Did you know that there is more in the Bible about fasting than repentance and confession? Jesus taught more about fasting that He did about baptism or the observance of the Lord’s Supper. He fasted, as did Moses, David, Elijah, Esther, Daniel, Paul and many others.
Fasting is expected by Christ. In Matthew 6:16 He says, “When you fast…,” not “if you fast,” implying that it is something He expects us to do. Similarly, in Matthew 9:15, Jesus told the disciples of John that it was not necessary to fast while the bridegroom was with them. Rather, the time to fast was when he was no longer around. Obviously, Jesus was referring to Himself as the bridegroom and the historical record shows that when He ascended to the Father, the church embraced the discipline of fasting (See Acts 13:2; 14:23).
Here’s a simple rule that I hope will serve us well. WE SHOULD FAST AS OFTEN AS WE FEEL IT IS NECESSARY (TO STRENGTHEN OUR PRAYER, EXPRESS GRIEF AND REPENTANCE, TO ENHANCE OUR WORSHIP OR TO SEEK GOD’S GUIDANCE).
Then how long should we fast? A fast can last for a portion of a day or it can last for weeks. That is really up to you and how you believe the Lord is leading in the matter. My advice is that you don’t jump into a prolonged fast from food, but gradually increase the duration allowing your body to adjust to a lack of nourishment. You can begin with a partial fast. For example, for 3 weeks Daniel fasted by eating no meat or drinking any wine (Daniel 10:3). He also refrained from the comfort of applying lotion to his body.
When you do fast from all foods, it is advisable to drink fruit juices if you are going on a fast of more than a few days. Dr. Bill Bright, co-chair of Fasting & Prayer ’98, personally practices and recommends water and juice fasting, especially if you are going to fast for an extended period of time. This type of fast will provide you with more energy than absolute or water only fasts and still lead you into the humbling experience of denying your desire for solid food that you can chew. This is the type of fast the will be encouraged at Fasting & Prayer ’98.
Or you can fast for a certain period of a day, like sunrise to sunset. Remember, though, when you do fast for a certain portion of a day that when you do eat you eat no more than you normally would. Don’t try to make up for food missed.
The best way to learn the spiritual benefits of fasting as well as how to fast is to fast. Is there something God wants to do in your life that you have yet to see happen? Perhaps fasting is the missing element.
There is much good information available on fasting, especially from Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ. Avail yourself of it before you begin and extended fast. Make sure you pray and seek God’s will as to when you should fast and the purpose of it. Join the ranks of saints through the ages who have fasted.