What is Fasting?
Fasting is a sacrificial form of prayer warfare that produces results available in no other way. The World Publishing Bible Dictionary describes fasting as, “going without food, especially as a religious duty”. Fasting is not just going without food; if that was the case, we would be the best of saints, because we don’t eat while we’re sleeping and therefore fasting. We follow Jesus’ example (Luke 4:1-13) of this process while he was in the wilderness. Jesus established the importance of fasting for all believers in preparing to encounter and withstand the attacks of Satan. The goal of fasting is to weaken the flesh, strengthen the Spirit, and energize our faith. It is undertaken by an individual to ask the favor of God, to ward off evil, to chasten one’s pride, or to discipline oneself at a time of crisis.
Isaiah Defines God’s Fast: Isaiah 58:1-11. In this chapter the prophet makes plain what fasting God rejects (vs. 3-5) and what fasting He accepts (vs. 6-11).
Benefits and Models of Fasting
It is imperative that one prays and study God’s Word while fasting. You might not have a successful fast unless you study and meditate upon the Word of God and pray continually. Let’s examine the examples of fasting by Daniel, Esther, and Joel. The scriptures point us to many characters in the Word of God but we will look at these three.
1. Fasting Intensifies Prayer: Daniel 9:3-4 shows us how to fast and pray as he makes supplication unto God for the people of Israel. Fasting is designed to make prayer mount up on “eagles’ wings.” It was essential that Daniel included fasting as he sought God’s mercy on behalf of Israel. “Fasting helps to express, to deepen, and to conform the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything (even water), to sacrifice ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God” (Minister Andrew Murray-Author). Lastly, prayer and reading the word of God is imperative to a dynamic, anointed, result producing, and successful fast.
2. Fasting Brings Deliverance: Mark 9:25-29, tells the story of the demon possessed man of which Jesus told the disciples, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” Let’s examine Esther here. The people of God were in dire need of salvation. Ester was the only doorway of access to getting that need met, yet it put her life at risk in doing so. Therefore, she called a fast (4:16). Sometimes in order to see the mountains move in our lives and in the lives of others, we will need to pray and fast in order to release miraculous Kingdom power.
3. Fasting Prepares for God’s Latter Rains: In the book of Joel (2:12-27), although the people were prosperous, they had become apathetic toward the Lord and had entered into idolatry. The condition was so disastrous that Joel gave only one explanation; it was the judgment of God upon their sins. In order to receive the ‘latter rains’, the people were called to repentance that required fasting (vs. 12-14). Joel 2:23 says, Be glad then ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain and the latter rain in the first month.
Practical Guidelines for Fasting:
1. Speak with the Lord and pray about your attempt to fast
2. Do not suddenly start fasting (consider your motives before fasting, make sure your motives and attitudes are pure). Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. Matthew 6:16-18
3. There are times when the Lord will “sanctify a fast”. If you are married, you need to get consent for a time, 1 Corinthians 7:5, tells us: defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again.
4. When under taking a long fast, it would be wise to properly hydrate your body before the fast.
• Drink plenty of water (eight glasses per day is recommended)
• Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
5. Avoid eating mints, as that is a form of food (“bad breath” is a negative spin- off of fasting, so, proper dental hygiene should be practiced.
6. Bath, wash your face, act normal. No one should know you are on a fast because this is between you and God.
7. Guard yourself against distractions.
8. If you experience dizziness, headaches, fatigue and bellyaches, ask the Lord to keep you throughout the fast.
The Bible recounts the following types of fasts:
►A partial fast is described in the book of Daniel. Although the water fast seemed to be the custom of the prophet, there was a three-week period in which he only abstained from “pleasant bread” (delicacies), “flesh” (meat), and wine (Daniel 10:3). This is what is known as the Daniel Fast.
►The other types mentioned in the Bible are the absolute and supernatural absolute. These are total fasts-no food (sold or liquid) and no water. Paul went on an absolute fast for three days following his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:9). Moses and Elijah engaged in what must be considered a supernatural absolute fast for forty days (Deuteronomy 9:9; 1 Kings 19:8).
►There are other fasts that have been called by many churches, e.g., no food, just juice, no solid foods; however, you may eat fruits and vegetables. You may be called to a 40-day or a 1-day fast; it varies depending on what God has called you to do and what He has called your church to do. Follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. He will guide you as to what is best for you.