Nothing is too difficult for God. -Jeremiah 32:7
When we pray to God, our prayers are powerful not because of what we pray or how we pray. Our prayers are powerful because of whom we pray to. Prayer is simply asking God to accomplish something we cannot do by our own strength.
How can you know if you are praying and fasting according to God’s will? Are you praying and fasting for things that honor and glorify God? Does the Bible clearly reveal that it is God’s will for you? If we are asking for something that is not honoring to God or not God’s will for our lives, God will not give what we ask for, whether we fast or not. How can we know God’s will? God promises to give us wisdom when we ask. James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.“
Are There Different Types of Fasting?
The Bible describes four major 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.‘” It is recommended that this type of fast be done with extreme caution and not for extended periods of time.
• A Sexual Fast – 1 Corinthians 7:3-6 says, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
How to Start Fasting – Where Do I Begin?
How to start fasting is a common question. Begin by preparing your mind, heart, spirit, and body. It is important to have a clear purpose for fasting and what you hope to gain from your fast. Perhaps you are praying about a specific life decision, asking God’s blessing, or requesting revival in your life. The best way to develop your purpose is to study why people fasted in Bible times.
Secondly, pray to the Lord and ask Him to reveal the motives of your heart, any unconfessed sin, and areas in your life that He desires to change. In Isaiah 29:13, God says, “…These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” Isaiah 59:2 also instructs us to come before God with a clean heart: “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.“
To prepare your spirit for your fast, draw close to God through prayer and worship. Let God reveal Himself to you and why He is taking you through this time of fasting. The key to any spiritual preparation is intimacy with Jesus. John 15:7 says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.“
Finally, your body can be prepared for fasting through pragmatic considerations and planning. A few days before your fast, get your body ready by reducing your food intake, eating raw fruits and vegetables, and avoiding foods high in sugar and fat. Also, develop a schedule of how long you will fast, what type of fast you will be doing, and how you are going to adjust your activities to ensure that you will persevere through the fast.
Remember, fasting is about focusing on Jesus, not about abstaining from food.
Christian Fasting – How long should I fast?
There is not a set length that makes Christian fasting acceptable. However, there are some general tips that may help you decide on a duration that will work well for you.
In Bible times, fasts were generally one day in length. Judges 20:26 says, “Then all the sons of Israel and all the people went up and came to Bethel and wept; thus they remained there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening. And they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.“
Occasionally, fasts in Bible times were three days (Esther 4:16) or even seven days (1 Samuel 31:13). And on three occasions, fasts lasted 40 days: Moses receiving the 10 Commandments (Exodus 34:28), Elijah encountering God (1 Kings 19:8), and Jesus being tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4). Since these were unusual circumstances, it is normally not recommended for a person to fast for 40 days without medical supervision.
Christian Fasting – Tips to Consider
When deciding the length of your fast, take into consideration the following ideas:
• What type of fast are you planning? If you are planning to limit your liquid intake to water, it is important not to fast for more than 1 or 2 days without medical supervision. If you will be drinking juice and water, a longer duration may be considered.
• Have you fasted before? It is wise to start with a shorter period of time and work up to fasting for longer durations.
• Consider your schedule and obligations. If you are planning an extended fast, it is better to fast on days when you don’t have high-energy obligations, like speaking to a large crowd or participating in an exercise class.
• Plan fasts for times when other people will not be inconvenienced by your dietary restrictions. For example, it is not wise to fast on Thanksgiving Day when the family has traveled long distances to fellowship together!
• Plan fasts on days where you can spend quality time praying and being with your Savior.
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