“Fasting is about an open heart, not open hands. Fasting is giving up physical things we want for spiritual things we need.” -Dr. Noe Garcia
Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is explained throughout the Bible and is an incredibly powerful tool that God has given us to deny the physical part of ourselves so that we can focus on the spiritual.
Don’t be surprised if you feel discouraged while you are fasting. Fasting involves spiritual warfare, and discouragement is a common weapon the enemy uses against us. It’s also important to not judge the success of a fast based on how you feel while you are fasting. Fasting is hard. Fasting is warfare and wrestling. It’s not uncommon to feel less than stellar when you are in the middle of spiritual warfare.
It’s often when we feel the worst that the most is happening in the spiritual realm.
Different types of fasting:
A Regular Fast
Traditionally, a regular fast means refraining from eating all food. Most people still drink water or juice during a regular fast. When Jesus fasted in the desert, the Bible says, “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” This verse does not mention Jesus being thirsty.
A Partial Fast
This type of fast generally refers to omitting a specific meal from your diet or refraining from certain types of foods. Daniel 10:2-3 says, “At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.” In Daniel 1:12, they restricted their diet to vegetables and water: “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.”
A Full Fast
These fasts are complete – no food and no drink. Acts 9:9 describes when Paul went on a full fast for three days following his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus: “For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.” Esther also called for this type of fast in Esther 4:15-16: “Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.'”
A Private Fast
This is how we are called to fast most often. Jesus told us in Matthew 5 to keep fasting private and not make a big deal about it. Fasting is self-discipline and it is usually something between you and God.
A Corporate or Public Fast
There are times when we are called to a public fast. An example of this would be when the leaders of the church call the whole church to fast. For example, when Esther called the entire Jewish nation to fast together (Esther 4:16).
What can I fast from?
Although not mentioned in the Bible, fasting from other things than food is the same biblical principle. Many Christians today commit to fasting from other activities such as entertainment, TV, social media and/or movies to concentrate on prayer. Others fast from other activities for a specified period of time. As, Dr. Noe Garcia expressed in his message on prayer and fasting, “Fasting is about an open heart, not open hands. Fasting is giving up physical things we want for spiritual things we need.”
What if I travel for work?
If you work at the office, job site, or travel frequently for work, here are some thoughts. It is perfectly within reason to fast while working; if we don’t, we will probably never fast. Be creative. On the lunch break, go to a park or your car to read Scripture and to pray. If you must go to lunch with the team, simply choose a light beverage (or nothing) as your lunch.
Is fasting supposed to be secret?
Secret fasting would be possible if we lived in total isolation. Jesus said not to fast in order to be seen by others. He is more concerned about our motive in fasting than with whether or not anyone else knows. You can tell your family. Tell your work partners if it comes up. It might be a good opportunity to witness. The key is not to fast with the motive on impressing others.
What spiritual things should I do?
While fasting, read lots of Scripture. Plan in advance and choose a significant segment, such as the Gospels. Read some of the Psalms or Proverbs. Try to find time to pray more than you ordinarily would. Taking time to minister to others in prayer or similar acts of service is also good (Isaiah 58).
What about social obligations?
It’s good to limit non-essential social obligations in order to spend more time in prayer and in the Bible. Most one or two day fasts per week should not prove a problem if carefully scheduled. But if you need to attend a social obligation, attend.
Should I fast alone?
It would be a good idea, especially if you are just beginning to fast, to have a prayer partner, small group, or other such person to help you be accountable during a fast. It is good to have someone to confess sin to and to be assured of God’s forgiveness.
What about vitamins, medicine...?
Always consult with a doctor if you have health issues before fasting. Also check with a doctor about taking prescription and non-prescription medications while fasting. Whether or not you take vitamins will probably depend on how well your digestive system tolerates them without food. It is best to forego drinking caffeinated beverages at least three days before beginning a fast in order to avoid getting headaches.