Just as Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the desert, fasting is a spiritual discipline we should consider as a regular part of our spiritual development. At the heart of biblical fasting is the concept of humility and dependence on God. We move away from our dependence on earthly sustenance to renew and re-establish our reliance on spiritual nourishment.
The goal of fasting is to draw nearer to God. We can misunderstand our aim by thinking that we are trying to move God’s favor by giving up food. However, the more accurate idea is that, as we give up food, we focus on God – reminding ourselves where our ultimate provision comes from. As we abstain from food and focus on heaven, we will find ourselves reconnecting to a God who has already offered his grace and favor for our lives. We are not earning a reward. We are deliberately setting aside a specified period of time press in to a relationship with our Provider.
While personal fasting always presents a level of challenge to the believer, because our bodies crave the food we withhold, it is very important to use wisdom in deciding how to fast. As you commit to a fast, start by seeking God through prayer. After all, fasting is a discipline designed to connect you with Him. It always helps to include Him in the process. Also, you may consider consulting with a physician for extended periods of fasting or for people with known sensitivities. Remember, the goal is to reset your spiritual world, not to suffer to get God’s attention. Choose a fast that you can commit to physically and emotionally, then make a decision to press in to God for this season.
TYPES OF FASTS
“How” is never as important as “heart”. We don’t want to define your options arbitrarily or narrowly, but we do want to follow the biblical model. As we see in scripture, what you do always begins with opening your heart to God. Once you have committed to a fast, remember
that the most common form of biblical fasting centers around abstaining from foods. While there are other potential options, Jesus fasts food in the desert and reminds us at the core of His message that he is ultimately to be bread of our life.
Selective fasting means that you are eating food and drinking somewhat normally with a significant restriction. The most popular form of this fast is called Daniel Fast. Loosely based on a fast by the prophet Daniel, this fast restricts meat, sugars, and other rich foods from your diet. Many people find that variants of this fast allow them to successfully balance the demands of daily life, while still submitting to a food restriction that promotes a pressing in to God.
A lesser known but biblical form of fasting is a partial fast. Partial fasting means that while your diet may remain relatively normal, you abstain from food and most drinks from sunrise or sunset or some other significant period. Remember, the key is not just to get by without food but to
challenge yourself to spiritual renewal in the process. Be sure that you find time to focus and redirect your heart through spiritual disciplines during a partial fast.
ALTERNATIVES TO FASTING FOOD
While we strongly encourage those who are able to consider a food fast because of the consistent biblical example, a lifestyle fast can also be effective for spiritual renewal. This fast involves abstaining from certain significant lifestyle areas. For example, you might choose to abstain from television or the internet and choose instead to spend that time focused on prayer, study or discipleship – literally shifting your habits toward spiritual growth. Again, the important idea here is to create a significant shift in your lifestyle that promotes spiritual growth. Should you
choose this style of fast, be sure that your choice is both challenging and combined with an element of spiritual discipline.