Thoughts on how to fast

Many Christians want to fast, but don’t know how.

We probably don’t need to complicate it too much. The only wrong way to fast is to have impure motives, something Jesus warns us about in Matthew 6. If you’re doing it to impress people or to earn credit with God, you might as well not do it.

Fast with one goal in mind: to engage in self-denial as an act of devotion to God so that you might hear His voice more clearly.

If you’re serious about the spiritual disciplines, including fasting, you should read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, an excellent study on how to grow in your relationship with God. In his chapter on fasting, he suggests these steps, which I have found helpful.

Begin with a partial fast of 24 hours. For example, after you eat lunch one day, do not eat until lunch the following day. Drink water or fruit juice, but eat nothing.

After you’ve tried this once a week for several weeks, fast for the same period of time, but drink only water.

Then after you’ve done this successfully several times, move on to a 36-hour fast. After your evening meal, do not eat at all the next day, then break your fast the following morning. You will have skipped three meals.

Foster then writes that we should “seek the Lord” to see if He wants us to go on a longer fast. If so, we can fast for three to seven days, or even longer.

It’s important to remember why you’re fasting. Let your hunger pangs remind you to draw closer to God. If your work/family schedule allows it, read your Bible, pray, and meditate during the times you would normally eat.

A friend of mine goes on a 12-hour fast every Monday (from breakfast to dinner), and during his lunch hour he goes to a local chapel and reads the Bible and prays.

Family obligations might make it impossible for you to have a devotional during mealtime (kids still want to be fed!). Perhaps your spouse can offer extra help during your day of fasting, and then you can do the same for him or her another day. But focusing on God doesn’t always require being alone. Let your fasting remind you throughout the day of your devotion to God, even when you’re busy serving your family or engaging in responsibilities at work. Ask God to use the discipline to draw you close to Him.

Fasting may not go well the first time, or even the second or third time. In many ways, it’s like physical exercise. You’ll become better at it as you work at it, and as God works on you.

Commit to it, and don’t quit. God’s people have used fasting as a discipline to draw closer to Him for thousands of years, and He’ll use it to shape your heart for Him.

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