your foods, schedules, and even some scriptures. A poor fast is due to poor preparation. Find accountability. Although your fast should be kept between you and God (Matthew 6), if you need someone to hold you accountable, find accountability.
Lastly, get direction. Check with your doctor, especially if you have a medical history. If you plan to make drastic meal changes or plan to eat no meals at all, seek counsel if you feel lost about it. It’s also important to get direction from God about whether fasting is the right step to build your relationship up with Him. Think to yourself is God worth sacrificing for?