Fasting is a genuine joy of mine. Yes, I’m aware that’s an odd statement, but it’s true! Fasting is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to position ourselves to receive from God. To clarify, in no way does fasting earn us any right to receive – that was done solely by Jesus dying and rising from the dead. Yet in fasting, we deny ourselves of the most basic and universal craving of our bodies (e.g. food) and instead spend time with God, which places us in a remarkable place to receive what God has for us.
Maybe I’ll rant about what fasting is and all of its benefits someday, but I’ll save that for another time. Today, I want to simply talk about how to prepare for a fast. While God in His grace has shown up in one way or another when I fast, preparing for a fast can be the difference between genuinely touching heaven and genuinely starving yourself for a few days. From my experience, there are two major areas to consider on the front end in order to get the most from a fast: Plan and Prep.
Spend some time before you start your fast to seek God and ask Him three questions:
- Why is He calling you to fast?
- What does He want you to fast?
- How does He want you to fast?
Listen to what He says and write it down so you can reference both as a guide during your fast and a testimony when you receive your breakthrough.
Knowing what you’re looking to receive makes a big difference. If you’re expecting to be passed a football but God is wanting to toss you an egg or a hockey puck, you can either miss what God is doing or be disappointed by what He did because it’s not what you expected. Throughout the Bible we see many different reasons why people fast: breakthrough over an enemy; answers or revelation when discerning a next step or making a decision purely to grow closer to God; to stand in agreement with a friend or nation; because they were led to fast though they didn’t understand why till later. The list goes on.
Before you start your fast, ask God why He is leading you to fast and write it down.
God requires obedience, not sacrifice. It’s not about what you fast, but that you are obedient to fast what God is asking of you. Is He asking you to give up one meal a day or asking for you to only eat one meal a day? It could simply be no meats or no sweets. Perhaps He’s asking you to only drink liquids for the fast. Perhaps He’s asking you only to give up the one glorious, brown liquid that fuels you so He can give you the water of His Spirit to fuel you. It completely depends on what God is leading you to do.
Biblically, fasting is always tied to food, but God could ask you to consecrate yourself by abstaining from something that’s not food. Social media, movies, and entertainment, a specific genre of music, or that extra hit of the snooze button in the morning are all examples of things God could be asking you to give up for a time in order to receive from Him.
When considering what to fast, it is very important to keep in mind any medical restrictions you may have, and if you have any health concerns, to consult a physician before fasting. On the other hand, if you’re simply not sure what to fast or abstain from and don’t feel any specific guidance from the Holy Spirit, my typical suggestion would be to fast food. You can also talk with some friends in your church or Connect Group to ask if they have any impressions on what you should fast.
Regardless of how you fast, have clarity on what you are going to fast before you start so you can stick to it with confidence.
The difference between fasting and starving typically comes down to how we “not eat.” Before you start fasting, pray through and plan what you are going to be doing with your time. My first fast was in middle school and I had no clue what I was doing, but I had felt compelled to fast in order to get clarity on a dream I had. So, I figured I should spend more time with God while I was fasting, thus I got permission from my teachers to use an unoccupied classroom during lunch where I would spend the lunch hour praying and reading the Bible.
Alongside knowing how you are to spend your “not eating time,” it’s important to know how long your “not eating time” is. Lengths of fasts in the Bible are just as diverse as types or reasons to fast. Knowing how long you are to fast allows you to break your fast with confidence as well as encourages you to say ‘no’ to that free sandwich someone at work is offering you. Regardless if you are doing a one day fast, a forty day fast, or a three day fast with your church, have clarity on how long God wants you to fast.
Another aspect of ‘how’ is whether your fast is something God is calling you into privately, something you should invite a few friends to do with you, or something that is corporate in nature. If you’re fasting with other people and especially if it’s a corporate fast, schedule time to pray with those who are fasting. There is exponential power when the family of God comes together for prayer and even more so when we fast together as a unified body. Typically Every Nation Church, New York has a community time of Prayer and Fasting twice a year. Check out ENNYC.info for all the times we will be joining together to pray.
Planning how you are going to fast before you begin allows you to get the most out of your time of fasting.
Now that you’ve got your fasting plan, it’s important to take time to prepare your heart, mind, and body for the fast.
Prep your Heart
Spend some time before the Lord asking Him to open your heart to receive from Him. Again, fasting is about positioning ourselves to receive from God. So, make sure you walk into your fast with the expectation that God is going to speak to you, and that He is going to come through in the areas He’s spoken to you about.
Prep your Mind
Fasting is not always easy. Expect challenges and temptations to break your fast early. Food will look and smell tastier than usual. Expect to have to turn down invitations to free, gourmet dining – seriously though, it’s happened to me a couple times. Expect to not have as much energy as usual since you are not feeding your body. You may even have light headaches from lower sugar levels or, more commonly, from caffeine withdrawal. Preparing your mind for these things going into a fast puts you in a position to stay strong throughout the entirety of a fast.
Prep your Body
While fasting is definitely a spiritual battle, it is also a physical one since we are depriving our body of something. How you prepare your body for a fast will vary widely depending upon the type of fast you choose and your overall health. In general, picture preparing your body like slowly getting into a pool. When I was in college, I could dive into the deep end by going straight into a multi-week fast without giving my body any notice. Sadly, that’s just not the case anymore, and I need to ease into the waters of a fast by eating less and drinking more water before I start.
If you are fasting meat, you may only need to reduce your portion sizes for a few days leading to your fast, whereas if you’re doing a liquids-only fast, you may need to consider cutting a meal out of your diet the few days leading up to your start day. But, because most of us receive the majority of our hydration through our food, no matter what type of fast you do, get your body used to drinking more water.
And for all our coffee drinkers, the best way to prepare your body is to wean yourself off a few days leading up to your fast. If you are a three cup a day person, try cutting it back to one. If you are a one cup a day guy, try going every other day. You can also try switching to tea for a few days since teas generally have less caffeine.
Though minor headaches or body aches are common when fasting, it is vital that we listen to our bodies during a fast. If you feel something seems wrong with your body while fasting, you should stop and ask a doctor. Most of the discomforts of fasting can be minimized or completely avoided by preparing our bodies well, but that is not an excuse to neglect the wise stewardship of our bodies.
Through every fast in the Bible, God wanted to give something. God is wanting to give us something in our fasting as well. Let us therefore plan and prepare the best we can so we can best position ourselves to receive what He is wanting to do.
Every Nation Church, New York is having a time of Prayer and Fasting 5-7 September 2018. There are prayer meetings 7.30am and 7.00pm every day, 5th-7th September at 414 W. 51st Street. Visit ENNYC.info for all the details and more resources to help you experience God.
Kenny Sanborn is a minister with Every Nation NYC. Find out more about Kenny.