Fasting is doing without food for one or more meals in order to give additional time to prayer and to concentrate on seeking God.
Fasting was a discipline in both the Old and New Testament. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “When you fast…” (Matthew 6:16) – He assumed we would fast. He did not speak of it as if it were some part of the Old Testament law, now be fulfilled, and no longer relevant. Instead, He gave us guidance for how to do it.
“Fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God (Psalm 35:13; Ezra 8:21). King David said, ‘I humble myself through fasting.’”1 It is a way of “…letting Him know that we are willing to exchange physical comforts to seek Him for a spiritual feast! As a spiritual discipline, fasting is the act of abstaining from feeding the body in order to focus more fully on seeking God’s face and feeding the spirit.”2
Since fasting is not merely denying oneself food, give the extra time left from food preparation and eating to spending longer times in prayer and reading God’s Word. If you normally take your lunch break away from the workplace, you may want to take your car to a safe place and your lunch period in prayer. “While fasting, if you dissipate your energy on numerous errands or busy-work to the neglect of spending special time with God, you will starve both physically and spiritually.”3
Make certain that you are in good health. If there is any question as to whether fasting is right for you, consult your physician. Some may substitute a television fast or get away to spend a day alone with the Lord.
Your fast should have a focus. You wouldn’t want to go to this much trouble and then not know why you’re doing it once you got started. You may have a special heart burden or a need for specific guidance for which you fast. Often, this focus will be repentance and personal renewal; if so confess, not only obvious sins, but less obvious ones as well — the sins of omission as well as the sins of commission.
Resist the urge to have that “last big feast” before the fast. Wean yourself off caffeine and sugar products to ease your initial hunger or discomfort at the early stages of your fast. Buy some breath spray; mints or gum will make you hungry. Many people are reluctant to tell others that they are fasting so they will avoid the sin of the Pharisees: fasting just to gain recognition for oneself, but it is OK to tell family members who have a need to know.
Finally, get alone with God. Somehow, in some way, give the Lord extra attention. Read His Word. Listen for His voice. Don’t expect a spiritual high; you will see the results later. Pour out your heart in prayer regarding your heart burden that is the occasion for your fast.
You can download the fact sheet and find other resources used in our prayer emphasis at First Baptist, Tallassee, as we participate in Praying Across Alabama, here.
2 http://www.fastingprayer.com/what isfasting/index.html — Link no longer in existence
3. http://www.www.ccci.org/howtofast/schedule.html — Link no longer in existence