Fasting is voluntarily going without food — or any other regularly enjoyed, good gift from God — for the sake of some spiritual purpose.
While it sounds much easier in concept than it proves to be in practice, fasting is a brilliant way to enrich our joy in Jesus and prepare our hearts for a stronger relationship with him. In view of helping you start down the slow path to good fasting, here are five simple pieces of advice.
1. Start small.
Don’t go from zero days of fasting to attempting a week long one. Start with a meal, then two, and work your way up to a daylong fast. Perhaps you could eventually try a two-day juice fast.
A juice fast means abstaining from all food and beverage, except for juice and water. Allowing yourself juice provides nutrients and sugar for the body to keep you operating, while also still feeling the effects from going without solid food. It’s not recommended that you abstain from water during a fast of any length.
2. Plan what you’ll do instead of eating.
Fasting isn’t merely an act of self-deprivation, but a spiritual discipline for seeking more of God’s fullness. Which means we should have a plan for what positive pursuit to undertake in the time it normally takes to eat.
Before diving headlong into a fast, craft a simple plan. Connect it to your purpose for the fast. Each fast should have a specific spiritual purpose. Identify what that is and design a focus to replace the time you would have spent eating.
Remember, without a purpose and plan, it’s not Christian fasting; it’s just going hungry.
3. Consider how it will affect others.
Fasting is no license to be unloving. It would be sad to lack concern and care for others around us because of this expression of heightened focus on God.
So as you plan your fast, consider how it will affect others. If you have regular lunches with colleagues or dinners with family or roommates, assess how your abstaining will affect them, and let them know ahead of time, instead of just being a no-show, or springing it on them at the moment that you will not be eating.
4. Try different kinds of fasting.
The typical form of fasting is personal, private, and partial, but we find a variety of forms in the Bible: personal and communal, private and public, congregational and national, regular and occasional, absolute and partial.
In particular, consider fasting together with your family, small group, or church. Do you share together in some special need for God’s wisdom and guidance? Is there an unusual difficulty in the church, or society, for which you need God’s intervention? Do you want to keep the second coming of Christ in view? Plead with special earnestness for God’s help by linking arms with other believers to fast together.
5. Fast from something other than food.
Fasting from food is not necessarily for everyone. Some health conditions keep even the most devout from the traditional course. However, fasting is not limited to abstaining from food. If the better part of wisdom for you, in your health condition, is not to go without food, consider fasting from television, computer, social media, or some other regular enjoyment that would bend your heart toward greater enjoyment of Jesus. Paul even talks about married couples fasting from sex “for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer” (1 Corinthians 7:5).