BIBLICAL FASTING

Your Personal Guide to Fasting and Prayer

How to Fast

 
Fasting is one of the most powerful spiritual disciplines of all Christian disciplines. Through fasting and prayer, the Holy Spirit can transform your life.
 
Fasting and prayer can also work on a much grander scale. According to Scripture, personal experience, and observation, I am convinced that when God’s people fast with a proper Biblical motive-seeking, God’s face, not His hand-with, a broken, repentant, and contrite spirit, God will hear from heaven and heal our lives, our churches, our communities, our nation, and world. Fasting and prayer can bring about revival – a change in our country’s direction, the earth’s nations, and the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
 
This guide is designed to answer your practical questions about fasting and ease any concerns. In this series, you will learn the following:
 
  • Why you should fast
  • How to fast safely
  • How long and what type of fast is right for you
  • How to prepare yourself spiritually and physically
  • How to manage your schedule while fasting
  • How to make your spiritual experience the best it can be
  • How to maintain nutritional balance and health from beginning to end (including specific juice and broth recipes)
  • What physical benefits to expect
  • How to finish your fast and return to your normal schedule in a HEALTHY way
 

 

Why You Should Fast

 
If you do not already know of the power and importance of fasting, here are some very important facts:
 
  • Fasting was an expected discipline in both the Old and New Testament eras. For example, Moses fasted at least two recorded forty-day periods. Jesus fasted 40 days and reminded His followers to fast, “when you fast,” not if you fast.
  • 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 (Psalm 35:13; Ezra 8:21). King David said, “I humble myself through fasting.”
  • Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.
  • The Holy Spirit will 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.
  • Fasting and prayer are the only disciplines that fulfill the requirements of II Chronicles 7:14:
 
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
 
If you fast, you will find yourself being humbled. You will discover more time to pray and seek God’s face. And as He leads you to recognize and repent of unconfessed sin, you will experience special blessings from God.
 

 

How to Fast Safely

 
As you begin your fast, you may hear from concerned loved ones and friends who urge you to protect your health. And they are right. You should protect your health. But be assured that, if done properly, fasting will not only prove to be a spiritual blessing but a physical blessing as well.
 
Consulting your doctor before you begin your fast is advisable if you have never fasted before. However, understand that many doctors have not been trained in this area and so their understanding is limited. Even so, it would be wise to ask your doctor for a physical exam to make sure you are in good health. You may have a physical problem that would make fasting unwise or dangerous. Also, if you are under any type of medication, make sure you talk to your doctor before changing your regime. Prudence and caution are in order.
 
In spite of the absolute safety and benefits of fasting, there are certain persons who should NEVER fast without professional supervision. For example:
 
  • Persons who are physically too thin or emaciated.
  • Persons who are prone to anorexia, bulimia, or other behavioral disorders.
  • Those who suffer weakness or anemia.
  • Persons who have tumors, bleeding ulcers, cancer, blood diseases, or who have heart disease.
  • Those who suffer chronic problems with kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, or other important organs.
  • Individuals who take insulin for diabetes, or suffer any other blood sugar problem such as hyperglycemia.
  • Women who are pregnant or nursing.

 

How Long and What Type of Fast is Right for You

 
Fasting has been a major emphasis in the lives of many of the great spiritual leaders throughout history. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination, fasted every Wednesday and Friday and required all of his clergy to do the same. Effective ministers of God, from the apostle Paul to Martin Luther to John Calvin, made it a continual part of their walks with God.
 
None of those men had a “formula fast” that was the only “right” way. Fasting is about the condition of the heart, not the number of days. 
 
So, start slowly. Fast for one meal a day, or one day a week, or one week a month. Build up your spiritual muscles so that you will be prepared for longer fasts when the Holy Spirit prompts you.
 

 

The Bible Recounts Primarily Two Types of Fasts

 
A partial fast is described in the book of Daniel. Although the water fast seemed to be the custom of the prophet, there was a three-week period in which he only abstained from “delicacies,” meat, and wine (Daniel 10:3).
 
The two primary types mentioned in the Bible are the “absolute” and “supernatural absolute” fasts. These are total fasts-no food (solid or liquid) and no water. Paul went on an absolute fast for three days following his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:9). Moses and Elijah engaged in what must be considered a supernatural absolute fast of forty days (Deuteronomy 9:9; I Kings 19:8).
 
Be strongly advised to drink plenty of liquids. Obviously, if God leads you to undertake an absolute fast, you should obey. If so, be certain, without a doubt, that God is leading you.
 
Water-only fasts that last for more than several days need to be undertaken with complete rest and under medical supervision because of the extreme danger of over-toxification, breakdown of vital body tissues, and loss of electrolytes.
 
Consider water and juice fasting, especially if you are going to fast for an extended period of time. This type of fast will provide you with more energy than absolute or water-only fasts and still lead you into the humbling experience of denying your desire for solid food that you can chew.
 
When making your final decision about what type of fast is right for you, the best advice is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. He will guide your heart and mind as to what is best for you. Remember, the most important consideration in fasting is your motive. Why are you fasting? Is it to seek something personally from God’s hand or His face in worship, praise, and thanksgiving?
 

 

How to Prepare Yourself Spiritually and Physically

 

 

Spiritual Preparation

 
In preparation for this special time with God, I strongly urge you to examine your heart and detect any unconfessed sin. Scripture records that God always requires His people to repent of their sins before He will hear their prayers. King David said:
 
Come and hear, all of you who reverence the Lord, and I will tell you what he did for me: For I cried to him for help, with praises ready on my tongue. He would not have listened if I had not confessed my sins. But he listened! He heard my prayer! He paid attention to it!
 
Blessed be God who didn’t turn away when I was praying and didn’t refuse me his kindness and love. (Psalm 66:16-20)
 
In your prayers, confess not only obvious sins but less obvious ones as well. The sins of omission as well as the sins of commission experiences. These may be experiences leaving your first love for our Lord: worldly-mindedness, self-centeredness, spiritual indifference, and unwillingness to share your faith in Christ with others, not spending sufficient time in God’s Word and in prayer, a poor relationship with your spouse, your children, your pastor, or other members of your church.
 

 

Physical Preparation

 
Although fasting is primarily a spiritual discipline, it begins in the physical realm. You should not fast without specific physical preparation.
 
If you plan on fasting for several days, you will find it helpful to begin by eating smaller meals before you abstain altogether. Resist the urge to have that “last big feast” before the fast. Cutting down on your meals a few days before you begin the fast will signal your mind, stomach, and appetite that less food is acceptable.
 
Some health professionals suggest eating only raw foods for two days before starting a fast. Consider weaning yourself off sugar products to ease your initial hunger or discomfort at the early stages of your fast.
 

 

Managing Your Schedule While Fasting

 
How long you fast, the kind of fast you undertake, and how you adjust your work schedule depend mostly on your occupation. Persons with office jobs may find it easier to continue their duties and fast for longer periods of time. 
 
if you engage in strenuous physical labor, you may wish to fast only one or more days of the week, limiting yourselves to partial fasting if you are so engaged. Or you may look to weekends as the prime time to abstain from food. 
 
Reasons for schedule adjustments, especially during an extended fast, are two-fold…
 
The first is physical. Throughout your fast, you may feel somewhat weaker than normal. During the first few days, you may feel tired and irritable. Lightening your workload and cutting down on strenuous exercise would be a very good idea to maintain your health and your morale.
 
The second reason is spiritual. Fasting is not just denying yourself food. It is exchanging the needs of the physical body for those of the spiritual. Long times of prayer and reading God’s Word will be very essential if you are to enter into more intimate communion with God to maintain your fast to its completion. While fasting, if you dissipate your energy on numerous errands or busy work to the neglect of spending special time with God, you will starve both physically and spiritually. You will find yourself becoming discouraged and frustrated with your fast instead of being benefited and uplifted and blessed.
 
The more time you spend with God in fellowship, worship, and adoration of Him, and the more you read and meditate upon His Word, the greater your effectiveness will be in prayer and the more meaningful your fast will be. Consider arranging your schedule accordingly!
 

 

Making Your Spiritual Experience the Best it Can Be

 
Receiving God’s best blessing from a fast requires solid commitment. Arranging special time each day with God is absolutely crucial in attaining intimate communion with the Father. You must devote yourself to seeking God’s face, even (and especially) during those times in which you feel weak, vulnerable, or irritable. Read His Word and pray during what were mealtimes. Meditate on Him when you awake in the night. Sing praises to Him whenever you please. Focus on your Heavenly Father and make every act one of praise and worship. God will enable you to experience His command to “pray without ceasing” as you seek His presence.
 
As you enter this time of heightened spiritual devotion, be aware that Satan will do everything he can to pull you away from your prayer and Bible reading time. When you feel the enemy trying to discourage you, immediately go to God in prayer and ask Him to strengthen your resolve in the face of difficulties and temptations.
 
The enemy makes you a target because he knows that fasting is a powerful, Christian discipline and that God may have something very special to show you as you wait upon Him and seek His face. Satan does not want you to grow in your faith and will do anything from making you hungry and grumpy to bringing up trouble in your family or at work to stop you. Make prayer your shield against such attacks.
 
Reasons for fasting include personal revival, revival for our nation, for the world, and for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. But praying for our own needs and interceding for others are also important reasons to fast and pray. Bring your personal needs before the Lord, intercede for your loved ones, your friends, your church, your pastor, your community, your nation, and the world. By your prayers of humility, as you fast, you will help the Great Commission be fulfilled.
 
However, do not become so caught up in praying for yourself and others that you forget about simply reverencing and praising God. True spiritual fasting focuses on God. Center your total being on Him, your attitudes, your actions, your motives, desires, and words. This can only take place if God and His Holy Spirit are at the center of our attention. Confess your sins as the Holy Spirit brings them to your attention and continue to focus on God and God alone so that your prayers may be powerful and effective.
 
A renewed closeness with God and a greater sensitivity to spiritual things are usually the results of a fast. Do not be disappointed if you do not have a “mountaintop experience,” as some do. Many people who have successfully completed extended fasts tell of feeling a nearness to God that they have never before known, but others who have honestly sought His face report no particular outward results at all. For others, their fast was physically, emotionally, and spiritually grueling, but they knew they had been called by God to fast, and they completed the fast unto Him as an act of worship; God honored that commitment.
 
Your motive in fasting must be to glorify God, not to have an emotional experience, and not to attain personal happiness. When your motives are right, God will honor your seeking heart and bless your time with Him in a very special way.
 

 

Maintaining Nutritional Values

 
The prospect of going without food for an extended period of time may be of concern to some. But there are ways to ensure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs so you can remain safe and healthy during your fast.
 
For an extended fast, water and fruit and vegetable juices are recommended. The natural sugars in juices provide energy, and the taste and strength are motivational to continue your fast. Try to drink fresh juices, if possible. Off-the-shelf juice products are acceptable, as long as they are 100% juice with no sugar or other additives.
 
If you are beginning a juice fast, there are certain juices you may wish to avoid and certain ones that are especially beneficial. Because of their acid content, most nutritionists do not advise orange or tomato juice (these are better tolerated if mixed with equal portions of water). The best juices are fresh carrot, grape, celery, apple, cabbage, or beet. They also recommend “green drinks” made from green leafy vegetables because they are excellent “detoxifiers.”
 
Fruit juices are “cleansers” and are best taken in the morning. Since vegetable juices are “restorers” and “builders,” they are best taken in the afternoon.
 
Some nutritionists recommend warm, vegetable, or bone broth, especially if you live in a colder climate. 
Another key factor in maintaining optimum health during a fast is to limit your physical activity. Exercise only moderately, and rest as much as your schedule will permit (this especially applies to extended fasts). Short naps are helpful as well. Walking a mile or two each day at a moderate pace is acceptable for a person in good health, and on a juice fast. However, no one on a water fast should exercise without the supervision of a fasting specialist.
 

 

What Physical Effects to Expect

 
Although fasting can be an indescribable blessing, it is not always easy for everyone. In this time of discipline, self-sacrifice and reflection, do not be surprised if you experience mental and physical discomforts.
 
Hunger Pangs: These are greatest usually during the first three days of the fast. Your body is adjusting from using the food in your digestive tract (which remains about three days) to consuming stored fats.
 

 

Suggested Relief:

Psyllium Bulk: Help eliminate hunger pangs and also aids in cleansing the body. Several capsules can be taken throughout the day with plenty of water.
 
Silymarin tablets may also be helpful, for they are believed to protect and enhance the cleansing of the liver.
 

 

Physical Effect:

Coldness, bad breath and heightened body odor, changes in elimination (constipation or diarrhea), light-headedness, changes in sleeping and dreaming patterns, aches, and pains.
 
A white-coated tongue at the beginning of a fast may be a part of the body’s pattern of throwing off toxins.
 
Also, expect to go to the bathroom often (you will be drinking lots of water!)
 

 

Suggested Relief

After the first two weeks of an extended fast, many of these symptoms subside. Continuing aches in a certain area of the body usually means the elimination of fatty tissue is going on in that area, which is not harmful. However, any extensive pain should be examined immediately.
 
YOU SHOULD STOP FASTING IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING SEVERE PAIN OR SWELLING.
 

 

Physical Effect

Headaches or stomachaches may be a result of salt, sugar, or caffeine withdrawal.
 

 

Suggested Relief

Eliminating those items from your diet prior to fasting is the best way to avoid these pains.
 

 

Physical Effect

Lower back pain may indicate that you are dehydrating
 

 

Suggested Relief

Drink more fluids
 

 

Physical Effect

Dizziness may be caused by a sudden change in position, such as rising suddenly from a chair.
 

 

Suggested Relief

Stop for a second or two, then recover. Move slowly. (A word of caution: these conditions may be symptoms of other problems requiring medical attention).
 

 

Physical Effect

Minor fasting discomfort.
 

 

Suggested Relief

Take one teaspoon of psyllium seed powder morning and evening. Mixed in lukewarm water, it becomes like Jell-O. This powder will hasten the elimination of toxins from your colon and help to prevent headaches and dizziness for most healthy people. Alfalfa tablets can help control bad breath and cleanse the system. Two tablets at a time can be taken several times a day.
 
During your fast, you may have your struggles, discomforts, spiritual victories, and failures. In the morning you may feel like you are on top of the world, but by evening you may be wrestling with the flesh-sorely tempted to raid the refrigerator and counting how many more days are left in your fast. This is especially true if you are new at fasting. To counteract temptations like these, take extra time with the Lord to spend with God. Step outside for fresh air and a moderate walk of a mile or two, and talk to the Lord as you walk along. And in the process always keep on sipping water or juice frequently during your waking hours.
 

 

Finishing Your Fast

 
All the experts agree that “breaking the fast” is the critical phase of fasting. While your body is in the resting mode, your stomach shrinks, and your intestines become idle, so solid food must be re-introduced very slowly to avoid kidney failure or digestive distress. The longer the fast, the longer the transitional period you should allow yourself.
 
Further, if you end your fast gradually, the beneficial physical and spiritual effects will linger for days. But if you rush into solid foods, you may lose much of your deep sense of peace and experience physical problems such as diarrhea, sickness, fainting, and frankly even death in some cases, due to shock!
 
Most experts agree that breaking a fast with vegetables, either steamed or raw, is best. Your stomach is smaller now, so eat lightly. Stop before you feel full. Stay away from starches like pasta, potatoes, rice, or bread (except for “Melba toast”) for at least a week. Also avoid meats, dairy products, and any fats or oils for a week or more. Introduce them very slowly and in small amounts.
 
In terms of resuming any sort of exercise routine, the advice is the same. Start out slowly, allowing time for your body to re-adjust to its usual regime.
 

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