Over 10 years ago, one of my mentors challenged me to start fasting at least once per week. At first, I thought she was crazy, because at the time whenever I heard the word “fast” I got this uneasy feeling deep down in the pit of my stomach that screamed NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! "You want me to do whhaaattttttt??" Nevertheless, since I looked up to and respected her, I thought it was worth it for me to give it a try.
So, I picked a day of the week that I thought would work best for me. My day was Tuesday, because let’s face it…Mondays were already rough, because I was just coming off the weekend. By the time I got to hump day and beyond, let’s just say it wasn’t looking too good. So, Tuesdays it was.
I knew that I needed some type of substance to get me through the day, so I ate a decent breakfast (but did not stuff myself), and then fasted from 10a-4p when my work shift was over. I regularly sat at a computer and snacked throughout the entire day in addition to eating lunch, so I knew this would be a challenge for me. Then during my lunch period, I would go to my car (since I didn’t have an office or a door to close). I would start with prayer or what I like to refer to as my chat time with God. Then I would read the Bible, or study my notes from a previous sermon or Bible study service.
Sometimes I would have a specific thing I was seeking God for and other times, I would pray for others or start singing praise and worship to God. Looking back, this was probably the purest time in my life when I was just trying to please God and get His attention.
Fasting once per week was something I decided that I was going to make a regular part of my life. I fasted like clockwork for many years. Sometimes something came up and I couldn’t fast that day. Sometimes, I would just fast on a different day than my regular scheduled day and sometimes, I would just wait until the next week. The first time I fasted was the absolute hardest, but the more I fasted, the easier it got. It was natural and I didn’t beat myself up about it. Overall, I was committed to it and maintained a regular fasting life.
Later in my career, I moved to another department and we ate lunch together on a regular basis. We were building our department from the ground up and didn’t really have a physical space yet, so we had the freedom to go sit down to eat at whatever restaurant we wanted and take 2-hour lunches. We all took turns picking our favorite spots. Whichever establishment had the best wings, burgers, pizza, tacos, steak, etc., we were there! Eventually those 2-hour lunches had to come to an end, but that didn’t stop us from ordering in.
Needless to say, I wasn’t fasting on a regular basis during that time. When I did decide to go back to fasting, my team definitely noticed that I wasn’t participating like I used to. Since fasting is something that is between God and myself, I did not tell anyone why. Of course, this led to speculation and one person even asked if I was on a diet. I said no and laughed it off. Sometimes I could participate and sometimes, I couldn’t. One thing for sure, it was important to me to break from the excessive lunch routine and get back to fasting and spending some intimate time with God on a regular basis again.
There were times when I fasted for 40, 21 or 7 days or only ate fruits and vegetables for 3 days at a time. There was even a point when I fasted Monday-Friday giving up something different each day—no meat Mondays, no sweets Wednesdays, etc.
I’ve also had extended periods of time where I went without fasting at all. There were times when I just couldn’t complete a fast. When I first got married, my fasting life changed drastically. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but I just couldn’t focus enough to really give my all to fasting like I previously did. Then I got with another married friend and we started fasting together and praying for each other’s marriages. That really helped me stay on track. When I got pregnant—well, you already know there was no fasting going on over here! Lol!!!
How do I fast?
When should I fast?
How long should I fast?
How often should I fast?
Have you ever found yourself asking these questions? We love God and want to please Him, so why is it so hard to set aside time and follow through on a fast? In the church I grew up in, we typically fasted once or twice per year as a corporate body. We would usually fast at the beginning of the year and again starting Ash Wednesday through Palm or Easter Sunday. The 1st fast of the year was usually for 21 days and the latter for 40.
Then there were some times that my pastor would ask us to fast throughout the year. My pastor would usually leave it up to us to choose which foods we would give up during that time. He would also suggest a book for us to read during the fast and we would discuss it during mid-week service.
One year, he had us read “Fasting: Opening the Door to a Deeper, More Intimate, More Powerful Relationship with God,” by Jentezen Franklin. It gives great insight into fasting, and I highly recommend it if you want to dig deeper into your fasting life.
It wasn’t until my mentor told me to start fasting once per week, that I realized that it was a good idea to fast more than the suggested corporate fasts declared by my pastor. I now see fasting as one of the components of a personal intimate relationship with God. (Click here to read my 15 Tips to Reboot Your Time of Fasting.)
If you desire to get closer to God, but you just don’t know how or where to start, I recommend just setting aside a day and time and go for it. The first time you set out to fast is usually super hard. Not because you just don’t want to do it, but because we humans naturally love food and the freedom to eat whatever, whenever we want.
The day you decide to fast is the day the office wants to order out at your favorite restaurant. It’s the same day your co-worker brings in her famously delicious homemade cookies. And of course, she brings one right to your desk and expects you to eat it in front of her!
Anyone who truly knows me, knows that I unapologetically looovvveee chocolate. I’m telling you that I am a certified milk chocolate lover. So when I fast, I absolutely must give up chocolate and sweets, because if I can eat chocolate, I’m not making a sacrifice at all!
If you are on a corporate fast with your church, you have a number of people to turn to for encouragement and it really helps to know someone else is going through the same thing you are. But when you’re not on a corporate fast, sometimes, it helps to have a fasting partner. If you’re married, it’s often nice to fast together.
Even though you should not broadcast to people when you are fasting, unless they are fasting with you, it is okay to tell your spouse even when they aren’t joining in. I didn’t always tell my husband when I was fasting, because sometimes I was fasting for him or our marriage. He usually told me when he was fasting without me, because I prepared the meals. I always made sure that I didn’t have anything that he was abstaining from in his sight or smell range to temp him.
Fasting is not a diet
There are so many different ways to fast, but you should definitely give up food of some sort. You can couple it with giving up your favorite television show, but replace the time you would normally be watching the show with prayer and reading the Bible, and praise and worship to God.
Giving up television, social media, etc. without giving up food is not a fast. If your sole goal is to lose weight and you are not praying and spending more time in the Word of God, you are on a diet, not a fast.
Do you find yourself giving up before the fast is over? Start small! Don’t try a 40 day fast for the first time. Start by giving up a meal and replacing that mealtime with prayer and reading the Bible. Or give up meat or sweets for the day, or whatever would be a sacrifice for you to give up. Then you can gradually work your way up to whatever level you are comfortable with.
The point of a fast is not to starve yourself, but it’s to make a sacrifice to God and get closer to Him to grow your intimate relationship with Him. As you grow in your relationship with God and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you, you will know when it’s time to fast and for how long and what to give up.
I want it all
The Bible says to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1). I’ll just speak for myself when I say that I want it all! I absolutely want every gift and blessing God has for me.
Over the years, I can honestly say that I have learned so much from God by making the sacrifice to fast. God has shown me things that I would not have ordinarily seen. He has revealed my purpose to me. He has given me insight and wisdom on how to conduct myself and handle certain situations. He has warned me of things that were to come. He has given me strength to endure the rough patches of life. He’s even given me business ideas, plans and books to write. My list goes on and on. The point is, just as there are benefits to being a child of God, there are additional benefits to fasting. Therefore, I implore you to give fasting a try and to incorporate it into your life on a regular basis.
Share some of your fasting habits below...