Practical Tips For Fasting
Fasting is sowing a seed into our spiritual life. Just as a farmer has to prepare before he can begin planting we have to do the same before fasting. But being told we should fast isn’t all that helpful when we have no clue how to go about it. Here you will find practical tips that will help your fasting journey.
Only God knows how long a seed will take to come to fruition. You will need to trust him regardless of what you are praying and fasting for. You might have tried fasting in the past and didn’t see the results you thought you would see so you never fasted again. That’s an understandable flesh response. But I urge you to pray about fasting again. As you are praying, keep in mind that fasting is a gift to us from our Father. He always listens and responds. Never think of a fast as “not working” just because you don’t see the results in the physical. So many things of God are done in the spiritual realm and you won’t see the results until God has determined the time is right.
In part 2, Biblical fasts and lengths, we attempted to do as 2 Timothy 2:16 says and use our Bible to gain a better understanding of fasting that is pleasing to God. If you have not read part 2, you can do so here.
Tips For Before A Fast
1. Don’t rush into a fast. Each fast should have a clear purpose. Things of God are not confusing or hidden. Always begin with prayer before your fast begins. Ask God how long you should fast and what you should fast for. Listen closely for his answers. Remember, it’s not a legalistic activity but an offering to your Savior.
2. Prepare yourself. Gather your Bible, fasting and prayer journal, shop for your broth (or make your own ahead of time), buy your water (or drink tap, your choice), buy anything else you might need for the fast you have chosen. You don’t want to have to run to the grocery in the middle of a fast. Your flesh will not just let you know it wants food it will scream it.
3. Unless God tells you otherwise, start small when beginning. Fast your beloved coffee or soda or candy or dessert for one day. For your next fast, pick a meal to fast. Your next fast you can increase it to 2 meals. Or maybe that soda becomes fasting all junk food for a whole day, then 3 days, then a week, then 21 days…as God leads you. Remember, things of God are a process and your fasting journey will be as well.
4. If planning to fast for longer than a day, you can start a week or so beforehand and slowly cut back on your food amount and increase water intake. The longer you will be fasting the greater your preparation will need to be.
5. If you have any medical issues, consult your doctor before fasting. Sometimes even the most dedicated Christian cannot do a full fast. It might mean that you have to do a modified fast. I have to do this and will share with you in my next post what I do.
Your fasting may have to involve giving up social media, shopping, etc…instead of food. Or it could mean you have to add broth to your fast. This is between you and God. Don’t let Satan condemn you for what or how you fast. Take it to God in prayer and he will meet you where you are at.
Tips For During A Fast
Let’s look at Matthew 6:16 and take it a bit further this time. It is full of what we should or shouldn’t do while seeking the Lord and fasting.
“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with sad faces. For they disfigure their faces that they may be seen by men to be fasting. Most certainly I tell you, they have recieved their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you are not seen by men to be fasting, but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret, will reward you.
Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:16-21 WEB)
Putting that in today’s practical tips:
1. Clear your schedule as much as possible. Life doesn’t stop. You can pray and fast while you are doing other things. This doesn’t mean you have to take a vacation or schedule time off from work so you can fast. You should already be blending prayer with your everyday life, adding fasting to the mix is simply the next step. You can pray while folding clothes, while walking from your car into your work building or while driving.
Just don’t add anything extra to your schedule and clear what isn’t necessary. Don’t make plans to meet your friends for a coffee chat, shopping, extra workouts, a home party, etc…. First of all, you are tempting yourself when you don’t need that temptation and secondly, this is supposed to be a time you have set aside to spend time with your Father taking things to his throne in prayer. It’s to be you and him as much as you can. Set aside as many distractions as you possibly can. If invited out to lunch while fasting, there is nothing wrong with saying “I’m sorry, I have plans” and let it at that.
2. If you have decided to drink liquids in addition to water, set yourself on a schedule as close to your regular eating schedule as possible. If you don’t set yourself on a schedule, your flesh will demand that soup, broth, or juice constantly. The point isn’t to diet but to spend time in prayer when your flesh rises up demanding satisfaction.
You don’t want to draw attention to yourself so at work, you might bring vegetable juice or broth that you can drink on your lunch. Others will just assume you are drinking soup and not think twice about it.
3. Drink lots of water. If you normally drink 4 glasses a day, up it to 8. Yes, you will go to the bathroom “constantly” but your body will quickly adjust. The water will help you not to feel sick by filling your stomach. Many people say they feel better after a fast. I think one of the reasons for that is that we typically don’t get enough water and during a fast, we finally remedy that. The type of water you drink is up to you.
4. Set aside time to read your Bible and pray. This is critical to your fast. Without prayer, your fast is just a diet. If you choose to use a devotional or a fasting and prayer journal plan to make time for those as well. Don’t make the mistake of using a devotional or your journal instead of your Bible though. There is no substitute for the Word of God.
5. Listen to praise music if you feel led. I would not recommend you listen to secular music at all. Your focus should be on your Savior. There is something about setting yourself aside to worship and praise your Savior. God does not stand unmoved during true worship. His Spirit will make his presence known. He doesn’t care if you can’t carry a tune or if you raise your hands or bow your head. He is searching your heart and basking in your praise. I highly recommend it even when not fasting.
6. Make a list of what you are praying and believing God for and pray about those things throughout the day. If you have not heard God speak to you on what to fast about, there is nothing wrong with having a few things jotted down in a list. It helps our focus. I believe people have not because they ask not (James 4:2-3).
Need a godly friend? Pray for one. God doesn’t intend for us to go through life without friends and he is all about relationships. Think and pray about the kind of friend you want, pray about being a good friend in return, and be open to whomever God sends your way. Need a new job? Pray for one. Have an unsaved child? Fast and pray for them. God hears our every prayer. Keep in mind sometimes his best blessings come when we pray for one thing and God blesses us with what he knows we really need.
7. Remind your spouse of your fast. During a fast, if both are in agreement, we are to abstain from sexual relations so that we can focus on God, not give into our physical desires.
“Don’t deprive one another, unless it is by consent for a season, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and may be together again, that Satan doesn’t tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:5 WEB)
8. Don’t talk about your fast. It should be on a need-to-know basis. If you have lunch every day with your best friend, you might need to remind her that you are fasting and will not be joining her for lunch until your fast is over. Jesus said we are not to be like the Pharisees and let it be public knowledge (see Matthew 6:16 above).
9. Unplug from anything that might take your time and focus away from God. He is the reason you are fasting. That TV show will still be there later. That book will still be sitting there. You can spring clean the entire house when you are done with your fast. That game on your phone won’t implode if you don’t touch it for a while. That lunch date with your bestie can be rescheduled. Pinterest and Facebook aren’t going anywhere.
10. Go easy on your activities. Don’t overdo anything physical such as building a new patio in your backyard or working out. If you can’t possibly wait until your fast is over to workout then scale it back. Your time needs to be focused on God, not filling your normal to-do list.
11. When cravings hit, Ask God to take the hunger away. Remind yourself that you are doing this and not backing down. Remind yourself that God promises to be your daily bread and he allows us to feast on his Word. Then get into his Word until the cravings pass. Think of it as giving your food to God as a love offering. In exchange, God is breathing new life into your dry bones.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6 WEB)
12. If during your fast you begin to really feel ill and feel that you absolutely must eat something, try a few crackers or a piece of toast and see if that helps.
13. Watch the caffeine intake. Without food to absorb the caffeine, it will hit you quicker and harder. If doing a longer fast, you might need to back off the caffeine slowly to prepare your body.
14. Be very careful how you treat others, especially while you are fasting. If you find yourself feeling short-tempered or inpatient during your fast, take it to God. Run, don’t walk. God does not find a fast in which you treat someone poorly as acceptable (read Isiah 58).
Tips For Breaking Your Fast
1. Always end your fast with prayer and praise. Thank God for his many blessings including helping you through your fast. Pull out that prayer and fasting journal and read again what God has blessed you with during the fast. It could have been any number of things but he deserved praise for them all. The added benefit of doing this is that looking back at what God has blessed you with builds your faith.
2. Your first meal post fast depends on what type of fast you have been on but regardless, don’t gorge yourself. Don’t rush out and eat ice cream and a double cheeseburger with fries. Don’t stop a fast with tons of sugar and junk food of you might get sick. Ease your diet back to normal. You might have to break the fast with juice and a piece of toast to get your body use to food again.
3. Depending on the length of your fast, you might have to gradually ease back into your regular physical routine. Be patient with yourself. You will get back to normal and live to fast another day.
“So we fasted and begged our God for this, and he was entreated of us.” (Ezra 8:23 WEB)
Am I A Fasting Failure?
Everyone always wonders if they are fasting correctly. Nobody can answer that for you but you can take a look at your own heart and ask yourself:
- Am I fasting for attention or manipulation of some sort?
- Am I more worried about what others think than what God thinks?
- Am I fasting in a way that I told God I would be fasting?
In our verse above (Matthew 6:16), Jesus addressed what you should or shouldn’t do during a fast. In the Bible, they would wear sackcloth and ashes, look downcast and tear their clothes for attention. It was a very public thing focusing on the outward. God says seeking him and fasting is a matter of the heart and he looks to our inward, not the outward.
God was also pretty clear in Isiah 58. He made no bones about what he found acceptable and unacceptable fasting behavior.
- Are you fasting to appear pious?
- Are you living a sinful lifestyle (treating other badly, letting your anger and mouth win as you fight and bicker, making false accusations, etc…) when you are fasting?
- Are you praying for others or just yourself? Where is your heart’s focus?
- Are you praying for physical things or laying your treasures up in heaven and praying for spiritual things (like a clean heart, a love for the co-worker you are struggling with, etc…)?
If you are doing the above, then you ARE doing it wrong. Go to God and repent. Ask for help in those areas. Otherwise, there is no one right or wrong way to fast. Keep your focus on God and seek him. It’s that simple.
Some Final Thoughts
Satan will try to convince you that you can’t fast, it’s too hard, and that a slip up on your part makes you a fasting failure. Don’t believe it. If we couldn’t do it, Jesus would never have told us to fast.
What seems impossible to us is not impossible for our God. When we fast, we are stretching our faith to grab ahold of our Father’s hand.
In the next post, I will share how I fast as well as my testimony of God’s blessings through fasting. You can read that post here. If you have a chronic illness and traditional fasting methods do not work for you, I address that in this post here, “Alternative Fasting Methods With Chronic Illness”.
“I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me.” (Daniel 4:2)
Fasting is such a personal thing but what tips have you discovered in your own fasting journey? Please feel free to comment below and share so that others can be blessed!