Jesus gained the victory at Calvary because He first overcame Satan in the desert after a 40-day fast.
Any time of year is a good time to fast, but the beginning of the year is particularly appropriate. One of the questions I get asked most often regarding the lifestyle of a Prayer Warrior or Intercessor is how to fast. The easy answer is to just stop eating over a pre-defined period of time. But obviously there’s a lot more to fasting than that. While this blog post is not intended to be a complete teaching on fasting there are a few things to consider before embarking on a fast.
There are several important reasons to fast:
- Fasting brings us closer to God. Quite literally we decrease and God increases in us. No matter how physically weak we may feel during and right after a fast, it makes us into spiritual giants. Satan attacked Jesus when He was at His weakest physically but at His strongest spiritually.
- Fasting is a means to get the Lord’s attention to a prayer that we feel hasn’t been answered or to release blessings that may have been delayed or hijacked by the enemy.
- Fasting is a way of humbling ourselves before God so that He will spare us His judgment for any wrongdoing. The king of Nineveh proclaimed a fast upon hearing Jonah’s preaching and the Lord forgave them and relented of the evil He had purposed to bring upon them (Jonah 3). Even the wicked Ahab humbled himself before God and the Lord postponed His judgment and calamity until after his death (1 Kings 21).
- Fasting can change the course of events when facing impending disaster or life-threatening situations (Esther 4).
- Fasting is a required discipline before engaging in spiritual warfare. You shouldn’t go into battle unless you’ve fasted first. This was the lesson the children of Israel learned when losing twice against the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20). Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast in order to defeat the powerful enemies he faced (2 Chronicles 20).
- Fasting breaks every yoke of bondage. In order to experience true and/or total deliverance from stubborn spirits or situations you need to fast (Isaiah 58:6, Matthew 17:21, Mark 9:29).
- Fasting together with humility, obedience, love and charity brings healing (Isaiah 58).
- Before making life-changing decisions or when facing new challenges it’s good to fast for vision and revelation (Daniel 10).
- Fasting before starting a ministry to let the enemy know you mean business. Jesus fasted in the desert 40 days before starting His public ministry.
- Fasting is an accelerator of spiritual growth or sanctification. It helps us to walk in the Spirit and gives us victory over the flesh. The apostle Paul fasted very often to sustain his powerful evangelistic ministry (2 Corinthians 11). If we want to be ready for Jesus’ Second Coming, we need to be praying and fasting to build up the spiritual muscle that will allow us to resist taking the mark of the beast and to receive the seal of God (Revelation 7, 14 and 16).
What type of fast should you do?
There are many different types of fasts. If you have never fasted before I recommend starting with a mild fast, such as a 24-hour fast or the Daniel fast.
The easiest fast to do is the 24-hour fast. Have your last meal by 6:00 p.m. on the evening you’re beginning your fast. Drink only water (needless to say, avoid morning hot liquids such as chocolate, tea or coffee) and if you’re very hungry drink some fruit juice the next day. Eat nothing until 6:00 p.m. when you break your fast.
As mentioned above the Daniel fast fast is particularly suitable for guidance, wisdom and revelation. It’s a 21 consecutive days fast where your intake is only water, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. If meat and dairy are part of your regular diet after 10 days or so you might need to eat some grains such as rice in order to sustain the fast until the end. On this fast you avoid meat, dairy, desserts, all forms of wheat (bread, pasta…) and other high-carbohydrate grains like bulgor. In addition to the insight and Holy Spirit counsel you’ll receive when you seek the Lord with this type of fast, another advantage is that by eating such a healthy diet over a period of 3 weeks your body starts to adapt to that type of diet so that you can adopt these life changes for the long term.
As your endurance to fasting builds you can try a liquids-only 3-day fast. On this type of fast you drink only water and fruit juices. Avoid complex liquids such as almond or rice milk, soups, etc. which contain protein and oils. What you drink needs to be very light and easily assimilated by the body.
The natural progression of this fast is to extend the fast to 4 days and beyond, with the Lord setting the limit as to how many days you can go without food. The first three days of a fast are always the hardest, and most people quit fasting when they’re reached the three days. Those who persevere beyond this point will start to experience much closer communion with the Lord, where it seems that He is present in your every thought and your every thought is of Him. You move into a place of real hunger for His Spirit and His power. If you decide to try to go beyond 3 days of fasting I strongly recommend that you hydrate yourself well (although without excess) and drink a variety of juices so that your body is receiving life-sustaining amounts of the different vitamins and minerals it needs. If you’re praying and studying the Word of God during this fast and really listening for the Holy Spirit’s instructions you’ll know when it’s time to stop fasting and slowly resume eating again. Personally I’ve been able to sustain this fast for almost three weeks, but that was my limit!
I find the Esther fast the hardest one of all. The Esther fast is a 3-day dry fast: no food, no juice, no water, nothing for a full 3 days. I’ve done this fast a couple of times upon instruction of the Lord. Not my cup of tea, but sometimes you just have to obey and do what the Lord is calling you to do. This is a severe “emergency” fast to turn around circumstances that the enemy has conjured up against you. Because I’m used to drinking a lot of water on this type of fast I struggle with thirst more than hunger, and by the third day I’m counting the hours to the end. Having said that, I once had the beautiful experience of the Lord inviting me to extend my dry fast to four days and I was allowed to enter “the secret place of the Most High” referenced in Psalm 91.
How to prepare a fast
Sometimes you don’t have much advance notice and just have to start your fast in intercession for someone who really needs your help. But whenever possible it’s good to be able to set the date a few days in advance and prepare the fast by praying for grace to do the fast without too much difficulty. When the Lord gives you grace you don’t feel so hungry or thirsty and are able to complete your fast victoriously. Grace helps you to continue to carry out your daily responsibilities without feeling weak. Having said that, it’s very important while fasting that you spend enough time in prayer and the Word (the bread of life, the manna from heaven) and that you get adequate rest. You will need more sleep than normal but you’ll be surprised at how much energy you’ll have once you get out of bed and get yourself going. Fasting actually increases your energy level.
How often should you fast?
Fasting is an essential Christian discipline. It’s not optional. In Matthew 6 when discussing praying and fasting Jesus didn’t say “if you pray” or “if you fast”. Instead He said “when you pray” and “when you fast”. This means that both are an integral part of a believer’s life.
How often you should fast depends on your spiritual goals and on the type of fast you choose to do. I’ve been doing one long fast a year (2 to 3 weeks) for the past couple of years, with 3 or 4-day fasts (dry or liquid) once a month plus an additional 24-hour fast here and there. I allow the Lord to guide me as to the necessity, the severity and the frequency of the fasts. If you’re not in ministry you probably don’t require such an intense fasting schedule. You want every fast to be a victory so set ambitious yet achievable goals for yourself. The Holy Spirit will help you to stretch and grow in this important area of discipleship.
Whatever fast you choose to do and for however long, you must bring it under the control and supervision of the Holy Spirit. Let Him be your guide and teacher. Fasting is a very personal experience with God. Even when a group of believers agrees to do a group fast in unity for shared goals, people do and should fast differently based on their level of spiritual development, fasting track record, health condition and physical endurance. For your own safety you should build up your fasting “muscle” progressively.
Benefits of fasting
There are many physical benefits of fasting, too long a list to enumerate here. But this shouldn’t be the main reason why we fast. Fasting is about experiencing closer communion with God and entering with Him into the realm of the supernatural.
The spiritual information in this article is provided as an information resource only based on Bible teachings and my own personal experience with fasting over the past four and a half years.
The opinions expressed in this article are not to be taken as medical advice and are not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-physician relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment of any health condition.
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