So how do we go about the devotion of fasting? Essentially, it’s not complicated. We decide what kind of fast we want to do, for how long and we get started. It’s important to determine exactly what you are going to fast from and for how long and, this is important, stick to it. Otherwise it’s amazing how easy it is for a fast to get compromised.
As with all the other spiritual devotions absolute secrecy may be a challenge, if not impossible. You’ll probably have to tell those you live with, and maybe even those you work with. Try and keep it on a ‘need to know’ basis, it won’t spoil your fast, God sees your heart.
When you’ve decided on the type of fast you’re going to do (and for beginners I don’t recommend anything longer than one day – in fact perhaps just start off by skipping one meal), begin to anticipate the fast with prayer and thanksgiving. Tell God that you, more than anything, are hungry for more of him in your life.
If you’re missing meals you still need plenty of liquids (food often contains water). Of course drink as much water as you like but also consider adding some fresh fruit juice or some mild herbal tea like camomile (caffeine free) to hot drinks.
Seriously consider cutting out addictive substances such as caffeine, alcohol, chocolate and high sugar drinks/snacks. In fact, just fasting from one of these (if you are a regular consumer) will likely be enough of a fast on its own. However, be aware that if you do this there can be very unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as headaches that may take a few days to pass.
If you’re in a cold climate you may need to wrap up extra warm if you are doing a prolonged food fast.
Another practical aspect of fasting is meal times. For many these are social times around the cooker and the table; times to be with family or friends. It’s perfectly possible to join in these times while fasting, perhaps with a drink.
One unfortunate side effect of fasting is bad breath. This will only be an issue in fasting that lasts 24 hours or longer because the body will begin to detox (a process whereby the body begins to release toxins which have built up over time). The bad breath is caused by these toxins coming out; so it’s all good. Sugar free mints or gum are a good antidote.
When you break your fast have something light and nourishing like vegetable soup and fruit juice. Praise God for his goodness and for the blessing of food and provision.
FASTING: SPIRITUAL PREPARATION
If we’re new to fasting it’s hard not to feel just a little self-righteous if telling others about it… God is revealing our pride already and we havn’t even started yet! Humble yourself and let the Holy Spirit do his work.
One thing you’ll notice pretty quickly is that our days are naturally punctuated by meal times. We talk of ‘lunch break’, but now we’re fasting it’s just an ’empty break’. The obvious way to use these times is in devotional prayer or reading. Prayer and fasting combine together in a very powerful way.
Before fasting you may consider meditating on a particular scripture during the fast. How about Isaiah 58 in which the Lord rebukes Israel for the misunderstanding of fasting:
““Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6 NIV
It’s not that fasting is wrong but that true fasting should bear this kind of fruit.
Fasting, when practiced well also yields times of joy. Times of heightened revelation and union with God. It brings us into a clearer perspective – a ‘God perspective’. We may experience times of deep peace and profound spiritual depth. Fasting can strip away barriers or blockages in our faith life and open up new vistas. Why not journal while you fast; the good the bad and the divine. See what God will reveal and speak into your life.
BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
If we imagine our life is like a garden and Jesus is our master gardener, when it comes to our soul garden perhaps fasting, more than any of the other disciplines is going to make us face up to the more unpleasant jobs around the garden.
You see, just when we thought the garden was looking lovely and fruitful our Father God is going to put his finger on those areas which we’d rather ignore. He’s going to prune us back so that we can walk in more freedom and revelation of who he is in us, and bear even more fruit. Devotional fasting helps reveal some of these deep seated areas of fear and pride so that the Lord can deal with them. If we allow God to deal with us in these times of secret honesty and vulnerability, we will find that we are able to be more honourable to Jesus in public.
Through fasting we are able to be filled with a deeper reliance on God and walk in a proven trust. It empowers us to live an overcoming life that roots us deeper into the soil of God. A life filled with the abundance of heaven. Isaiah 58 goes on to say:
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
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