Although this page will focus primarily on a discussion of fasting, it is discussed in the greater context of prayer and fasting. Christian fasting is always a tool for focussing and enhancing prayer. Prayer is by far the most important. Although I write about fasting from the perspective that it is the individual believers choice to use fasting to enhance self-discipline and prayer, I find it interesting that most of the servant leaders who have contributed significantly to the Christian faith practiced regular fasting. These include within scripture: Moses, David, Elijah, Esther, Daniel, Paul, and of course our Lord and Savior its founder. Within recent history, we see examples from Luther, Calvin, Knox, Wesley, Edwards, and Finney. It, however, remains a matter of choice.
The day devoted to prayer and fasting is a day of concentration on our Lord. I think the best description of this necessary concentration is found in the October 3rd reading of Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, where he comments on Mark 9:29.
“His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?” (Mark 9:29) The answer lies in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “This kind can come out by nothing but” concentrating on Him, and then doubling and redoubling that concentration on Him. We can remain powerless forever, as the disciples were in this situation, by trying to do God’s work without concentrating on His power, and by following instead the ideas that we draw from our own nature. We actually slander and dishonor God by our very eagerness to serve Him without knowing Him.”
So fasting is about concentrating in prayer at such a level that we carry it over into all of our other days. To understand other ways of how fasting integrates into the total Christian life, read Food in God’s Place.
Fasting affects each person differently, and even when you practice it regularly, the experience is not always the same. Sometimes it will be agonizing and you will feel fatigued. Other times you may be testy and irritable. And sometimes you will feel great and have lots of energy. Whatever the experience, it is fervent persistent prayer that will move you through it.
Even after much practice, I still view my fasting days with a sort of low grade dread. I dislike it, but it is the day after where I usually see the blessing and the benefit. It is like choosing to have a bad day, then with prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit finding a way to move through it. I view my prayer and fasting days as intense training for all the other days. Fasting helps to refine and enhance our prayer focus, but it also enhances our other natural tendencies. If we are quick to anger, we may be somewhat more so on a fasting day. If we are quick to give up, then we may struggle in this area a little more on a fasting day. If your commitment to Christ is loose or wavering, whatever controls you will likely be revealed on your fasting day in your time of going without. Be prepared to face it in prayer. As Chambers says, double and redouble your concentration on Jesus.
So I’m trying to encourage you to do something I dislike, but do it because it will change your prayer life dramatically. And when you change your prayer life, you will have an intimacy with God you never knew before. This is the main reason I chose to write Food in God’s Place because the fictional dialogue format between Anna and Jesus helps communicate the value, growth, and God relationship possible with prayer and fasting. Reading the book will make it easier to try the thing you might possibly dread.
It is best to fast on a day where you will have sufficient time to devote to prayer. Also it is best, if possible, to choose a day free of anticipated challenging interactions at work or at home.
Suggestions of what to eat before and after:
The more you prepare and plan the easier it will be. If you use caffeine and eat a lot of sugar and simple carbohydrates, it will be harder. If possible, try and cut back on these a few days before your fast. My regular coffee and tea intake is down to one or two cups a day, and I can usually fast without difficulty. When I first tried fasting, I was drinking more coffee at that time, and I did have trouble with caffeine withdrawal headaches.