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What fasting is...and isn't...

Why Christians should fast...

When ..and when not.. to fast

How long to fast for...

What to take....and what to avoid...

How to use the time...

How to behave...

When to stop...

What to do if.....

Further study...

Study 1 - FASTING
What fasting is..
Fasting is the discipline and practice of combining prayer with periods of denying all foods or particular foods. Christian fasting is always linked to prayer.
 
What fasting isn't..
Because fasting is combined with prayer it is NOT the same as:
  • giving up things for Lent
  • dieting
  • being sponsored to go without meals to raise money for good causes
  • hunger striking

 

Why fast?

Tradition

Fasting has been an important aspect of Christian practice throughout since the days of the apostles. Further back, in Judaism, the root of Christianity, fasting was a well-established tradition.

 

Scripture

The Bible, gives clear guidelines for fasting. Jesus Himself taught how we should behave when we fast and He explained that some seemingly intractable problems could only be dealt with by prayer and fasting.

 

Experience
Hundreds of thousands of Christians across the world fast regularly or occasionally and testify to the focus and discipline it brings to their prayer life.

 

When to fast..
There are only two times to fast:

  • when you feel prompted to do so by the Holy Spirit
  • when you wish to show support and solidarity with fellow Christians who have been called to fast: e.g. when your church holds a day of prayer and fasting

 

When not to fast...

  • when you want to lose weight (er..God knows what's going on in your head and heart...)
  • when you want to prove to yourself or someone else how spiritual you are
  • when you are determined to fast "until God does something about..." - that's spiritual blackmail and akin to hunger-striking (you'll only get hungry and miserable)
  • when you feel pressured by other people to do it
  • when you are ill or on medication

 

How long?..
There is no direct correlation between period of fasting and answered prayer. It is not the case that the longer you fast the more answered prayers you get....

Typical fasts can last:

  • From dawn till dusk: this is based on a traditional Jewish fasting period
  • A day: a 24 hour fast
  • Three days: the period of time Esther fasted (Esther 4 v15)
  • Twenty-one days: the period that Daniel fasted (Daniel 10 v 2)
  • Forty days: the period that Jesus fasted in the wilderness (Matthew 4 v 1)
  • It can also be appropriate to fast for one meal, or for any other period of time believe right....

 

What to drink or eat...
There are three types of fast:

 

How to use the time...
It is not always possible to take the whole fasting period out to devote it to prayer. Few Christians can actually pray for long periods of time anyway! You are likely to have work or domestic or caring duties to do while you fast. Try to spend the extra time you have (normally spent in food-shopping. preparation and eating) in prayer and reading your Bible or other devotional material.

 

How to behave...
Normally! Jesus had stern things to say about people who went around looking gloomy and dishevelled when they were fasting. He also had strong words for people who made a great display of their fasting. Unless you are fasting along with other Christians for a specific purpose, you should do it as quietly and discretely as possible.

The fact you may have been unaware of how extensive and regular fasting is today, is testimony to the quiet faithfulness of all those who practice it.

 

When to stop..

 

What to do if..
You eat something by mistake...
It happens - someone offers you a sweet or biscuit and you eat it without thinking! Don't worry. Just apologise to God and keep going. God is not going to cancel answering your prayers because of a momentary oversight and a Hob-Nob...

You get to a point where you can't face going on with the fast..
Try having something different to drink - e.g. of you have been on fruit juice, try fruit tea. Lay the situation before God. If you still feel you can't go on - stop. Have something to eat. Be thankful and commit all you have done to God. Continue to pray for the rest of the period as you would have done on the fast.

Don't be wracked with guilt. Everyone who has fasted has had times when they have had to stop before they intended. Fasting is a love-offering we make to God - He is neither going to punish you nor write you off because you quit the fast early.

Be open to fasting again when you are prompted to do so.

 

 

 

 

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