There are many reasons why we might fast. We may do it to:
- Receive breakthrough (Ezra 8:21)
- Reveal God's direction (Daniel 9:2-3, 21-22)
- Reverse tragedy (2 Samuel 12:16,22 & Joel 2:12,14)
- Release freedom (Isaiah 58)
- Remind ourselves that He alone is our daily bread (2 Chronicles 20:3)
- Rediscover intimacy with God
TYPES OF FAST
People can fast in different ways, just in the same way that people can pray in different ways.
NORMAL FAST: Abstaining from all food, solid or liquid but not from water. In Matthew 4, we see Jesus fasting in this way. We read that, "he was hungry" and that Satan tempted him to eat, suggesting he abstained from food but not water.
PARTIAL FAST: This is sometimes referred to as the Daniel fast. It was his custom to restrict his eating/diet but there was not a total abstention of food (Daniel 1:12,15).
ABSOLUTE FAST: This is linked to a particular crisis or for mourning where no food or drink is taken. There are examples of absolute fasts lasting for forty days, but they must have been supernaturally sustained due to the length of time. It was normal for a period of 3 days as anything more could have been physically damaging (Esther 4:16, Acts 9:9).
OTHER FASTS: If food is an inappropriate fast for you, then there are many other (sometimes more challenging) ways to deny yourself, such as fasting television, your phone, Social media or even speaking. As well, many kids may want to fast other forms of distraction. This can be done in a fun way to learn the principle of prayer and fasting.
We are not asking people to give up food for the full 40 days, but are inviting you and your family to pray about spending some time fasting and praying during that time. The idea is to give it a go and maybe go without some meals or decide to just eat very simply for some meals. However you choose to fast, prioritise spending time in prayer and worship when you do it - focus your mind and energy on God; and be encouraged as you do so. As far as food is concerned, you may consider fasting sweet food or desserts for the 40 Days, or maybe skip a meal a day, or have one or two days in the week that you go without food, or maybe over a weekend. Many children take part in the annual 40 hour famine, so even kids can take part under supervision. It is vital to just remember to keep fluids up!
OTHER PRACTICAL TIPS ON FASTING
CHOOSING THE TYPE OF FAST: Be wise in this decision as your health may play a factor. It is vital that if you have a medical condition or are taking medication, that you consult your doctor first. Remember a partial fast is still of great value, especially where circumstances make it impossible or inconvenient to undertake a normal fast. It can be more suitable for elderly persons or those with a weak constitution who cannot manage a normal fast. It can be used as a stepping stone to the normal fast. You should never fast if you have a eating disorder nor would we recommend it if you are pregnant.
THE LENGTH OF FAST: The issue is not how long you fast, it’s what you long for when you fast. In this decision, talk with God (and maybe others) about what is the right length of time.
PREPARING TO FAST
This is a key in helping maintain the habit. What you eat and drink before a long fast is important. Eat lightly and reduce your intake of cooked foods and meats. Resist the urge to have that last big feast before your fast. If you are a regular tea or coffee drinker, it is advised you cut down on the lead up. This could help with the potential headaches.
BREAKING A FAST
You may be tempted to eat a rich and large meal after going so long without food. This is not recommended. Solid food must be reintroduced slowly otherwise it could be uncomfortable for your body or even cause damage. After a long fast, you should make a careful transition for at least three days before returning to eating meats or fats or normal foods. Raw foods and liquids can be helpful.
Why not write a personal plan of all the things you long for, include some personal areas as well as wider prayer for others, for our church and for our region. There is nothing wrong with fasting for breakthrough or for specific answers to prayer, but at its core, fasting is to be done not so that we can gain, but to lead us into greater alignment with God's heart. It is our undivided worship and wholehearted response to Him. In forgetting the possibility of personal gain, in making a habit of fasting, we bring an offering just for Him and our heart’s change.
SPEAKING IN TONGUES
The one who speaks in a tongue builds himself up.
- 1 Corinthians 14:4
For those of you who have the gift of tongues, we encourage you to employ this gift as often as you can during this 40 days of prayer and fasting. Tongues submits your spirit to the Holy Spirit and allows Him to pray His will through you, while at the same time building up the strength of your spirit over your flesh. Why not try and pray 10 minutes a day in tongues and see what result you have in 40 days?