Fasting: Why and How
The Bible says in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (ESV).
Fasting is one way that we can actively humble ourselves and devote our energy to prayerfully seeking God’s face. When we fast, we deprive ourselves of the immediate gratification that comes from responding to our appetites. Instead, we point ourselves to a greater need, a hunger and thirst for God.
Fasting and praying acknowledge the truth of Jesus’ declaration: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Fasting puts us in touch with this reality. Psalm 42:1-2 says, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?”
Fasting is not a way for us to impress God or manipulate him. It is a way for us to turn from our physical appetites and recognize our greater hunger and need for God. As you refrain from eating (or some other time-consuming activity such as TV or computer time), be sure to devote that time to prayer.
Here are some other helpful suggestions:
- Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated. If you need to drink juices or other liquids, remember that keeping a strict fast is not the goal.
- Don’t give up too quickly. Press through, and let your body feel the hunger.
- Decide ahead of time when you will break the fast, and commit to wait.
- Be careful to not fill up your time with activities that keep you from praying.
- Spend some extended time with your children in prayer at the beginning of the day. Talk to them about how we need God just like our bodies need food.
- Commit to meet with members of your small group or friends for a time of prayer during the lunch hour.
- Plan a date with your spouse, and use the time to pray together instead of eating dinner.
- Use your Bible reading to fuel and lead your prayer time.
- Journal what you believe God is saying to you during this time.