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A Beginner’s Fast

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Released 23 March 2010

A Beginner’s Fast

– by Jude Gotrich

Just as you plan for meals during the course of your day, so it is important that you give thought to your fasting preparations.

If you have never done a spiritual fast before, then I pray the following information will be helpful to you as you prepare for this new venture in your prayer life.

Practical Physical preparation

Some people, when approaching their first fast, decide to scale down the intake of food a day or so before the scheduled fast.  In this way, you have prepared your body for the physical change in your dietary habits.  It is strongly suggested not to “load up” on food days in advance as this will not only throw your body rhythms out of whack but will bring your physical hunger back with a vengeance and we want you to successfully complete your time of fasting with peace and not pain and with the lasting results of significant time in God’s presence.

Approach your time of fasting as going after an appetite for God; your hunger for Him will drive you to satisfying your hunger and results in fuel for strength.

Biblical Historical Premise for Prayer and Fasting

Just a little bit of history might help you place a perspective on the Biblical premise for fasting. 

Once a year Jewish believers were required to fast.  (Lev. 16:29)  The fast was kept on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).  Furthermore in the opposite direction, there were 7 others days in the Jewish calendar where people were called upon to “feast” because there was such a great spiritual benefit to fellowship when believers eat and celebrate together. 

But on the Day of Atonement, everyone went without eating.  Why everyone?  Because God wanted all to acknowledge and set aside a time together when they would as a group remember their salvation.  And most of us know that it was at this time that the High Priest would sacrifice the blood of an animal and enter the Holy of Holies to offer the substitution for the sins of the people.   Christians today are more familiar with this aspect because for us this side of the cross this practice is no longer necessary.  Still, the notion of setting aside a time of fasting helps to bring into focus the coming into God’s presence, depending on Him for sustenance and ridding ourselves of distractions as we seek God wholeheartedly; it demonstrates your sincerity to God.

Going forward to the time of Christ, we now see that Jesus still practices fasting and gives further instruction.  Notice too that Christ says, “when” you fast and not “if” you fast.  There is therefore an assumption that Christ sees significance in this practice and its benefit to the spiritual strength of the believer.  (Matt. 6:16)  When you give up food – that which is necessary and enjoyable – you get God’s attention.

What kind of fast should you consider?

For your first fast you may want to try the sundown to sundown fast as the Jews did for the Day of Atonement.  Or you may decide to go the route of skipping one or two mealtimes and spend that time in prayer instead of eating.  You may supplement your fast by using liquids (water and/or juices), replacing your mealtime.  It is strongly suggested not to do a hard fast and this will be explained later.  God is more concerned with the response of your heart than He is with the length or method of your fast

Private fast or group fast

You also may decide to either fast privately or with a group.  Ezra fasted with 4,000 people to solve a problem and Esther asked all the believers to fast with her for divine intervention.  Fasting with someone else might be good so that you have someone to talk to with any doubts, questions or fears.  Having a partner helps you stay committed.

Now search your spirit

When you are ready, take time to go deep into your heart to determine the reason for your fast.  When you come into God’s presence He may reveal things to you that need addressing – strongholds that are not permitting you to grow in a healthy manner or confession of sin unaddressed in your life – and you will need to be ready for that revelation, realizing that God has great things in store for you with this release.

You may ask, “is there not a cause,” like David in 1 Sam. 17:29.

Making your fast a written covenant

You may write down your cause.  You may also write out if someone is joining you in the fast and then the length of time.  It helps to see things in writing to keep you on topic, not blurred and vague.  This will sharpen your focus and you may add a statement like the following:

 I believe God is the only answer for this specific request and that prayer without fasting is not enough to receive the answer I desire.  Therefore, by faith I am believing God will work through this matter as I fast and seek His face.  God being my strength and grace, I commit myself to this time of prayer and fasting.  

It is important to realize that you are not bargaining with God as you fast.   If you go without food for a day you expect God to answer you – that is legalism.  A true fast is a ‘yielding’ to Him and you are waiting on His power to answer your prayers.

It may be helpful to journal your time.  Write out any fears you might have or even in the midst of the fast.  Sometimes by writing we diminish our fears.  Write out your cause and then what you think this fast might do for you spiritually; describe your attitude and confidence you have in God to be sufficient (John 14:13-14 – Col. 3:23-24).

More specific ways to fast

There are several ways you can fast just as there are several ways you can pray.  Some of those ways of prayer can help you pray according to the cause of your fast.

 Thanks – to give appreciation for God
 Praise – exalting Him
 Intercession – for the salvation of others
 Petition – asking for things
 Dedication – yielding to Him
 Confession – asking for forgiveness, revealing hidden things
 Communion – enjoying intimacy, meditation and solitude
 Worship – to adore Him

Your cause should complement the way you pray, seeking God’s touch.  When you are talking to God you will want to pray the best way that shows your heart to Him.

Beyond your first fast

After your first fast you may want to consider other types of fasts such as the six mentioned here:

 Absolute Fast – eliminating both solid foods and liquids (not recommended as this a most severe fast, used for only serious causes)  Paul did this fast – Acts 9:9
 Normal Fast – eliminating solid food but drinking liquids (used by most)
 Partial Fast – eliminating selected item of foods or selected meals (Dan. 1:12, 10:3)
 John Wesley Fast – Taking only whole grain bread and water for 10 days in preparation for Christian service
 Rotation Fast – Eating only one of the six food groups each day for 6 days for medical purposes
 Supernatural Fast – A miracle where neither food not drink is taken – Moses did this and of course it is not recommended.  (Aside: Jesus’ fast in the wilderness was most likely from food alone as it states that after 40 days, ‘He was hungry,’ and did not indicate that He was hungry and thirsty. Luke 4:2)  

A rule of thumb is for a normal problem, do a normal fast.  For a severe problem, consider a severe fast in its demands.  But always chose a fast that allows you to be comfortable with your decision.

Planning your cause – additional things to consider
So as you plan ask these questions:

· What is my purpose in fasting
· What is my biblical basis?
· What are other factors that influence this fast?
· What fast will I chose?
· When will I fast and for how long?
· Why is this fast best at this time?

God alone is the director and author of your fast

Remember – when God hasn’t spoken don’t make up rules.  By that I mean, God is silent on the issues of what to drink so do not become a Pharisee and pointing fingers at someone or yourself because you decide to drink coffee or another beverage.  That again is legalism and man’s ruling.  There is no one set pattern of fasting but we need to take into account our situation, our purpose, our spiritual condition, our level of need and our contrite heart’s desire.

Now you are ready!

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 the Bible.

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.  You may even adjust your activities to ensure that you will persevere through the fast.

Remember, fasting is about focusing on Jesus, not about abstaining from food.

Just to be clear -   Prayer and Fasting - A Definition

Prayer and fasting is defined as voluntarily going without food in order to focus on prayer and fellowship with God. Prayer and fasting often go hand in hand, but this is not always the case. You can pray without fasting, and fast without prayer. It is when these two activities are combined and dedicated to God's glory that they reach their full effectiveness. Having a dedicated time of prayer and fasting is not a way of manipulating God into doing what you desire. Rather, it is simply forcing yourself to focus and rely on God for the strength, provision, and wisdom you need.

Prayer and Fasting - What the Bible Says

The Old Testament law specifically required prayer and fasting for only one occasion, which was the Day of Atonement. This custom became known as "the day of fasting" (Jeremiah 36:6) or "the Fast" (Acts 27:9). Moses fasted during the 40 days and 40 nights he was on Mount Sinai receiving the law from God (Exodus 34:28). King Jehoshaphat called for a fast in all Israel when they were about to be attacked by the Moabites and Ammonites (2 Chronicles 20:3). In response to Jonah's preaching, the men of Nineveh fasted and put on sackcloth (Jonah 3:5). Prayer and fasting was often done in times of distress or trouble. David fasted when he learned that Saul and Jonathan had been killed (2 Samuel 1:12). Nehemiah had a time of prayer and fasting upon learning that Jerusalem was still in ruins (Nehemiah 1:4). Darius, the king of Persia, fasted all night after he was forced to put Daniel in the den of lions (Daniel 6:18).

Prayer and fasting also occurs in the New Testament. Anna "worshipped night and day, fasting and praying" at the Temple (Luke 2:37). John the Baptist taught his disciples to fast (Mark 2:18). Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights before His temptation by Satan (Matthew 4:2). The church of Antioch fasted (Acts 13:2) and sent Paul and Barnabas off on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:3). Paul and Barnabas spent time in prayer and fasting for the appointment of elders in the churches (Acts 14:23).

Prayer and Fasting - Required or Recommended?

The Word of God does not specifically command believers to spend time in prayer and fasting. At the same time, prayer and fasting is definitely something we should be doing. Far too often, though, the focus of prayer and fasting is on abstaining from food. Instead, the purpose of Christian fasting should be to take our eyes off the things of this world and focus our thoughts on God. Fasting should always be limited to a set time because not eating for extended periods can be damaging to the body. Fasting is not a method of punishing our bodies and it is not be used as a "dieting method" either. We are not to spend time in prayer and fasting in order to lose weight, but rather to gain a deeper fellowship with God.

By taking our eyes off the things of this world through prayer and biblical fasting, we can focus better on Christ. Matthew 6:16-18 declares, "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

Prayer and Fasting - What Does it Accomplish?

Spending time in prayer and fasting is not automatically effective in accomplishing the desires of those who fast. Fasting or no fasting, God only promises to answer our prayers when we ask according to His will. 1 John 5:14-15 tells us, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him." In the prophet Isaiah's time, the people grumbled that they had fasted, yet God did not answer in the way they wanted (Isaiah 58:3-4). Isaiah responded by proclaiming that the external show of fasting and prayer, without the proper heart attitude, was futile (Isaiah 58:5-9).

Final hints for your moment to moment fasting experience

When a twinge of hunger occurs allow it to be a reminder of your cause to fast rather than just grinning and bearing it.  This is another reason for writing these things down so that you look at the cause.
When food temptations come through a road sign, the smell of French fries, or a commercial on TV, again, allow that to be a reminder of your cause.
You may take a familiar passage of scripture and apply it to your fasting, such as The Lord’s Prayer as was stated by Elmer Towns.  Here is his paraphrase of that scripture passage.
Our Father who are in heaven and who is right here with me in this room, hallowed be Thy name in this day of fasting, Thy Kingdom come through me this day, Thy will be done in my life on earth, as Thy will is done in heaven, Give me this day bread for strength so I can serve you, Forgive me my sins that might disrupt my walk with you, Lead me not into temptation that would cause me to sin, And deliver me from the evil one who would destroy my walk with you.  For you have the kingdom rule, For you have the power to answer these requests, And you get credit for all that I ask.  Amen. 
From here you may go through a prayer of adoration of God’s character or the character of the Trinity.  Afterward, you may begin your list and ask God to reveal scripture that would address His power and heart in these areas.  (Matt. 17:21)


Be reassured that power comes with God’s presence.  There is no telling what you will experience when you are overwhelmed with the presence of God in your prayer time and God will make His mark on your heart.  When we seek the heart of God we will gain His presence in our being.
In your hunger remember, Christ did not come to serve bread, He came to be the Bread.  In your fast, abide in Him and He will dwell in your innermost being.

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