Fasting is one of the least understood discipline as far as I have experienced. Maybe it comes from visions of Jesus in the wilderness (desert) wandering around and telling Satan he could keep his rocks while He was probably hungry. Could it have come from the 60's era hippy who only had yogurt in his fridge and let it sit for 40 days while strumming his guitar with chants against the establishment? Who knows. So what I would like to do is clear the air on what fasting is and some ways you can incorporate it into your Christian walk.
Fasting is simply another way to place ourselves in a position that the Lord can transform us. This method means abstaining from some or all food for a set period of time. IT IS NOT A DIET PLAN!!! Once that notion sets in, the true sense of fasting is over and the self has taken over. A word of caution: before attempting to fast, you must understand your own health status and if fasting could cause an emergency medical issue. If so, there are alternatives. What puzzles me is that a lot of Christians think fasting is a good thing to do, but yet they don't practice it. Why? Because it is very uncomfortable to go without food in our society of overabundance. Christians in the US have struggled with the notion of the sin of gluttony and even denied it! Fasting challenges those thought patterns so deeply ingrained from our history of a potluck at almost every church function and delectable food items for fundraisers to support the youth group activities. We also have a difficult time allowing the Lord access to all of ourselves-- mind, body, and soul.
Fasting should always be bathed in prayer before starting and reading Scripture passages to remind us of how God's people followed fasting to gain the intimacy with God and His insight into situations and even prophetic messages. I have purposely used fasting for God's answer to extremely complex or deeply troubling situations. God answered and brought greater insight to the things perplexing me. Decide if you are doing a full or partial fast and how long. 40 days is the longest I would ever suggest. But if you are new to this, try a 24 hour fast to begin. Water should always continue to be consumed, however. A step progression of food consumption should be done for longer fasts. If you are doing a partial fast, decide which foods you will deny yourself. Many people pick sweets, caffeinated beverages, meat, all snack foods. Whatever it is that you feel gets between you and God is best. You will not need to step down your food if you do a partial fast. So during your fast, you can begin with these things:
You may be very surprised at God's responses. They may seem odd, partial answers, or things that seem unrelated to your reason for fasting. However, never forget the overarching purpose for fasting: being open and moldable to the Creator of the Universe. This Christian walk is a love relationship like none other. To fast for any other purpose is religion, not relationship.
A couple of accompanying tools are Lectio Divina and the 4-D Living model of finding solutions to problems, situations and other issues. Bible study, memorization and prayer will be foundational for this discipline. If you fast alone, you open yourself up to be deceived by Satan who likes to parade around as an angel of light aiming to derail your faith. Don't let that happen. Do it right!
Alternatives to food fasts are fasting from media: television, movies, internet, cell phones, etc.; simplicity from busy-ness by clearing your schedule of extra stuff, quiet from sounds we are used to having in the background. If it is something you would give up for Lent, that would be valuable to fast from.
Common times for Christians to fast are New Years, Lent to Easter, Halloween/All Saints Day as well as important issues with church life and issues of state that are concerning. There are also corporate fasts that are led in churches and parachurch ministries.
You can find fasting in Celebration of Discipline in Chapter 4. Here are some passages relating to fasting:
Luke 4:2, Daniel 10:3, Esther 4:16, Acts 9:9, Deuteronomy 9:9, I Kings 19:8, 2 Chronicles 20:1-4, Ezra 8:21-23, Matthew 6:16, Joel 2:15 Among many others. Use a topical index to find more.
Websites related to fasting:
May the Lord bless you as you seek Him in all matters big and small!