A Guide
to Fasting

January 05, 2020

Quick Tip:

One of the best ways to enhance your fast is utilizing the journaling pages in the Year of Seeking publication to plan your fast, state your purposes, and set your goals for spiritual growth! Click below for the digital version and pick up your print copy at the Welcome Center this Sunday.

Quick Tip:

One of the best ways to enhance your fast is utilizing the journaling pages in the Year of Seeking publication to plan your fast, state your purposes, and set your goals for spiritual growth! Click below for the digital version and pick up your print copy at the Welcome Center this Sunday.

Section 01: FAQ

What is fasting?

Traditionally, fasting is voluntarily going without food for a period of time for a spiritual purpose. It can be one meal, a whole day, or several days. It can even be for an extended period of time.
More on specific ways to fast below, both traditional and modern.

Important!

If you are considering fasting food and have any health concerns please read the section, "Can fasting create risks to my health?"

Did Jesus teach about fasting?

Jesus did not teach very much about fasting directly. But He didn't need to. He exemplified it by fasting for forty days before beginning His public ministry, and he assumed His followers would fast as well. In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus said, "And when you fast...". Notice, He didn't say, "And if you fast...". Then in Matthew 9:15, Jesus spoke about His followers actions after His ascension to heaven, saying, "then they will fast." So, while Jesus may not have taught about it directly His practice of fasting and assumption His followers would do it as well is more than enough to clearly establish it's importance in our own lives.

Do all Christians have to fast?

In short, yes! Fasting has been a part of normal life for God's people throughout scripture, both Old and New Testaments. In Exodus 34:28, Moses fasted for forty days. When seeking direction from God, all of Israel fasted in Judges 20:26. In the Old Testament, David and Daniel fasted, as well as Anna, John the Baptist, and Paul, and, of course, Jesus Himself in the New Testament. The tradition of fasting throughout scripture is strong.
Our desire for you during Year of Seeking is that fasting would become a part of normal life for you as well!

How do I fast?

The Key to Fasting

It is important to note the most vital part of fasting is not the duration—one meal, one day, or even a whole month—it is what we do with this time that matters most. We have to take the 30 minutes we would have been eating a meal, or our hour long lunch break, and spend the time in prayer and in God's Word. If we fast, without prayer and time in scripture we've missed the point. If we giving up lunch, but spend the time at the table scrolling through social media, or napping in our favorite recliner, we forfeit the benefits of fasting. (More on the benefits of fasting below.) For teaching and tips on prayer, reading and studying scripture, and journaling while fasting visit the "Read, Write, Pray, & Grow" section of "Ways to Engage" on the Year of Seeking main page.

Traditional Fast

The oldest, and most common, way of fasting is abstaining from food. Whether it's a partial fast for one meal, or a full fast over a designated time the traditional way of fasting is tried and true. Health concerns? Go here for more.

Partial Fast

1. Fasting food for for a short amount of time but still drinking liquids (e.g. water and juices, or only water).
2. Fasting some foods or specific meals for an extended period of time.
  • Fasting breakfast or lunch every day for several consecutive days, or a whole week, etc.
  • Fasting all sweets (which could include sugary beverages!).

Full Fast

Fasting all food for at least one day, drinking only water.
  • An entire day (all 24 hours of it!)
  • Several consecutive days.
  • A whole week, or longer.

Modern Fast

In our world today, an enormous amount of time is spent on entertainment and social media, making both prime targets for a beneficial fast. Taking the time we would have spent on the couch watching TV, binge-watching Netflix, scrolling social media, or playing video games and devoting that time to prayer and reading God's Word can be one of the most beneficial ways of fasting for the modern person. If it sounds very painful to think of giving up some of these things, even for a short time, likely means you should fast one—or all—of them!

What are the benefits of fasting?

There are many, many benefits to fasting. Too many to fully elaborate here. Perhaps the chief benefit of fasting, however, is that it is great practice for an essential component of following Jesus—denying yourself. Jesus taught in Luke 9:23 that anyone who follows Him must deny themselves by taking up their own cross. This is one of the most difficult things about following Jesus—but it is a must. Fasting provides a powerful exercise to strengthen this spiritual muscle, so to speak. Denying ourselves things we want or need, like food or entertainment, when we do not have to is one of the best ways to prepare spiritually for denying ourselves of sinful things and order to live a holy life before God. Fasting is a powerful a spiritual weapon, and far too often goes unused in our lives.

Can fasting create risks to my health?

In specific situations, fasting food may not be wise for some people. If you are considering a full fast (defined above) for any length of time and have any concerns at all about your health please consult your personal physician before beginning this type of fast.
If you have any known health issues that cause you concern do not begin a traditional fast without talking to your doctor. If you believe you are healthy, and are considering an extended period of fasting (e.g. longer than one meal, or one day), you should still consult your doctor for guidance and advice if you have questions or concerns.
Don't worry! If your doctor advises against a full fast for any reason you can still participate. There are many ways of fasting other than abstaining from food that are just as powerful for our spiritual growth. Read more above.

Section 02: How To Plan Your Fast

Make Your Plan

The desire to fast, without a plan for the fast, likely won't go very far. It's imperative to set goals and create a plan for how you will follow through with them. If you're someone who needs things to be on the calendar for them to actually happen, then put your times of prayer and reading God's Word on your calendar! Set alarms to remind you when the times come if need be. God will bless every effort you make and every step you take.
Tips:
  • The best tool for planning is the journaling sections of the Year of Seeking magazine. It will walk you through setting your goals and journaling what God is speaking to you. If journaling isn't something you would normally do this will be especially helpful. If you don't have a copy use the digital one on the website as a guide.
  • Set goals for fasting that stretch you, but that are attainable as well. If you have never fasted, don't jump into a full fast for 14 days. Choose a fast that eases into this spiritual discipline. You have all year to grow into bigger goals!

“Without a purpose and plan, it’s not Christian fasting; it’s just going hungry.”

—David Mathis
   desiringGod.org