The ABC’s of Fasting

By Vladimir Savchuk | January 9, 2023 | 6 mins

The ABC’s of Fasting

Biblical fasting is not starvation or an involuntary absence of food; it is abstaining from food for spiritual reasons. Fasting is not a hunger strike, and it is not a diet—a diet focuses on helping you lose weight, it is a spiritual discipline that draws you closer to God. Fasting helps to find fulfillment in God’s calling on your life, as well as subdue your flesh with all its conflicts. You can fast for different reasons, such as to overcome problems and challenges or to restore your hunger and passion for God.

Different Types of Fasts

Absolute fast

An absolute fast is going without food or water, sometimes referred to as a dry fast. Moses went on this type of fast for 40 days; and it was supernatural (Exodus 34:28). The city of Nineveh fasted like this for three days (Jonah 3:7) as well as the apostle Paul after his encounter with the Lord (Acts 9:9).

Caution: This should NOT be undertaken for more than three days.

Normal fast

This is when you don’t eat and only drink water. We believe that Jesus went on this type of fast for 40 days. The Bible says He ate nothing, but it doesn’t mention that He didn’t drink anything:

Being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.

Luke 4:2

Usually, if a person in the Bible didn’t drink anything during their fast Scripture would point that out.

Partial Fast

A partial fast, commonly referred to as a Daniel Fast, is where you abstain from certain foods. This fast usually includes eating no meat, no sweets, no dairy or other pleasant foods—only soups, fruits, and vegetables. This fast is named after the prophet Daniel: “I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled” (Daniel 10:3). For me, this is the hardest fast. I don’t think I have ever done more than seven days because I don’t like fasting and thinking about food at the same time. Plus, eating an entire meal and still feeling hungry is a tougher challenge for me than simply not eating at all.

Corporate Fast

The last type of fast is a corporate fast. Your private fasting should be done in secret as Jesus instructed in Matthew 6:16, but there is also a public fast which is proclaimed by leaders. There are a few biblical examples of this, such as the prophet Samuel calling an entire nation to a fast (1 Samuel 7:6); Esther calling her Jewish people to a fast (Esther 4:16); Ezra proclaiming a fast (Ezra 8:21–23); the pagan king of Nineveh declaring a fast to his nation (Jonah 3:5); and the disciples fasting and ministering to the Lord (Acts 13:2–3).

How to Fast

Set a goal

No matter what type of fast you begin, you must have a reason and a goal! Be specific. Why are you fasting? Do you want to get closer to God and be more sensitive to the spiritual realm? Do you need direction in life’s decisions, healing, restoration of your marriage, help with family issues, or wisdom? Are you facing financial difficulties? Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. Decide what to fast for and present it constantly to God in prayer.

Decide on the type of fast

The type of fast you choose is between you and the Lord. You could go on a full fast in which you only drink liquids. You may desire to fast like Daniel, who abstained from sweets and meats, and the only liquid he drank was water. Pay attention to what the Holy Spirit leads you to do and do it.

Choose length

Also, decide how long you will fast. Remember that you may fast as long as you like, as the Lord leads. Be courteous enough to inform those who prepare meals for you or share meals with you about your plans to fast. Most people can easily fast from 1 to 3 days, but you may feel God’s grace to go longer, even 21 to 40 days. Use wisdom and pray for guidance. Beginners are advised to start slowly.

Plan ahead

Choose days that fit your schedule, take into consideration that you might feel extra tired. When you fast, your body eliminates toxins from your system. This can cause mild discomfort, such as headaches and irritability during withdrawal from caffeine and sugars. And naturally, you will have hunger pains. Hunger is a common side effect of any fast. Avoiding water can make you feel even hungrier, since water helps increase satiety. If you don’t eat food or drink water, your body begins to crave fuel. You will likely feel fatigued, dizzy, and weak. David said of his fasting,

My knees are weak through fasting, and my flesh is feeble from lack of fatness.

Psalm 109:24

One of the other things we often feel during a fast is irritability. As the hunger builds up, you’re bound to feel cranky. Mood swings are pretty common. Also, when you’re tired and hungry, it can be difficult to concentrate at school or work. So limit your activity, use good common sense, and exercise moderately. Take time to rest.

Set aside time each day

Quiet yourself before the Lord, meditate on His Word, and write down what He would be saying to you. Fasting brings about miraculous results. You are following Jesus’s example when you fast. Spend time listening to praise and worship music. Constantly read and meditate on the Word. Let the hunger pangs remind you to stop everything and pray—and pray as often as you can throughout the day. Get away from normal distractions as much as possible, and keep your heart and mind set on seeking the face of God.

End the fast slowly

Of course, how much time you need to resume your regular diet depends on what you fast from and for how long. If it was only a one-day fast, then usual- ly there is no harm to resume normal eating. If you go for more than three days, you must begin eating sol- id food very gradually; eat small portions or snacks. When the time comes to end your fast, eating solid foods too soon and/or overeating can be extremely dangerous to your digestive system.

I pray this guide helped you understand fasting and inspired you to embark on your own fasting journey with the Lord.

Excerpt taken from Fast Forward: Accelerate Your Spiritual Life with Fasting

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