Spiritual fasting is done for many reasons.
One reason is to control your flesh
As a Christian having control over your flesh is important. If you do not have control over your flesh, then your flesh will control you and lead you into making bad decisions.
It is the desire of the flesh that teaches us to sleep with a man too soon, the flesh that teaches us to steal money because we wants more, and it is the flesh that leads us to cheat on our spouses. The temptation of the world is never going to go away, but we can control weather we feed into the temptations or not by learning mind over matter, and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us and not the things of the world.
To Petition God for something
There are many times in the Bible where you see people fasting when they want to get an answer to their prayers.
“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16
Esther fasted before she went before the king uninvited to ask for the salvation of her people. The prayer that she wanted to be answered was
- Not to get her head chopped off because she knew that if she went to the king uninvited then losing her head was a very real possibility.
- To save the Jewish people since they were about to be killed by Haman.
Even though it was just 3 days, can you imagine how hungry and dehydrated she must have felt? Not only did she not eat but she did not drink. The harder you fast, the more willing God is to hear your petition for your prayer. That is because you are not getting distracted by food and water, which is the basic need for keeping yourself alive. Instead you are saying
“God I do not need food at this time, all I need is you.”
David fasted before his child died.
“David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground.” 2 Samuel 12:16
David knew that God was going to take his child, but he fasted as a way to change his mind. It did not work and the child died anyway. This is an important lesson to learn about fasting. Although fasting can get you an answer from God or have God move on your prayer request. If God’s answer is no, then no amount of fasting is going to change that.
What To Give Up
There are many ways to fast. I believe that you can choose whatever way that you want. The main point is that you are denying your flesh. Therefore, if you are already a vegetarian then it would not be wise for you to give up meat. Because in reality you are not really giving up anything and that is not a fast.
Now if you are a true meat lover and you decide to give up meat then that is a true fast. Even though you are not giving up food entirely, you are denying your flesh and giving up something that is hard for you to give up. And that is what God appreciates. The harder the fast, the more God will pay attention to your petition.
How Long To Fast
The length of the fast depends on you. But the whole point is that the fast must be hard. If you make it too easy, then you are not really doing anything at all. God knows your heart and when you are faking the funk. He will respect someone who fast for 3 days and it was hard for them over someone who fasted for a week and it was easy.
What to do when you fast.
The whole point of spiritual fasting is to spend time with God. You should
- Pray often
- Read Your Bible
- Keep a journal about what you feel God is telling you in this time or what he wants you to do.
Recommended reading and Journals To Help Your Fast:
- Fasting Journal: Your Personal 21-Day Guide to a Successful Fast.
- Quieting Your Heart: 30-Day Prayer Journal – Love Edition
- A Wife’s 40-Day Fasting and Prayer Journal: A Guide to Strategic Prayer
When fasting you should be getting closer to God. That is always the man point of spiritual fasting. Not so that you can shed a few pounds so you can go to South Beach.
No one should know your fasting
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18
I think this verse speaks for itself. You are not fasting for other people. You should not be fasting so that other people can see how “holy” you are. You are fasting for God, and therefore you should be happy when you fast. Do not tell people that you are starving or how hungry you are, do not make yourself look sick, and do not randomly go to the ER because you feel that you are starving to death and have only been fasting for three hours. All of those things put the focus back on you and not on God where it should be.