WHAT IS A FAST?
One powerful and often underutilized discipline of the body of Christ is fasting. A fast is a period of time during which we sacrifice some desire of our flesh and replace it with a diligent pursuit of God. An effective fast is one that has a specific purpose and plan. One may choose to fast for clarity and direction from God regarding a decision that needs to be made, for a breakthrough in a particular area of life, for deliverance for a loved one, for spiritual renewal or for any of several purposes. But it is important to have a purpose.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING A FAST
When a believer embarks on a fast, there are some things you can expect. The thing you are sacrificing during your fast will most likely seem like the thing you suddenly need most in life. There will likely be many distracting thoughts that will come to your mind to try and keep you from concentrating on your pursuit of God. You can also expect lots of events and situations to occur around you to keep you from focusing on the things of God. Remember: Fasting is spiritual more than it is physical. The enemy will fight you. But you will win!
WHAT TO AVOID DURING A FAST
When fasting occurs in the Scriptures, you will notice that our fathers in the faith avoided pleasures and comfort. They made sure that their time of fasting was a true sacrifice. They didn’t give up something that they would not miss. They sacrificed what was important to them so that they could gain something that was even more important. We should do the same.
During your time of fasting, you don’t want to engage in recreational entertainment or things that simply satisfy the flesh. Consider limiting or eliminating TV, social media, and other pleasures that don’t enhance your pursuit of God. It is good to avoid the influences of secular music and replace it with music that glorifies God and feeds your spirit. Spend your time in God’s Word, in prayer, in worship, in listening to sound biblical preaching and teaching, and/or in devotionals and books that will feed your spirit.
HOW TO SERVE OTHERS DURING A FAST
Isaiah 58:3-12 teaches us that the kind of fast that God responds to is one where we give ourselves to good works. He wants our hearts to be sensitive to the underserved and underprivileged around us. He wants us to treat people with love and respect during our time of fasting. We shouldn’t be mean-spirited or unkind. Instead, we should be fair, loving and Godly. Fasting should not call you AWAY from serving but, instead, should prompt you to serve.
HOW TO INFORM OTHERS ABOUT FASTING
Matthew 6:16-18 teaches us that our motivation for fasting should be to receive something from God – not to receive recognition from people. Jesus makes it clear that we shouldn’t wear our fasting as some ornament so everyone will see it and think we are deep and super-spiritual. Instead, we should keep it between us and God. That does not mean that you have to keep it a secret. Sometimes you need to inform people that you will not be participating in things that you normally participate in so that they won’t keep inviting you. That conversation could also lead to an opportunity for you to tell someone about Jesus.
HOW TO OBSERVE THE DANIEL FAST
During the season of Lent, Gethsemane will observe a few different types of fasts together—one of which is a Daniel Fast. This particular fast comes from Daniel 10:3. During a Daniel Fast, we sacrifice the consumption of sweets, meat and animal products as well as any alcoholic beverages. We eat fruit and vegetables (either cooked or raw) and drink water and fruit and vegetable juices. We avoid juices with sugar added. As a church family, we will fast together on specified weeks leading up to Easter or Resurrection Sunday. While fasting, we will consecrate ourselves before the Lord as we honor the sacrifice Jesus made for us.
There are many books and articles written about the Daniel Fast which provide much more technical instructions about this fast. Some of the instructions include avoiding eating anything containing white flour, baking powder, preservatives, sugars, yeast, coffee, any dairy product, eggs, any refined or processed food, any fried food, anything with solid fats and the list goes on.
But fasting should not be about focusing on what not to eat. That can distract you from your purpose. Decide what you are going to eat and put your focus on what you want to get from God during your time of fasting. Spend your time in fellowship with God and in pursuit of a closer relationship with Him.
Remember: A Fast with a purpose and a plan produces power. We are expecting the power of God to be manifested in our church, in our homes and in our lives.