Guidelines for Fasting
What is fasting?
Alice Smith, in her booklet Power Praying, says,
Fasting is an often neglected discipline of intercession that carries great potential for spiritual power and answered prayer. It is voluntary abstinence from food to accomplish a specific, God-directed purpose. As eating strengthens the physical life, fasting strengthens the spiritual life.
Fasting was common in the Old Testament as well as the New. It was practiced commonly in the early church, in the time of the Reformation, and in many centuries following. We have the example of Jesus, Moses, Elijah, Ezekiel and Daniel, who all fasted and prayed. Paul and the early Christians fasted, as did Martin Luther, who was often criticized for fasting too often. He once said,
It was not Christ’s intention to reject or despise fasting…it was His intention to restore proper fasting.
John Calvin, John Knox, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Charles Finney and D.L. Moody were all known as men who regularly fasted and prayed. Jesus, Himself, gives us guidelines for fasting in Matthew 6:16-18.
Why should I fast?
- Jesus sets the example for fasting. He assumes we will follow His example and fast also. He does not say “if you fast” but “when you fast” (Matt 6:16-18; Matt 9:15, 17).
- Fasting is a primary means of humbling oneself before God. Humility is an attitude of the heart. “A broken and a contrite heart – these O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51:17; See also Ps.35:13; Ezra 8:21; Matt. 23:2; Ps. 69:10; Is. 58:5; Joel 2:12-17).
- Self sacrifice gets God’s attention. “Fasting helps to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice everything, even ourselves to attain what we seek for the Kingdom of God” (Andrew Murray).
- Fasting opens the door to God’s power. “Power for spiritual conquest comes from the Holy Spirit as people seek God’s face in consecrated diligent prayer with fasting” (Bill Bright). “Fasting releases the exact power (anointing) of God to meet the need that you have” (Bob Rodgers).
- Fasting brings unity and blessing to the church (Acts 9:9; 13:2,3; 14:23).
- Fasting brings about supernatural healing (Is. 58:8; I Sam.1:12). All through the Bible, God has honored fasting and prayer with miracles of healing.
- Fasting breaks Satan’s power (Neh.4:17-20; Is. 58:6, 8; Matt. 17:21).
- Fasting draws me closer to God (James 4:8).
- Fasting gives me understanding of God’s Word and God’s will for my life and allows me to receive direction from God for my life.
- Fasting increases my physical health and well-being (I Cor 6:19-20; Romans 6:13; Daniel 1).
- Fasting increases the effectiveness of prayer. “Fasting is God’s chosen way to deepen and strengthen prayer. You will be the poorer spiritually and your prayer life will never be what God wants it to be until you practice the privilege of fasting” (Wesley L. Duevel). “The New Testament often links prayer with fasting. Abstinence from food can be a valuable aid in spiritual exercises. From the human side it promotes clarity, concentration and keenness. From the divine standpoint, it seems the Lord is especially willing to answer prayer when we put that prayer before our necessary food” (William MacDonald).
- Fasting and prayer precede revival. “I believe the power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual atomic bomb that our Lord has given us to destroy the strongholds of evil and usher in a great revival and spiritual harvest around the world. Increasingly I have been gripped with a growing sense of urgency to call upon God to send revival to our beloved country” (Bill Bright).
- Fasting enables us to hear God. “Intercession without the direction of the Holy Spirit is pointless and ineffective. It is essential to discover God’s direction for our prayers.” (Consider the elders of the early Church in Acts 13:2). “One of the greatest hindrances to our hearing the Lord is our inability to focus on Him and His Word. Fasting allows us to remove distractions that hinder our concentration. We can fast from any pleasure. The Lord may lead you into a fast from television, eating sweets or other specific foods, or activities. Abstaining from food and other things that have control over our physical senses, sharpens our spiritual senses. We can better see the Lord and His plans. When a believer covenants to deny his flesh in an act of humility before the Lord, that person is a threat to the kingdom of darkness!” (Alice Smith).
(Note: this list is not exhaustive, as there are many entire books devoted to this subject).
How do I fast?
How you begin and conduct your fast will largely determine your success. By following these seven basic steps to fasting, you will make your time with the Lord more meaningful and spiritually rewarding (These 7 steps are from Dr. Bill Bright, Campus Crusade for Christ).
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 His leading and objectives for your prayer fast. This will enable you to pray more specifically and strategically. Through fasting and prayer we humble ourselves before God so the Holy Spirit will stir our souls, awaken our churches, and heal our land according to 2 Chronicles 7:14.
STEP 2: Make Your Commitment
- How long you will fast: one meal, two meals, one day, two or three days, 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, Partial fast – foods from the earth only)
- 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. Unconfessed sin will hinder your prayers. Here are several things you can do to prepare your heart:
- Ask God to help you make a comprehensive list of your sins.
- 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 His command in Ephesians 5:18 and His promise in 1 John 5:14,15.
- Surrender your life fully to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master; refuse to obey your worldly nature (Romans 12:1,2).
- Meditate on the attributes of God, His 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. Satan sometimes intensifies the natural battle between body and spirit (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.
Prepare your body. Eat smaller meals before starting a fast. Avoid high-fat and sugary foods.
While you fast, 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. Walk one to three miles each day if convenient and comfortable.
- 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 to be alone with the Lord. Listen for His leading. The more time you spend with Him, the more meaningful your fast will be.
A dietary routine is vital as well. Dr. Julio C. Ruibal – a nutritionist, pastor, and specialist in fasting and prayer – suggests a daily schedule and list of juices you may find useful and satisfying. Modify this schedule and the drinks you take to suit your circumstances and tastes.
Morning: Fruit juices, preferably freshly squeezed or blended and diluted in 50 percent distilled water if the fruit is acid. Apple, pear, grapefruit, papaya, watermelon, or other fruit juices are generally preferred. If you cannot do your own juicing, buy juices without sugar or additives.
Noon: Fresh vegetable juice made from lettuce, celery, and carrots in three equal parts.
Afternoon: Herb tea with a drop of honey. Avoid black tea or any tea with caffeine.
Evening: Broth made from boiling potatoes, celery, and carrots with no salt. After boiling about half an hour, pour the water into a container and drink it.
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, even dangerous, 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 His Word, you will experience a heightened awareness of His 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.
A single fast, however, is not a spiritual cure-all. Just as we need fresh infillings of the Holy Spirit daily, we also need new times of fasting before God. A 24-hour fast each week has been greatly rewarding to many Christians.
It takes time to build your spiritual fasting muscles. If you fail to make it through your first fast, do not be discouraged. You may have tried to fast too long the first time out, or you may need to strengthen your understanding and resolve. As soon as possible, undertake another fast until you do succeed. God will honor you for your faithfulness.
How do I get the most out of fasting?
Abstain not only from food but also from secular TV, movies, radio, and secular reading materials.
Read God’s Word and journal consistently. As you fast and seek God, write down what you see, hear, feel, and experience.
“Hearing from God is one of the best things that can happen during a fast. When you take time to read the Word of God, pray, and wait on the Lord, you can hear the voice of God speaking to you. You stop listening to your body and catering to it’s desires so your soul can become quiet. Then you can listen to God only” (Elmer Towns).
When you get hungry, you need to feed on more of God.
“Open your mouth wide and I will fill it” (Ps. 81:10).
You need to cry out to God until you are satisfied with spiritual food.
“Oh taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man who trusts in Him” (Ps. 34:8).
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” (Matt. 5:6).
I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger” (John 6:35)
Bright, Bill. Seven Basic Steps to Successful Fasting and Prayer
The Coming Revival, America’s Call to Fast, Pray, and Seek God’s Face
Releasing God’s Power Through Fasting
Prince, Derek. How to Fast Successfully and Shaping History through Prayer and Fasting
Hogan Frederick. The Joy of Intelligent Spirit, Soul, and Body Fasting
Rodgers, Bob. 101 Reasons To Fast
Smith, Alice. Power Praying
Towns, Elmer. Fasting for Spiritual Break Through
The Beginner’s Guide to Fasting
Suggestions for Fasting Prayer for the Church
Psalm 127:1, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.”
- Pray that the Lord will pour his Holy Spirit out on the church in full measure.
- Pray that the Lord will build the church into a place where people are free to worship, grow and serve.
- Pray that the work of the congregation will be for God’s glory and not its own.
- Pray to recognize where the Lord is at work and building his church at this moment.
- Pray for God to build his kingdom in each ministry of the church.
Acts 2:47, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
- Pray that the church will provide a safe and winsome place for people to share their stories and connect with God.
- Pray for the church to be a light in our community.
- Pray for the courage and opportunity to reach out to friends, colleagues and neighbors with the love of Christ.
I Corinthians 12”4-7, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
- Pray for the pastors and teachers to encounter and connect with God. Pray that they will have wisdom to guide, lead and nurture.
- Pray for God to give his people vision to worship, grow and serve.
- Pray for God’s hospitable Spirit to shape individuals and teams with hearts to reach out to others with the love of God.
- Pray for the stewardship of the time, money and resources God has given his church.
- Pray for perseverance to grow and serve in global and local ministries.
I Peter 1:6, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”
- Pray for fellow believers who are suffering persecution because of their trust in Jesus.
- Pray for God to thwart the power of the enemy to harass the church.
- Pray that those suffering for Jesus would experience the presence of Christ among them.
- Pray for the church to grow in the face of suffering.
I Corinthians 10:17, “Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”
- Pray for the unity of the church. Enter into Jesus’ prayer in John 17.
- Pray for all those who have been wounded through schisms and strife within the church.
- Pray for churches wounded by splits and riddled with factions.
Isaiah 61:2-3, “Comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”
- Pray that the church will exchange ashes for beauty, mourning for joy, and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness that afflicts so many.
Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Appendix 9
Franklin, Jentezen, Fasting, chapter 11