I would like to start of this year sharing my fasting experience. Those who know me know that I tend to fast every beginning of the year. Why, you ask? Because it is an opportunity to connect with God and seek Him for what He has planned for me in the year. I will share more on my personal journey in the next article but for now let’s understand what fasting is.
WHAT IS FASTING?
Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast or dry fasting is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period.
Abstaining from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance or be deprived of all or some kinds of food, especially for medical or experimental reasons
Most fasts are done certain time periods, could be 3, 7,21,30,40 days.
The point being as you skip meals you take the time aside to pray.
During Lent Catholics may choose to go without meat as their fast. This would be considered a partial fast
Others pick fasts that last 12 hours and eat one meal a day for a certain period of time.
Water Fasting refers to abstinence from all food and drink except water
An absolute fast or dry fasting is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period.
The Bible describes three major types of fasting:
- Regular Fast / Partial Fast - This type of fast generally refers to omitting a specific meal from your diet or refraining from certain types of foods. People do this fast in various ways. Some do it 3 days,7 days, 21 days, 30 days, 40 days etc. It can consist of omitting a meal or going certain hours without eating can be 6 hours, 12 hours ,24 hours etc. It is advisable that during this fast to keep away from caffeine and sugar as they cause hunger pangs. Ensure that when you are breaking your fast take a fruit or soup to open up your stomach to receive food because as you fast it shrinks in size.
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."
- Water Fast [Juice fast]- Traditionally, a regular fast means refraining from eating all food. Most people still drink water or juice during a regular fast. This fast needs a lot of planning and preparation and preferably done at a place where you can focus. You can choose the length of time you want to do it. Some do it 3 days,7 days, 21 days, 30 days, 40 days etc. It is best to do this fast at a retreat center away from distractions especially if you choose to do it for a long period.
When Jesus fasted in the desert, the Bible says, "After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry." [Matthew 4:2] This verse does not mention Jesus being thirsty so He could have been drinking water. [Subject to debate] But note that He was in a place of solitude and He fasted before He began His public ministry. I believe it is a good way to start seeking God especially when you sense He is leading you to o specific things. Shutting out all voices and staying in solitude with Him in prayer and reading His Word.
Also for the physical aspect please note that you must research this fast and take every precaution. People have died because of not preparing well and especially ignoring the refeeding plan [I will share my 40 days water fast journey in the next article]
- A Full Fast - These fasts are complete - no food and no drink. Usually done for 3 days because your body cannot stay longer than 3 days without water. It should also be planned and 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. And do it preferably in a retreat center away from distractions.
VIEWS ABOUT FASTING? [TRUE OR FALSE AND WHY MY PERSONAL VIEW]
· Fasting should only be done by those who are spiritually mature [been Christians for a long time] FALSE : there are basic instructions to follow but everyone’s journey is different and it gets better the more you do it.
· For Christians fasting is only for religious reasons /obligations. TRUE and FALSE : depends on the individual. Some fast for health reason such as intermitted fasting and others fast for spiritual reasons
· Fasting is not restricted to food. TRUE: I know people who believe fasting is strictly food others believe it can also be from other things that distract us such as TV or the internet. I tend to fast food because my body has learnt to relate it to prayer. Also, it is how the Bible teaches about spiritual fasting I believe the other types can be done for non-spiritual reasons.
· Taking salty water when fasting helps with low blood sugar and dizzy spells. TRUE: Not a lot of salt but just enough to replace your electrolytes especially when doing the water fast. Our water isn’t rich in minerals so when I did my 40 day water fast I added salt in my water once a day.
· Fasting and starving is the same thing FALSE: I believe the motive matters here.
· When fasting your body uses your glycogen and fat as fuel to keep it going TRUE: I’m sure those doing intermitted fasting can attest to this even more
· You can eat whatever you want when doing short terms partial fasts FALSE: If you eat sugar or take caffeine it will increase your hunger pangs [they tend to disappear after day 3 because your body adapts so adding sugar and caffeine prolongs it]. Also keep away from alcohol or any other form of drug.
· You can eat whatever you want after completing a long or short term complete fast FALSE: How you break your fast is as important as how you prepare for it. You stomach shrinks when you are fasting so you must prepare to open it up slowly to receive food . If you did a water fast by starting with water-based fruit such as watermelon or grapes, for full fast water and broth and for regular fast fruit or plain yoghurt is ok. [My next article will explain more on how I broke my water fast].
· Fasting and not praying is usually considered counterproductive TRUE and FALSE: it depends on your reason for fasting.
· If people know you are fasting you have failed in your fast: FALSE: This is a popular opinion when fasting for spiritual purposes. I choose to inform those I will interact with in advance that I will do a fast so that there is no awkwardness when offered food during the fast. If you focus on your reason for the fast it shouldn’t be a problem, God gives you grace and knew all these things would come up even before you began your fast. So, remember to pray way before you start fasting, because the preparation is just as important as the fast.
WHY DO WE FAST? [Biblical examples with my comments on each one]
1. To prepare for ministry. Jesus spent forty days and nights in the wilderness fasting and praying before He began God’s work on this earth. He needed time alone to prepare for what His Father had called Him to do (Matthew 4:1-17; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-14).
I learnt to fast and seek God for how and where to serve in church because sometimes you can encounter a challenge and automatically think that you are not meant to be in that ministry which is not always the case. Sometimes it is other times its not, but seeking God is the only way to know. The answer may not be immediate but it will come.
2. To seek God’s wisdom. Paul and Barnabas prayed and fasted for the elders of the churches before committing them to the Lord for His service (Acts 14:23).
This is the same concept as the first point but the issue may be not necessarily related to ministry or serving in church. It could be business or even interaction with people or a difficult situation. It could also just be a time to seeks God’s favor even if everything is ok.
3. To show grief. Nehemiah mourned, fasted, and prayed when he learned Jerusalem’s walls had been broken down, leaving the Israelites vulnerable and disgraced (Nehemiah 1:1-4).
Most of the time I would fast and stand in the gap for many injustices or painful situations I witness.
4. To seek deliverance or protection. Ezra declared a corporate fast and prayed for a safe journey for the Israelites as they made the journey to Jerusalem from Babylon (Ezra 8:21-23).
I have done this for my family, friends and also our country
5. To repent. After Jonah pronounced judgment against the city of Nineveh, the king covered himself with sackcloth and sat in the dust and ordered the people to fast and pray. Jonah 3:10 says, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He relented and did not bring on them the destruction He had threatened.”
I always start my fasts with repentance even if I consider the issue a small sin I bring it before God. I focus mainly on myself for this because we are each responsible for our personal sin however if God leads me to stand in the gap for someone I do.
6. To gain victory. After losing forty thousand men in battle in two days, the Israelites cried out to God for help. Judges 20:26 says all the people went up to Bethel and “sat weeping before the Lord.” “fasted that day until evening.” The next day the Lord gave them victory over the Benjamites.
I have learnt that how you perceive victory matters here. I have had situations where God completely delivered me from something and others where He changed my attitude towards something. Sometimes its immediately after the fast other times it is not.
7. To worship God. Luke 2 tells the story of prophetess Anna. Verse 37 says, “She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” Anna was devoted to God, and fasting was one expression of her love for Him.
My fasts are usually primarily to just connect with God. I used to be so worked up about planning every day of the fast that it ended up being more like a task. When I learnt to surrender it, the Lord revealed so much to me each day and without fail. There was no day I sat idle. Not to say that you cannot plan but that experience taught me to always expect God to speak to me [even when not fasting]
PURPOSE/ BENEFITS OF FASTING [from my research, various sources]
· Fasting was an expected discipline in both the Old and New Testament eras.
· Fasting and prayer can restore the loss of the “first love” for your Lord and result in a more intimate relationship with Christ.
· Fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God.
· Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.
· Fasting will encourage the Holy Spirit to quicken the Word of God in your heart and His truth will become more meaningful to you.
· Fasting can transform your prayer life into a richer and more personal experience.
· Fasting can result in a dynamic personal revival in your own life and make you a channel of revival to others.
NEXT ARTICLE WILL BE ABOUT MY FASTING JOURNEY
Click here PART 2
QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS ARE WELCOME.
Inbox me on my Instagram @lorna_abwonji or email firstname.lastname@example.org