What do people who fast (and pray) look like? What types of people come to your mind? Do they appear a bit weird? Are they non-conformist types? Legalists? Health nuts? Does Jesus ever come to your mind when you think of fasting and “fasters”? I want you to know that the Bible teaches Jesus both practiced and taught fasting (coupled with prayer).
One of the core foundations for the blessing and favor of God at HighRidge is following the example of Jesus, fasting coupled with prayer! Twice each year in January and August, our HighRidge Church family is encouraged to collectively enter into days of prayer and fasting. Additionally, the elders, pastors and staff periodically fast as the Lord personally directs them.
Why Do We Fast?
The purpose of fasting is ultimately God himself. There are many reasons to undertake a fast, but the bottom line for them all is to align your heart directly with him. Think of that as the big picture. The small picture, the immediate purpose for a fast, can vary. So the first step for any kind of fast is to declare our immediate purpose. Fasting can’t be done casually, because there isn’t any spiritual benefit in simply not eating. Going through the motions just makes us hungry, but genuine, purposeful fasting is a powerful discipline for the disciple of Jesus and can play a part in literally transforming your life.
To help us define a godly purpose for fasting, Donald Whitney gives us these 10 reasons:
- To strengthen prayer
- To seek God’s guidance
- To express grief
- To seek deliverance or protection
- To express repentance and return to God
- To humble oneself before God
- To express concern for the work of God
- To minister to the needs of others
- To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God
- To express love and worship to God
Throughout the Bible, we see people fast for a variety of reasons:
- To be like Jesus (Matthew 4:1–17; Luke 4:1–13)
- To obtain spiritual purity (Isaiah 58:5–7)
- To repent from sins (Jonah 3:8; Nehemiah 1:4)
- To influence God (2 Samuel 12:16–23)
- To mourn for the dead (1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 1:12)
- To request God’s help in times of crisis and calamity (Ezra 8:21–23; Nehemiah 1:4–11)
- To strengthen prayer (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:17–29)
None of these purposes amounts to twisting God’s arm to do what we want. Who can do that? God is not a genie who will grant us whatever we wish. He is a good father who is working out his sovereign will. Our reasons for fasting are for our own humility. By denying ourselves for a time, we provoke ourselves to rely more on God Almighty. It isn’t about changing God; it’s about changing us. In fasting:
- We pray more intently
- We become more receptive to God’s guidance
- We lean more on Scripture to hear his voice
- We demonstrate our grief and honest repentance
- We physically declare that we need God to survive
- We sense spiritual reality more than the physical world
- We prepare to love others better than ourselves
Lastly, fasting helps us to remember the true source of our utmost joy. Most people would agree that food is a good thing. If you’re unable to fast but chose to abstain from something else, such as a hobby or technology or entertainment, those can also be good things. All good things come from God, but the human heart is inclined to worship God’s gifts rather than God himself. Fasting helps our hearts to look past the good gift to the good God, who blesses us despite ourselves.
“I DON’T REALLY FEEL LIKE IT”
Even if fasting makes sense, you may not feel like you need it right now. But think of fasting as similar to praise and worship. Oftentimes joy overflows in songs of praise, but more often singing leads us into joy. We sing first and that brings us to a place of thankfulness and joy. Likewise, when our souls overflow with godly emotions and repentance, we may be led to fasting, but far more often we need to choose to fast in order to be humbled and to fight our pride by rejecting the ways we so often cope with our feelings. It’s the proactive approach.
The Four Basic Types of Fasts
- Full Fast: Drink only water
- Liquid Fast: Drink only fruit juice or broth
- The Daniel Fast: Eat no meat, no sweets and no bread. Drink water and juice. Eat fruits and vegetables. See Daniel 10:2-3 (See more extensive information).
- Partial Fasts:
- Fast from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., or from sun-up to sundown.
- Giving up one food item, such as caffeine or sweets.
- Giving up one meal & replacing that time with prayer. Vigilance is needed to ensure that the value of omitting the one meal is not offset by increasing the intakeat others!
- Fast for a specific number of days – one day, three days, you decide.
- Fast from all forms of secular media, limiting yourself solely to the Word of God and Christian books as reading material and viewing and listening only to Christian programming on television, radio and podcasts.
Please note: If you have a health condition which prohibits you from a full or Daniel fast, there are other options such as choosing something from your daily routine (i.e., specific foods, television, other technology etc.) and fast in that manner. Replace that time with prayer and study of God’s word.