How to Do a Long Fast
In many Christian communities, the month of January has been set apart for the purpose of fasting. People purpose in their heart to abstain from food for to feed and strengthening their spirit. While there are a variety of ways that people can fast, one of the most common during this time is the extended twenty-one day fast.
If you feel the Lord is calling you to do this as your first fruit of the year, then here are a few tips that can help you as you embark.
Practical Tips as You Begin
1. Know the right time
Knowing the ideal time to fast and when not to fast is important. If you are pregnant or nursing you should not be fasting. Waiting until after is recommended.
Those under 18 years of age are also discouraged from participating in extended fasts. They should not be involved in fasting unless there is parental consent and oversight. Minors who desire to fast should abstain from entertainment, sweets, internet, etc.
Another good thing is to check in with your doctor. Especially if you are on medications or have any pre-existing conditions. If that is the case, a doctor will typically discourage the individual from participating longer than a few days, or even at all.
Also consider the job that you have. Not everyone who is doing an extended fast has a labor intensive job. Think about your environment and if you will be able to physically commit to a longer fast.
2. Identify the Motive
Prolonged fasting should never be forced. It is always voluntary.
Although, like I mentioned above, many churches gather to fast during a set date it should always be optional.
40 day fasts that we see in Scripture have always been optional. They were always Spirit-led and never forced. They were never done as a result of imitating someone. Even the 21-day water fast is something that the Lord must lead you into.
Moses was invited to a 40-day fast on the mountain (Exodus 24:18). Elijah was given angels food before going on the 40-day fast (1 Kings 19:5-8). Jesus was led to fast for 40-days(Matthew 4:1-11). And in my experience, I was doing the 21-day fast a couple of years ago and on day 6 of the fast I felt the Lord lead me as clear as day to go for the 40 days. During this fast I truly felt the grace of God, and I will not be practicing this consecutively unless the Lord leads me into it again.
3. You Need to Start Right
The best thing to do is to slowly diminish the intake of carbs, meats, caffeine, sweets, and even solids. Not only will this make it easier, but as you prepare your heart before God in prayer, you will notice His strength.
4. What to Do During the Fast
The first 72-hours of the fast are usually the hardest mentally and some believe, physically. The reason being that your body is slowly decreasing the intake of food, so you’ll naturally begin to feel many symptoms throughout your body. This can include things like fatigue, headaches, stomach pains, lethargy etc.
Another reminder is to wash your face and brush your teeth. Those may seem obvious but during the fast, as the body is expelling toxins, bad breath is extremely common.
Don’t drink too much water. Obviously you will need it to continue the 21-days, but if you do it excessively when you do not need it, you will begin to flush away your needed nutrients. For this, I encourage you to drink low calorie electrolytes, mineral-salt-water, or coconut water throughout the fast.
It is strongly advised to stay away from artificial sweeteners, soy-protein drinks, caffeine etc. Even if you are doing a “liquid-fast,” I would encourage you to stay away from those items listed above, and instead try juicing fruits. All sorts of fruits work for a liquid-fast, but if you suffer with arthritis or allergies, I would stay away from orange or grapefruit juice.
Another thing that I would recommend is to do light exercise. Stay away from weights or anything that is too heavy on the body, but try and do light movement for 15-20 minutes. Your bodies go-to supply of fuel will run out after only a couple of days of fasting so it will begin to use the stored fat as the fuel.
When you fast through day 6/7 you will notice that your body will naturally stop desiring food as intently as it did before, and the craving will be much more mental than physical.
I also encourage you to fill your free time with reading, praying, and journaling.
Just as you’re detoxing physically, let it happen to your soul as well. Unplug and disconnect.
The Bible says,
When people fast but they don’t connect with God by prayer, they don’t receive the spiritual benefits they could be receiving.
5. How to End the Fast
When you’re breaking an extended fast, it should typically take you around 10 days or more to get back to normal. The breaking of the fast should follow this pattern : 1 day for every 4 days of fasting.
A slow exit out is extremely important as it can cause serious intestinal damage if solids are introduced too quickly.
Never break a long fast with a normal meal. Eating animal products, sugar, dairy, breads or processed foods can be extremely dangerous causing irreversible damage and in some cases even death. Instead, try drinking broths or light blended veggie soups. Begin to introduce solid foods only after a couple of days and to do so gradually.
If you’ve been feeling God leading you into a fast, do so with these things in mind.
May God bless you and strengthen you as you embark in this incredible journey to know the Lord in a way many don’t.
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