The standard definition of “Fasting” is to abstain from all or some food for a period of time while seeking God and praying. Fasting also can be removing various activities, pleasures or routines to abase ourselves and seek first God’s kingdom. We can fast in many ways. Fasting is essentially being willing to give something up for a period of time that we might humble ourselves, seek God’s will and have divine answers to prayer.
Fasting has been done for thousands of years by many religions and cults. There is tremendous power in prayer and fasting. Even Satanists fast because they understand the great power that it can bring. Queen Ester fasted and the lives of the Jewish nation were saved. Daniel fasted and received great revelation from God. Jesus never did one miracle until after he fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. Moses, Elijah, Hannah, Ezra, Solomon, Joseph, King David, Apostle Paul and Peter are but just a few of the many, many people who fasted in the bible.
Why should Christians fast? How should we fast?
In the 6th chapter of Matthew Jesus teaches us about fasting. In verse 16 Jesus says “When you fast…” Notice – he didn’t say “If” you fast but “When” you fast. Jesus expects us to fast. He expects us to be disciplined enough to be able to forsake bodily wants or pleasures to seek God’s kingdom.
Fasting causes us to deny our flesh and build up the spirit. When we deny those things we enjoy and even need – we learn self-control. We learn that we will not die without food or tv or sugar. We train our minds to be more in tune and sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Fasting gives us supernatural power to see into the spiritual realm more than anything else that we can do.
What type of fasts are there? There is no limit to what type of fast that you can choose. I will name just a few. You can pray and ask the Lord to show you what you should fast and what would please the Lord. Each person should seek God as to how long they should fast. One should never feel under compulsion to fast – such as in the case of a prayer group or church going on a fast. A person should be completely led of the Holy Spirit as to what to fast and how long.
Fasting food is the most common way for people to fast. Some can totally abstain from food for up to 40 days. This is a period of time when you can have various drinks to give strength. Some may only drink water while others drink only milk or have water alternated with fruit juice. People that I have know which are on these long fasts typically use vacation time to fast so that they can spend time resting as it is physically exhausting to fast. I am always in some sort of fast – media fast, Movie fast or food fast. I sometimes fast until about 3 p.m. and have just milk. On occasion I will fast for 24 hours and only allow juice or water.
The Daniel fast is a partial food diet which many Christians like to do. Primarily the diet removes meat, liquors and sugar. In this fast you are eating bread, vegetables and fruit. Each person can moderate their fast according to how they are led of the Holy Spirit.
Some of the other types of fasts that I have been on are: Sugar fasts, Not wearing make-up fasts, TV & internet Fasts; No Negative Talking Fasts; Reading only the Bible Fast. The list of possibilities is limitless. You may fast something that may be quite unusual. Be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
When should you fast? I fast weekly. Those on my ministry team are asked to fast weekly. As ministers we need to be very disciplined and sensitive to the Holy Spirit. I believe that every Christian should fast on a regular basis. If you can fast one or two days a month that is a good discipline and keeps you in tune to the Holy Spirit. Michael and I always begin each new year with a 2 – 4 week fast. We have done this for many years. We feel it is critically important to set aside the first days of each new year to ask God’s blessing, seek His face and cry out for answered prayer. You should ask the Holy Spirit how often He desires you to fast.
Is fasting difficult? Absolutely. I don’t like giving up food, feeling weak, tired and hungry. Many times my family was watching a nice movie together and I would be in the other room fasting TV and praying. There were many times I have missed out on activities because of fasting and prayer. We have had to miss dinner with friends or not be able to eat at a party. Fasting can be lonely, difficult and tiring. Yet I praise God for all the answers to pray over 32 years of fasting.
Fasting doesn’t need to be done alone. Our family has fasted together since our kids were small. From a young age our girls were always given the option to join us if they wanted to. We never forced them or made them feel guilty if they didn’t want to fast with us. I have often asked friends to go a fast with me. It seems to be easier to fast when you know others are praying over the same prayer list. It strengthens you to know that you are each lifting one other up as you take the time to fast together. Then it is just wonderful when you begin to see answers to prayer after the fast.
Prayer touches the heart of God but Prayer and Fasting MOVES the heart of God. Great people fast. Fasting makes great people. When I have fasted with a right heart – according to Isaiah 58 – I have seen countless miracles that would never have occurred had it not been for fasting and prayer.
Use the time that you would normally eat, watch TV or read books – to pray. Fasting is not just about giving something up. It is about denying your flesh that you might pray, intercede and warfare in the spirit realm that you might see a move of God in your life and hear what God is speaking to you. Read Isaiah 58 ( See post Fasting with Compassion) each day that you are on your fast. This is where you find God’s promises to those who fast with the right motives.
Finally in Matt. 6:16 Jesus goes on to say that when we fast we shouldn’t go about looking as if we were starving to death, feeling sorry for ourselves or with a gloomy face. This is just religious show. We should fast without making a big deal of it. This doesn’t mean that you can’t tell others that you are fasting. Just don’t brag about it. As a matter of fact, when you are fasting you should have one or two faithful prayer warriors lifting you up during that time. This way when you are really hungry or tired or drained and want to give in and break the fast you can call your prayer partner and come in agreement that God will continue to give you the strength to finish the fast. You will find a greater power when you have one or two people who you know are praying for you during the fast.
Fasting is one of the most powerful things a Believer can do. I would not be the person I am today if it were not for Prayer and Fasting. I don’t fast because I want to – but because God wants me to. I dislike fasting. It is difficult and tiring. It can drain me. But the benefits far outweigh the difficulty. Every great man and woman of God fasts. I have never met a powerful Christian man or woman who did not fast on a regular basis.
What happens if you fast but nothing happens? This is where you need to realize that God is speaking in this situation. First go through my teachings on fasting and ask God to show you where your heart wasn’t right, where you haven’t been obedient, where you haven’t honored Him. Really spend some time each day in prayer about this. If God isn’t showing you any sin then that means you are right before God. Next, the answer may simply be “No.” As painful as it may be, God’s divine love and omnipotence for your life may see that He will not answer this desire in the way that you want. Also, it may be a momentary “No.” This means that although God is saying “no” at the moment it is only because of timing. He may answer but it will be at a later time. Finally, you may not have any results when it comes to another person. Even God will not supersede another person’s will. So many people fast and pray for marriage restoration and I believe it is critical to do this and we have seen amazing results. Yet, when a wayward spouse has no desire for reconciliation it will be very difficult to “make” that person want to come back home. I do believe there can be times where prayer and fasting will bring the person back to repentance but that is not always the case. Free will is a God given gift that we will all give account to God for one day. Free will cannot be broken – influenced by prayer and fasting, yes, but not broken. If you find yourself in this situation where you have done all that you can by prayer and fasting without results then it’s time to get a “word” on your situation. Ask God to speak to you as to why there has been no results. Really get before God and stay there until you have your answer. Then write it down in your journal. That way when the devil begins to trouble your mind about the situation you can stand on God’s Word and rest in that.
May you find the secret power behind Prayer and Fasting that so many others have. May you begin your journey into a higher level of faith, power and spiritual growth. May fasting become a regular part of your Christian walk.