How to Start Fasting

Join Us for 3 Weekly Fasts (Oct 11 – Nov 1)

Please join us as we fast once per week on the day of your choosing for the 3 weeks of October 11–November 1. We are committing to do this as a church for the purpose of vividly reminding ourselves that we prefer the eternal over the temporary. We are dedicating ourselves to leaving an eternal impact.

The Purpose of Fasting

Fasting is practicing self-denial in order to remind ourselves that only Christ satisfies us. Our hunger reminds that we "hunger and thirst for righteousness" even more than food (Matt 5:6). Every pang of hunger reminds us to pray and turns our eyes to Christ. Every ache of the stomach turns our thoughts not to our empty stomachs but our needy souls. We seek not to be filled with food but with the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22–23).

Christ expected his followers to fast just as he expected them to pray.  Jesus says to his followers, "When you fast," (Matt 6:16) and said that we "will fast" (Matt 9:15).

Fasting is an exceptional measure, designed to channel and express our desire for God and our holy discontent in a fallen world. It is for those not satisfied with the status quo. For those who want more of God’s grace. For those who feel truly desperate for God. — Desiring God

How to Fast

Fasting is a discipline that must be learned. Consider these lessons as you take your first steps.

1. Start with a Partial Fast.

Take it one step at a time. A Normal Fast abstains from all food but not water for several meals, but we recommend starting out with a Partial Fast of a limited diet, such as abstaining from solids for two meals while still drinking juice to sustain sugar and energy levels. On your second fast, you may take the next step. See also our post on The Physical Steps of Fasting.

2. Fast for a Purpose.

As Dr. Don Whitney says, "Without a spiritual purpose for your fast it's just a weight-loss fast" (Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life). Surveying examples and teachings on fasting in the Bible, Whitney has cataloged ten purposes for fasting. At the beginning of your day of fasting, pick a category and a specific prayer that you will pray throughout that day.

  1. To strengthen prayer (Ezra 8:23; Neh 1:4; Danie 9:3; Joel 2:12-17; Acts 13:3)
  2. To seek God’s guidance (Judges 20:26-28; Acts 14:23)
  3. To express grief (Judges 20:26; 1 Sam 31:11-13; 2 Sam 1:11-12)
  4. To seek from God deliverance or protection (2 Chr 20:3-4; Ezra 8:21-23; Esther 4:16; Ps 109:21-26)
  5. To express repentance and the return to God (1 Sam 7:6; Joel 2:12; Jonah 3:5-8)
  6. To humble oneself before God (1 Kings 21:27-29; Ps 35:13)
  7. To express concern for the work of God (Neh 1:3-11; Isa 58:6-7; Daniel 9:3)
  8. To minister to the needs of others (Isa 58:6-7)
  9. To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God (Matt 4:1-11)
  10. To express love and worship to God (Luke 2:37)

We are specifically focusing on our earnest desire to see the lost in our community come to faith in Jesus. We are also asking God to guard us against the schemes of the evil one as we continue to push back darkness.

3. Substitute Prayer for Mealtimes.

Since you aren't eating, that doesn't mean you've got spare time on your hands. Instead, you've got an extra three devotional times in addition to your normal devotional time. With four set-aside times for prayer during the day, and many quick prayers throughout the day prompted by every pang of hunger, you will certainly start to understand what it feels like to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17).

4. Guard Against "Showing Off."

Jesus taught, "when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward" (Matt 6:16). In other words, be careful about telling everyone about your fast. It is tempting to seek the respect and esteem of others because we are fasting. One who is truly fasting is too caught up in his pursuit of God to be concerned with the praise of men.

5. Focus on Heart Change, not Rules.

Don't focus on distracting questions like, "Is this or that allowed in fasting?" Fasting isn't about rules that earn favor with God. Nobody's checking your report card. Fasting is a way to emphasize your prayers through disciplining yourself. Set your personal rules at the beginning of your day and make sure you don't compromise. Avoid compromise. That should be your only rule. That being said, on your first fast, you will need to play it safe for health reasons, which leads into our last point. 

6. Consider Your Health.

Consider your particular health concerns by consulting a doctor or adapting your fast. Take your first fast slow and watch how your body reacts. Diabetics, nursing mothers, those fighting migraines, and others may need to keep an extra watch on their sugar levels, perhaps never giving up juices. If health prohibits any type of food fast, consider fasting from something other than food. Fast from something that is regular, healthy, and perhaps needed but that you can do without for one day.

Fasting is for this world, for stretching our hearts to get fresh air beyond the pain and trouble around us. And it is for the battle against the sin and weakness inside us. We express our discontent with our sinful selves and our longing for more of Christ.

When Jesus returns, fasting will be done. It’s a temporary measure, for this life and age, to enrich our joy in Jesus and prepare our hearts for the next — for seeing him face to face. When he returns, he will not call a fast, but throw a feast; then all holy abstinence will have served its glorious purpose and be seen by all for the stunning gift it was.

Until then, we will fast. — Desiring God

Essential Reading

Additional Resources