Fasting in today’s world can be misconstrued by the words “diet” or “detox.” When most people think of fasting, they think it is to better their own bodies. However, as a believer, this idea gets flipped upside down. Fasting’s primary purpose is not to benefit the believer’s body, but to focus on God, learn his heart, and discover how to rely on him more. Because God uses this in such a radical way, he wants his children to know the proper way to do it.
Fasting In The Bible
Jesus talks about this proper way to fast because he wants believers to fast for God, not for man. He wants to ensure the believer isn’t showing off or bragging about his or her fasting.
“When you fast, don’t look like those who pretend to be spiritual. They want everyone to know they’re fasting, so they appear in public looking miserable, gloomy, and disheveled. Believe me, they’ve already received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:16 (The Passion Translation)
He also doesn’t say “If you fast …” but “When you fast …” Jesus assumes the believers he is talking to already know this is part of the Christian lifestyle. This is a great opportunity for believers today to capture Jesus’ words and implement them in their lives. But before someone jumps head first into not eating food, it’s important to look at scripture and see why people fast.
Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights so that he would be prepared for the ministry God called him to (Matthew 4:1-17). While he fasted, he was tempted to rely on things outside of his Heavenly Father. Standing firm, he was able to overcome temptation when he was at his weakest so when he spoke God’s word in public he would not be shaken.
In Acts, Paul and Barnabas fasted in order to gain God’s wisdom before committing the elders of the church to God.
To pour out her love and devotion to the Lord, Anna the Prophetess fasted day and night (Luke 2:36-38).
When the Israelites lost over forty thousand soldiers during a battle in Judges 20, they cried out to God for help. They then fasted that same day until evening, and the Lord brought them victory.
The Israelites repented and fasted in Nehemiah 9 so their hearts were refocused on the Lord. After they repented and fasted their hearts rejoiced in God on High.
The Bible contains many examples of people who fasted for wisdom, victory, deliverance, protection, repentance, and to show love. The way they all fasted ranged from absolute, partial, private, corporate, national, regular and occasional fasting. This should provide believers with a great baseline to choose when and how to fast.
5 Creative Ways To Fast
Even though people in the Bible primarily fasted from food, there are many types of fasts for believers. As long as the heart is positioned toward desiring to know him better, God can use whatever you set aside as a way to open your eyes to who He is. Here’s a few ideas:
1. Fasting From Food
Start small. Set aside a lunch or a full day’s worth of meals. Eventually you can grow this discipline to be longer. Remember the purpose of fasting is to understand who God is and rely on him. When you experience hunger pains, don’t focus on the fact that you can’t eat. Rather thank God for who he is, and thank him for being the ultimate sustainer of your life.
2. Fasting From Television
Rather than sitting for hours watching TV or Netflix, take 30 minutes or an hour that you would normally spend on the couch and read your bible or pray. This doesn’t have to be anything long or strenuous. It’s a simple time swap. You are swapping something earthly that fades quickly for something heavenly that will last for eternity.
3. Fasting From Social Media
Take a day or a week and fast from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or any other forms of social media. If you feel the urge to check these social platforms, pray and ask God to show you another piece of his character. Set a journal beside your work computer or at home on your countertop. Begin writing down the truths of who God is and what he’s teaching you. You may begin to notice how much of your attitude and mindset is shaped by those you constantly see on social media. This is a potential opportunity to repent for not finding your identity in the Lord and begin to build up that identity one day at a time.
4. Fasting From Exercise
Some people find their peace and trust in their ability to care for their bodies through exercise. Perhaps if you take three days or a full week without avidly working out and spend it seeking the Lord, you may begin to discover how much he is in control. Press in and discover what he says about human bodies and how he controls everything. Repent from trusting in your own abilities and ask him to replace those thoughts. Even though exercise is a good habit, the reasoning behind your weight lifting or yoga practices might shift.
5. Fasting From Separation
If you are are the type of person who would like to be alone and work on your own things rather than be with your family, one good way to fast is from separation. Make a plan to engage yourself with your family by scheduling a recurring game night or going out to eat. Perhaps set aside time to go on a walk with your kids or your spouse. Be intentional with your time and allow the Lord the chance to use this time to love on your family.
This list of things to fast from is not exhaustive. Discover other areas in your life where you spend a lot of time that would be good to give up for the sake of the Lord. Perhaps it’s time on your computer, sports, sugar, caffeine, playing video games, reading other books, spending time with friends, or something else. But remember you are doing this for the Lord, not for man. Thankfully when Jesus talks about fasting, he talks about motive (Matthew 6:16). We do not fast as a means to get what we want or to show off. Fasting goes beyond this because at the center of a person’s heart should be the Lord. It is a place where God can grab someone’s heart and open their eyes to the reality of who he is and what he’s doing.
As you begin your journey into fasting, seek the Lord with all your heart. Have a plan and enjoy getting to know the Lord God one step at a time.