Fasting: Living on Spiritual Food

Fasting is a spiritual discipline. It is, one might say, a “secret” long lost to the body of Christ. It is taught throughout the Bible and Jesus taught its importance as well (Matt. 6:16-18, Mark 9:29). Often in the Old Testament fasting was called for at a crucial moment or crisis. Esther called for an absolute 3 day fast before she went in to reveal Haman’s plot to the king (Esth. 4:16); King Jehoshaphat called for a fast when the enemies of Judah came to make war against them (II Chron. 20:3).

Fasting can be a pathway either to more focused intercession or personal renewal or both. It can provide one of the richest experiences in your relationship with the Lord. When you deny your body food, you are mastering one of the strongest appetites or “lusts” of the flesh. We are little aware of how deeply we are immersed each day in satisfying the desires of the flesh; we are literally its slave. Paul said, “I beat my body and make it my slave” (I Cor. 9:27); he would not let himself be ruled by his bodily passions. Once you begin denying them, you perceive more clearly their hold on you and are able to enjoy your freedom from them.

When Jesus’ disciples came to him fretting over the meal he missed, he reproved them saying, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.” (John 4:34). This becomes our priority as well during a time of fasting. Our freedom from the flesh allows us to concentrate on communing with God and enjoying his more manifest presence.

Why Fast?
Fasting has many benefits:

• frees up time to pray
• liberates you from fleshly appetites so you can focus more clearly on God
• brings revelation by the Holy Spirit of a person’s true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance and change
• helps us understand the Word of God
• enriches your prayer life and makes you more earnest, fervent
• can result in dynamic, personal revival
• fulfils the biblical conditions for revival according to II Chronicles 7:14: “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

When we become desperate to see God move and intervene to bring deliverance to the lost or to his people in crisis, and we are willing to make personal sacrifice to see that happen, then are hearts are prepared to fast. Otherwise, we may fast out of a sense of obligation or obedience, but the experience may not be quite as rich.

Types of Fast

  1. Absolute Fast
    • No food or water; this is extremely hard on the body and should not be undertaken for more than a few days (see Esth. 4:16)
  2. Partial Fasts
    1. Limited periods of fasting, e.g. one or two meals per day, or one or two days per week.
    2. Limited amounts of simple food (eg. boiled or raw vegetables); this allows one the experience of self-discipline while not depriving the body of food (see Dan. 10:3ff).
    3. Water only; this must be undertaken carefully (e.g. medical supervision) since you are not taking in nutrients.
    4. Juice diet
      • Drink only liquids: natural low-acid fruit juices (apple, grape or others diluted with water) and the broth of boiled vegetables.
      • I have personally conducted this kind of fast over 40 days. There are resources with details on how to do this.
  3. Supernatural Fast
    • Extended time without food or water; Moses did this on Mt. Sinai when he received the commandments from God (see Deut. 9:9). This requires a clear call from the Lord and should be undertaken with medical supervision.

How to Fast?

  1. Make sure that God is leading you to do it.
  2. Determine what type of fast you will do. If you have never fasted, then partial fasts are a good place to start.
  3. If you desire to try more extended periods of fasting, the start small; try a meal, then a day then a few days and then a week or two; once you have confidence you can fast for extended periods of time without any ill effects, you may want to try 40-day fast (the Bible highlights some 40 day fasts, e.g. Matt. 4:1; Ex. 34:28; 1 Ki. 19:7-8)
  4. Set a specific focus: for what are you seeking God? Try to keep it to one or a few things, not a whole list, e.g. personal revival, discernment, interceding for others in difficulty, or for a community or cause
  5. Lighten your schedule or plan for a time when you are less busy. Your energy level will vary and you may require a nap during the day.
  6. Begin your fast with confession and repentance. Fasting is characterized by humbling oneself before God. (see Endnotes)
  7. Use resources on fasting to obtain practical and spiritual guidance (see Endnotes).
  8. Set aside ample time to be alone with the Lord in prayer, meditation and searching the Scriptures.
  9. Break your fast wisely. If you have been fasting for more than a few days, do not break your fast with a large meal; start with raw fruits and vegetables and dry toast.

If your relationship with the Lord has grown cold; if you feel as though spiritually you are withering on the vine; if you see yourself stuck in mediocrity or maintaining status quo in your life and ministry; if you are becoming desperate to see God accomplish what he has called you to do – these are all signs that it is “time to seek the Lord” (Hos. 10:12). Fasting with prayer may bring the breakthrough that you are truly longing for.


Gabe McReynolds,
Love Ottawa Lead