If you have read Matthew Chapter 6, you already know that Jesus gives us instructions on fasting in verses 16-18. You know, those red letters in the New Testament of the Bible that lets us know that Jesus is talking to us? Yeah, those! He gives us instructions, because as followers of Christ, we are supposed to fast. When, for how long, which foods we give up, etc., etc., are determined by you and God. Below are just a few tips that have helped me during my time of fasting.
1. Pick a day(s) and time that you can stick to
Whenever you declare a time of fasting, you are making a commitment to God, so it’s very important to keep that commitment. Unless God is leading you to fast during a certain timeframe, it’s okay to be selective on the day(s) and time.
I try my best to fast every Tuesday and give up my lunch. Just this week, I decided to fast on Monday instead, because we were having a department eat in for someone’s birthday on Tuesday. I was not about to torture myself with being surrounded by all that food. Plus, I knew everyone would badger me with questions on why I wasn’t eating anything.
2. Start and end your fast with prayer (and pray throughout as much as possible)
While on a fast, time should always be set apart specifically to pray. I also recommend prayer at the start and end of a fast to ask God for strength to make it through without giving up, and so that you can position yourself to hear from God. Sometimes (you’ll know without a doubt), the Holy Spirit will lead you to extend your fast for longer than you originally anticipated.
Prayer is a form of communication, so not only should you talk to God, but you should also be in position to hear God talk to you as well. Prayer and fasting are like peanut butter and jelly, Kool-Aid and sugar, spaghetti and meatballs--they go together. If you are fasting, you should also be praying.
3. Clearly define & write down what food you are abstaining from and how long the fast will last
Once you declare something and especially put it in writing, it’s not as easy to break. It doesn’t have to be anything formal. I typically fast once per week from 10a-5p and I only drink water during that time. I just mark it in my planner, because that’s where I keep my schedule and jot down little notes throughout my day.
4. Specify what you are fasting for
Every time I fast, I have something that I’m seeking God for. It really depends on what’s going on in my life at that time. If I’m facing a big project at work, I might ask God to give me more creativity or the right words to speak during a meeting. If I’ve been worrying or stressing about something, I might ask God to give me peace of mind.
I don't always focus on myself. I might lift up someone else that I know is going through something or pray for a specific event or social injustice that is going on around the world. No matter what it is, just know that it’s ok to ask God for things that we need or want, as long as they line up with God’s will. For example, don’t fast and ask God to send you somebody else’s husband. Thhhaaaaattt’s NOT how this works! Lol!!!
5. Pick a scripture to meditate on
You know what they say, “There is nothing new under the sun,” so anything you are facing or seeking God for has a scripture for it. Meditating on the Word of God is a great way to keep your mind on Him and Heavenly things, especially during times of fasting. I love to write a scripture on an index card and prop it up on my desk. It’s just a reminder to help me recite it periodically.
6. Make time to be alone with God
When I first started fasting on a regular basis, I would go out to my car on my lunchbreak—in the rain, sleet or snow, and I would read my Bible, pray and sing praise and worship to God. That was our time together and I didn’t want any distractions from anyone else around me. I also made sure I was sensitive to the Holy Spirit and had quiet times, so I could hear if God had anything to say to me.
7. Keep a journal nearby
I have gotten so many instructions and insight from God during and right after a fast. When God speaks, you want to make sure you don’t forget or miss anything. A journal is also helpful to compile your own thoughts and revelations during a fast.
8. Read a book on fasting or consult your spiritual leader
If you want to know more about fasting or have specific questions on fasting, do some research. Even if you are actively engaged in fasting already, or thinking about starting but feel you don’t know enough about it, go ahead and check into it. One really great book on fasting I recommend is “Fasting: Opening the Door to a Deeper, More Intimate, More Powerful Relationship with God,” by Jentezen Franklin.
9. Drink lots of water
You want to make sure you stay hydrated at all times, but during a fast it’s even more crucial since you are already abstaining from some or all foods for a period of time.
10. Do not overeat before or after a fast
I know what you’re thinking…”I need to eat everything in sight to hold me over until the fast ends.” No, no, no, you don’t! The purpose of a fast is to have a more intimate relationship with God, not a full belly. If you are worried about starving to death, maybe you need to re-evaluate how long you should fast (especially if you’re just starting out). However, fasting does require sacrifice, so it shouldn’t be easy either.
This is a perfect example of why you need to talk to God at the start of the fast, because it’s always a good idea to ask God for help and strength to make it through the entire fasting period. As you continue to build your fasting life, you will be led by the Holy Spirit on which foods to give up and for how long.
11. Have a salad, sandwich or healthy meal prepared for after the fast
If you are anything like me, as soon as I come off of a fast, I’m starving and ready to eat any and everything. Regardless of how long the fast was, it feels like I’ve been depriving myself for decades. If you already have something prepared, you are less likely to overindulge in foods that you’ll regret eating later.
12. Don’t tell people that you are fasting (ok to talk to people who are fasting with you for encouragement)
Getting back to Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus specifically instructs us during a fast, not to walk around looking sad and pathetic so people can ask us what’s wrong. Simply put, our time of fasting is between us and God, so don’t do anything different than you normally would so you don’t bring attention to yourself. The only attention you should be seeking during a fast is God’s.
13. Get a fasting partner that will fast and pray in agreement with you
As I said above, fasting is a sacrifice, and some days of fasting are easier than others. Even if you typically fast on your own, it does feel good to have one or two people that you know are fasting with you. It helps keep you going when you want to eat something, because you know, someone else is making the sacrifice too.
14. Listen to praise and worship music or audible Bible
During a fast, I carefully watch what I allow my mind to entertain. One way to stay on track and keep my mind focused on God is to only listen to Godly music or to pick my favorite chapter of the Bible and listen to the audible version.
15. Don’t stress out
As you make fasting a regular part of your life, you will have days when you just can’t fast or do any of the things I listed above. Guess what? It’s okay!! It really is okay!! God knows our heart and He understands.
Fasting is a time of spiritual restoration. This world is filled with so many things that are tugging at us from every way possible trying to steal our attention, joy, peace, you name it! When we take the time to re-direct our attention and hearts back to God, it pleases Him and He rewards us for it (Matt 6:18).
Do you have any fasting tips that you want to add? Comment below...