In 2015 Restoration Church committed to times of fasting that we would participate in together as a church. Here is some information about different types of fast, what to do during a fast and how to fast.
It is important to choose a fasting plan that works for you. There is nothing more inherently spiritual about one type of fast as opposed to another. These are simply guidelines and suggestions on different things you can do. Do not let what you eat or do not eat become the focus of your fast. Keep the main thing the main thing, which is drawing closer to God. Remember, this is a time to disconnect enough from your regular patterns and habits in order to connect more closely to God.
1. START WHERE YOU ARE
We are all at different places in our walk with God. Likewise our jobs, daily schedules, and health conditions are all different and place various levels of demands on our energy. So most importantly, whether you've fasted before or this is your first time, start where you are. Your personal fast should present a level of challenge to it, but it’s very important to know your own body, know your options and, most importantly, seek God in prayer and follow what the Holy Spirit leads you to do. Remember, the goal of fasting is not just to do without food. The goal is to draw nearer to God.
2. FIND YOUR FAST ZONE
When most people start fasting, there is typically some level of discomfort. However, it is possible to get used to the fasting routine pretty quickly. Quite simply, you must learn to fast in a way that works for you. While any true fast does involve abstinence from food or at least certain types of food, typically, different fasting combinations work better for different people. The goal to having a successful fast is all about finding what we like to call your Fast Zone, and that is different for everybody and can change depending on the season you are in.
The best way to describe your Fast Zone is that it’s the place where you feel spiritually in tune. Your mind is easily focused on God and spiritual things. Just like runners know what their target heart rate is to see the benefits of their physical training, the Fast Zone is similar in a spiritual sense.
Finding your Fast Zone helps you choose both the type and length of fast. Let’s say you choose to go on a Daniel fast (only fruits and vegetables). Should you eat beans? If you can eat beans and stay in your Fast Zone, go ahead. But for some people eating beans takes them out of the zone. Should you eat peanut butter? Probably not. Peanut butter is more of an indulgence, and not many people can stay in a Fast Zone while enjoying indulgences. Should you completely cut out caffeine? It depends. The great thing is, when you fast, your body automatically craves less caffeine. If you can stay in your Fast Zone with a little caffeine, great. If you are going on a longer fast and want to cut it out of your diet completely, that’s great too. But ease yourself off and make it your goal to be completely caffeine free about two-thirds of the way into your fast.
If you drink coffee regularly, one of the worst mistakes you can make is too fast for one to three days and cut caffeine out abruptly and completely. Please don’t do that or you will spend this time grumpy and in withdrawal instead of enjoying God’s presence. Mixing things up a bit during a lengthened fast is what typically works best for people. For example, do a fruits and vegetables fast for a week. Then do all liquids for a while. Maybe even mix in a few days of only water if you think you are ready for that. Then go back to fruits and vegetables for a few days.
There isn’t one approach that works the same for everyone. Follow the Holy Spirit, mix it up, find what works for you, and stay in your Fast Zone! Some people can’t stay in a Fast Zone eating any type of solid food, so they prefer all liquids. With today’s protein drinks and juicing machines, it is so easy to get a healthy dose of all your nutritional needs even while taking in only liquids. Certain people can’t do anything other than drink only water. If they eat a salad or drink a glass of juice, they get out of their zone. Or if they allow themselves to eat cantaloupe, they will end up eating twenty cantaloupes a day!
3. CHOOSE YOUR TYPE OF FAST*
While preparing for your fast, it is important to choose ahead of time what type of fast, or what combination, you will pursue. Not only will this help with making the necessary preparations to implement your plan, but as you commit to a specific fast ahead of time and know how you’re going to do it, you will position yourself to finish strong.
4. WHAT TO DO DURING YOUR FAST
Scripturally, fasting is almost always partnered with prayer (e.g., Ezra 8:21,23; Luke 2:36-37). During times when you would normally eat you may want to or need to couple fasting and prayer with one or more of the items below:
– Worship (Nehemiah 9:1-3; Acts 13:1-3)
– Petition (Daniel 9:3,17)
– Reading the Word of God (Nehemiah 9:1-3; Jeremiah 36:6)
– Humbling yourself before God (Ezra 8:21)
– Asking for direction and guidance (Judges 20:19-46; Ezra 8:21)
– Mourning (1 Samuel 31:8-13; Nehemiah 1:3-10; Esther 4:1-4)
– Confession of sins (1 Samuel 7:6; 2 Samuel 1:12; Daniel 9:4-18; Nehemiah 9:1-3)
– Repentance (Joel 2:12-17)
5. BEGINNING AND ENDING THE FAST
Depending on the type of fast you choose, it is very important to prepare your body ahead of time before beginning the fast. Take a week or so to transition into your fast; otherwise, you could get sick. For example, if you would like to go on a fruits and vegetables or juice fast, start eliminating meat, white grains, and refined sugars from your diet the week before. Also start to cut back quite a bit on dairy products and some of your caffeine intake. The same principle applies to breaking your fast. When your fast is over, add foods back in very gradually. Please don’t break your fast with a greasy cheeseburger! Because your body is so cleansed and detoxified, you will most likely get sick if you do that. There are also several supplements you can take that will help support the detox process during your fast. Your health-food store can give you recommendations.
6. CREATE A FASTING MENU
To keep your energy up throughout the day, it’s important to eat or drink every two and a half to three hours. If you go longer than that, you can experience an energy lull and be tempted to over-stuff yourself at your next meal. Even if you’re fasting on fruits and vegetables, over-stuffing is never a smart thing to do. It is very important to drink lots of water while fasting. Drinking about one hundred ounces of water per day will help to support your critical liver function. The liver is the filter for the body, so when you don’t drink enough water, the liver doesn’t function at its highest capacity.
Select your food items wisely. We will not be listing specific ingredients you “should” or “should not” include in your plan. The key is to prepare a plan ahead of the fast, to not get legalistic about it, and to choose menu items well. For example, if you prefer dressing on your salads, choose a healthy, organic option with natural ingredients—and don’t pour a gallon of it on your plate. If you’re drinking fruit juices, try to go as natural as possible, and don’t drink ones heavily processed and laden with sugar. Remember to not let food become the focus of your fast, but make wise eating choices.
Just like prayer and fasting, reading your Bible is about connecting to God in a more powerful way. It is not about duty but about relationship. When we engage God through reading His Word, we engage the very presence of God. His Word is living and active! As we read our Bible, we are drawing closer to God and positioning ourselves to hear from Him in particular ways. Once again, as with prayer, choose the time and the place where you are going to read your Bible and devotional every single day, and come prepared to hear what He wants to tell you. Every other week, we will be releasing devotions that correspond with our daily readings. You can see the most current and all previous devos here. Here are three quick things we’d like to share with you about how to get the most out of your devotional time with God.
It is better to read a little every day than to try and knock out two hours of Bible reading or devotions in one sitting. We, as a church, are encouraging everyone to read through the Bible this year. To get on board with our One Year Bible Reading Plan click here. If you miss a few days, pick up at the next reading, but stay with it and don’t give up. You can read through the entire bible in about 13 minutes per day! The key is to keep this simple and make it sustainable.
Talk to God as you’re reading. Don’t rush through. Remember: the point is not to get through the scripture, but let the scripture get through you! If you come across something you don’t understand, pause for a moment and ask God about it. Reading prayerfully is making space and time to talk to God and giving Him time and space to talk to you. Taking time to meditate on God’s Word is just as important as reading it.
You are about to partake of the bread of life, so foster an attitude of expectancy. Believe that God is going to speak to you through His Word. With meditation on the ideas and thoughts recorded in your journal, be prepared to do something with what He shows you. A great, simple way to journal your devotionals is to use the SOAP method. SOAP stands for: Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer.**
8. FINAL TIPS
As you select your type of fast, make a fasting calendar that fits your plan. Determine what each day and week will look like. Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with the items you need. Being unprepared to fast sets you up to give into temptation. Choose well when selecting products, stick to raw food as much as you can, and limit artificial ingredients. Make it a priority to attend church during your fast. Being around other believers will encourage you to keep on going when fasting gets difficult. If you mess up, don’t get discouraged. Just get right back on track and keep going. God’s mercies “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22–23). He wants you to finish, and He will give you the grace and strength to do it.
*TYPES OF FASTS
Drink only liquids – especially water. On this type of fast you may also take in clear broth and 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices in order to maintain your strength.
There are many options for partial fasts. The most frequently used example of a partial fast is found in Daniel chapter 10 (see below). The following are examples of other types of partial fasts:
– giving up one item of food or drink such as caffeine, coffee, soft drinks or sweets
– giving up one meal a day for a specific amount of time, one meal a week, etc.
– choosing to fast from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. or from sun-up to sundown.
The Daniel Fast is a fast from meats, sweets, breads and any drink, except water, for a specific time period (Daniel 10:2-3). The easiest way to think of this fast is eating only vegetables and fruits, and drinking only water. The Daniel fast is a great model to follow and one that is extremely effective for spiritual focus, bodily discipline, and purification of the body and soul. It is probably one of the most commonly referred-to fasts; however, within the Daniel fast there is room for broad interpretation. In the book of Daniel we find two different times where the prophet Daniel fasted. Daniel 1 states that he only ate vegetables and water, and in Daniel 10, while the passage does not give a specific list of foods that Daniel ate, it does state that he ate no rich (or choice) foods, as well as no meat or wine. So based on these two verses, we can see that either of these, or combinations of the two, constitute a Daniel fast.
Again, it is important to mention that there is nothing inherently spiritual about one type of fast as opposed to another. The foundation of the Daniel fast is fruits and vegetables. Some starchy vegetables and dairy could be included, but that depends on the individual. Your goal should be to seek God in prayer about this and follow what the Holy Spirit leads you to do. Just remember: find your personal Fast Zone.
In this type of fast you omit a specific item(s) from your meal plans. For example, you may choose to eliminate all red meat, processed or fast food, or sweets. Most people can incorporate this type of fast relatively easily. It can also prove to be a great solution for people with specific dietary needs or medical conditions that may cause certain limitations.
A juice fast is simply consuming vegetable and fruit juices and water instead of solid food. Many people include whey protein in their liquid plan as well. This is one of the most popular and effective fasts. Even if you choose not to make your entire fast liquids only, substituting one or two meals for liquids is a great alternative.
A water-only fast is the normal fast referred to in the Bible. This is how Jesus and the New Testament church fasted. A water fast is just that—no eating of any food or drinking of any liquids except water. Periodic water fasts can be very beneficial, but extreme precautions should be taken. For some people it is hard to perform effectively at their jobs and have energy for their families while drinking only water. We recommend consulting your physician first, and water fasting only for a day or two unless you can get away or your job allows you to really disconnect so you can give your best energy to the fast. Remember, when Jesus went on His forty-day fast, He went by Himself out into the wilderness. Having said all that, there are some people who can water fast and work, and they function fine without much fatigue and are able to work well. You are blessed if you are one of these people.
A total fast is where nothing—neither liquid, solid food, nor even water—is consumed for a very short period of time. There are examples of this type of fast in the Bible. It was an Old Covenant type of fast associated with mourning, or deep grief, such as when David engaged in a total fast for a week, hoping that God would spare the child he had with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12). Under the New Covenant, we do not fast to mourn or to seek forgiveness. God has already forgiven us, and we are commanded to celebrate Jesus because He is alive. Plus, complete abstinence of food and water can be very dangerous to our health. Attempting to go without water for any period of time can be extremely harmful to the body. We strongly discourage the total fast.
**SOAP METHOD OF BIBLE STUDY
S for Scripture.
Read prayerfully. Take notice of which scripture(s) catches your attention and mark it in your Bible. When you’re done, reread the verse(s) you marked and look for one that particularly speaks to you. Write it in your journal.
O for Observation.
Focusing on that scripture, tune in and listen to what God is saying to you through His Word. What is it about this scripture that specifically stands out? What does God want to reveal to you or teach you? Ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide and show you what God is saying.
A for Application.
Think of how this verse(s) applies to your life right now. Perhaps it is instruction, encouragement, revelation of a new promise, or correction for a particular area of your life. Use your journal to write how this scripture applies to you today.
P for Prayer.
Wrap up your SOAP time in prayer. Talk to God about what you’ve just read. This can be as simple as thanking Him for revealing a truth from the scripture, or it may be asking Him for greater insight or wisdom as to how it applies to your life. Remember, prayer is all about relationship. It’s a two-way conversation, so be sure to listen to what God has to say.
Our prayer for you over these days of fasting is that your passion for God and His Word will be ignited, and that you will develop a hunger for His presence that is greater than ever before! Don’t ever settle for anything less than a life full of passion and spiritual zeal for God. Keep the fire for God burning in your heart and do whatever it takes to feed your spiritual hunger for God.