I just finished fasting and praying with a family from our church for their loved one’s soul.
Most Christians I talk with have never been taught how to fast. But there is a simple recipe for fasting every believer can learn with a little practice. Although it is not commanded for Christians to fast, going without food in order to deepen our desire and need for God can be a significant spiritual blessing.
Strengthen your faith by adding a fast to your diet with these three ingredients: 1) the right practice; 2) the right food; and, 3) the right purpose.
First, we need the right practice. No one starts off running a marathon without training. It’s the same with any spiritual discipline; we have to build up our spiritual stamina and start small when we begin.
I recommend a food fast of one meal a week for two to four weeks for your first fast. This short food fast will allow your body to learn that it can live without food for a meal. Next, skip two meals a week for a couple of weeks. After doing these practice fasts for four to eight weeks try to move to the 24 hour food fast.
Just like with any exercise you will begin to see spiritual results after the first four to six weeks.
Two very real things will happen during food fasts. First, physically, if you are not used to skipping any meals, your stomach will try to take over your actions. Plan to fight through these hunger pains using water.
Second, spiritually, you will be under attack — temptation and hunger pains will increase during your fast more than just physical hunger pains. Fight through this temptation using prayer and service.
Try praying this prayer: “Lord, I desire more of the Holy Spirit than I desire food. Please help me, and provide me the strength to fight this temptation.” Serving someone will help alleviate spiritual hunger pains, too. When Jesus went without food his disciples were surprised that he didn’t act hungry, he said, “The food that keeps me going is doing the will of God.” John 4:34
Second, more than the right practice, you will also need the right food. During your fast eat Scripture (read your Bible). You will find out during this time that God will actually sustain you physically. Remember Jesus said to Satan as he was being tempted: “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4.
Finally, to add fasting and prayer to your diet, it helps to fast for the right purpose. Some of the reasons for fasting that the Bible reveals are strengthening our prayers (Ezra 8:23, Nehemiah 1:4, and Daniel 9:3), seeking God’s guidance (Acts 14:23), seeking deliverance (2 Chronicles 20:3-4), and even overcoming temptation (Matthew 4:1-11).
There are several other reasons for fasting given in Scripture, if you would like to hear more about fasting and prayer or you have any other questions and comments about fasting email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to pray and fast with you as we seek to grow in the Lord.
Dale McCamish is Senior Minister of Wilmington Church of Christ.