So once we decide to fast, what are the options?
Before I delve into specifics, please note:
It’s always best to consult a physician before abstaining from food. The ladies at ACWM and I are not health professionals and cannot give medical advice. Please be very careful when choosing to fast, especially if you have never fasted before.
Just as a reminder, fasting is meant to be a sacrifice. It’s supposed to be hard. If you’re not a breakfast person, God may not honor a fast where you to skip the first meal of the day. As you consider what you wish to abstain from, be sure to take your current lifestyle into account.
Types of Fasts:
1) Total Fast: No Food or Water
When faced with annihilation, Queen Esther and her people completely cut out food and water for 3 days. Because the human body can’t go without water for more than 72 hours, this a more extreme, more desperate type of fast. Due to the physical severity, most current resources don’t recommend this type of fast because our culture is much too fast-paced for this to be safe.
2) Liquid fast: No food, but juice, broth, and certain teas are consumed.
This appears to be the most common practice among Christians today because we can better maintain the strength we need for our day-to-day tasks. We can ingest just enough to sustain our busy lifestyle so we don’t have to alter our schedules. Dr. Don Colbert recommends buying a juicer for fruits and vegetables.
3) Partial Fast: Cutting out a meal or a certain type of food
The preferred method for Daniel seemed to be eating only fruits and vegetables; he abstained from choice meats and sweets/pastries. This is another popular type of fasting among believers today. I’ve heard of doing a caffeine fast (no sodas or coffee), and I have personally done a sugar fast. Another option is to skip specific meals.
Some Christian teachers believe that giving up food is not the only way to fast. Abstaining from entertainment such as social medial or TV has been suggested as an option. I heard of one situation where a breastfeeding mother, who clearly could not give up food, felt led by God to give up her devotions and podcasts to only read the Bible. While I can see the value in this kind of sacrifice, my personal belief is that this is not a true fast. Nothing like this is mentioned in Scripture; fasting consisted of giving up food.
What to choose:
In Bible times, when a fast was proclaimed, all the people did was seek the Lord; they didn’t work or shop or run errands. In our society, taking 3 days (or up to 40 days) off to do nothing but commune with God is probably not possible. Most of us are paid by the hour and need to be at work to support our families. We have kids who need to be driven to activities, we have church meetings and service commitments, we have laundry and dishes and pets.
For physical safety, and to best keep up your strength so you can do normal mom/wife things, I recommend doing a liquid fast or a partial fast.
If you feel you can cut back on commitments and seriously slow down, a total fast may work for you.
God’s idea vs. Our idea:
Some people believe that we should only fast when we feel the Holy Spirit tells us to. I disagree, because several Bible stories indicate that the person chose to fast – nothing is mentioned about God instructing them to fast. (See Jehosphat, Esther, Daniel.) While we can argue that they were probably prompted by the Spirit, we can’t say for sure.
I believe God honors fasting whether it’s our idea or His idea. Sometimes I am prompted to fast, but I have personally made the decision on my own, and God still honored my sacrifice. Also, once when I decided to fast, I felt God tell me ‘no’, for which I was grateful, because something stressful occurred that week and I would not have been able to handle the pressure if I’d had no food to give me energy.
Your body will object to a change in your eating habits. You will get uncomfortable, saying no to things you’ve previously indulged in, things that have become common in your day-to-day life. Our bodies get used to doing things a certain way, and when we change our habits with food, we have physical reactions to this change.
When we eat less food, we tend have less energy, and depending on how little we eat, we may become very weak. If we abstain from caffeine or sugar, we can expect to have headaches and fogginess, especially for the first couple days. So be prepared for your body to rebel a little, no matter what type of fast you choose.
You can also expect the enemy to come against you, trying to tempt you and convince you to quit. He may use many tactics, such as complicated schedules, gifts from friends, pressure from family, etc. So we must be prepared to stand strong in moments of weakness. (This is one reason getting the support of friends and family is so important, but more on that later.)
I hope this helps you decide what will work best for you! If you’re still not sure, just spend a few days talking with God and He’ll point you in the right direction! Next week we’ll discuss our purpose, motives and attitude.
Let me know if you’re going to join us January 10th-31st. Click here for more details on our 21-Day Group Fast!
And for more details on the subject of fasting, check out my list of resources.