For some, thinking about this biblical and spiritual discipline may be new. We want to pass along some resources to help you in your study and (hopefully) to help you in your own attempts at fasting. Like any new discipline, this will not come naturally. It will take practice. That’s normal. We trust that over time you will come to value it in your relationship with God. Here are a few suggestions to consider for a day of fasting:
Plan an exact time when your fast begins and ends.
If you are not intentional about what time you will start and what time you will end, it is almost impossible to be disciplined about it. You will want to head into a day of fasting with resolve. Choosing the time will help you do that!
Plan what foods and beverages you will abstain from.
Not everyone is able to fast from all food or drink for a full day. That’s perfectly okay! Keep your fast focused on a heart to seek more of God. However, you will need to head into your day of fasting with a clear list of what you are choosing to abstain from eating and or drinking. One suggestion would be to write your list down. This is another way be resolved about your fast.
If this is your first time fasting, have grace for yourself.
One way to put a serious damper on developing the discipline of fasting is to set the bar too high, too soon. This often leads to breaking the fast before you had hoped and discouragement. If this happens, don’t beat your self up. Remember why you are doing this. Fasting is not about what you can accomplish, but rather what God can accomplish in your weaknesses and dependence on Him. If this is your first time fasting, consider fasting from one or two meals instead of all three. Then work your way up from there as you become stronger in the discipline.
The whole purpose of fasting is to sharpen your awareness of your need for God. So, don’t just skip meals and eat time with other distractions. Repurpose that time and focus to direct your attention to God in prayer and in reading God’s Word. As you plan out your day of fasting, pray and ask God to help you. Have a planned response to your hunger pains. For example, each time you feel hungry you could pray this simple prayer: “Lord, my body is hungry, will you make my spirit hungry for you.”
These are just a few thoughts to help you get started. Below are some more robust resources to aid you in this practice.
The following are generally arranged from easiest to hardest (or maybe it’s better to think of it as shortest time investment to longest). Though Scripture is the only completely reliable guide for our lives, we hope these supplemental resources will prove helpful to you as well.
“Fasting for Beginners” – Article by David Mathis
A short, helpful, practical guide for those who new to fasting.
“Why Do Christians Fast?” – Interview with John Piper
A 12 minute audio clip of Pastor John Piper talking about fasting.
A Celebration of Discipline – Book by Richard Foster
While we might differ on some matters, this book on the spiritual life from the contemplative tradition includes a helpful chapter on fasting.
A Hunger for God – Book by John Piper
A wonderful exploration of the Bible’s teaching about fasting to shape your heart and life.