When I hear the word “fasting,” I often think, oh no, I can’t enjoy my favorite entrées and desserts. And when my pastor invites the congregation to fast and pray, it may create a few concerns among people with dietary and medical restrictions. According to Matthew 6:16-18, to “fast” means to refrain from food for a longer than normal period. Those fasting should not dress or groom themselves so as to let others know what they are doing,
instead avail more time for prayer or other spiritual disciplines.
The Benefits of Fasting are Invaluable!
- Your prayer life is strengthened as you discipline yourself to read the Word of God.
- You gain self-discipline and more mental and spiritual focus.
- You will begin to hear God’s voice more clearly.
- Your body expels toxins when you fast because it acts as a self-detox.
However, if you are a foodie like me, knowing that fasting typically involves the abstinence of certain or all foods and/or water to achieve these benefits, might be a reluctant reality. In other words, we have to make a sacrifice. We have to give up something to gain much more. But does it have to be food? Well, I’m glad you asked, particularly if you are in the above category and cannot medically participate in a food and/or water fast there are other options. Before I address alternatives to a food fast, let’s look at the motives for fasting and examples of fasts in the Bible.
What were/are the Motives for Fasting?
Fasting can be regarded as an act of desperation for a move of God. In the Bible, the people who were led to fast needed something from God such as: divine wisdom, guidance, repentance, salvation, or victory in battles. Fasting told God, “I need You” and “I can’t do this without You.”
Today one may fast for the same reasons as listed above. People want their family to turn to Christ, so they sacrifice a material value in their life to spend time with God for salvation to happen. Many people simply fast to be closer to God. Fasting certainly will bring you closer to the Father, through time in prayer and reading and studying His Word. The Holy Spirit alone can give you the power and desire to start and complete a fast. Your eyes
always have to be on Jesus and not on your own efforts; otherwise, the fast would be in vain.
Fasting and praying go together. In order to see a great move of God in your life, you have to wrestle with God, and the best way to do so is by getting desperate. Praying dangerous, biblically based prayers and fasting to spend more time in His word.
Examples of Fasts in the Bible:
In Exodus 34:28, Moses fasted 40 days and nights without food or water. This resulted in hearing from God and writing the Ten Commandments.
In 1 Samuel 7:6, the Lord pressed upon Samuel to tell the Israelites to gather in Mizpah after repenting to God and putting away their idols. There they were told to fast for that day for their repentance.
In Esther 4:16, Queen Esther asked that Mordecai would gather all the Jews and fast along with her and her maidens three days without food or water. Esther was desperate to save the Jews (her people) from annihilation.
In Matthew 4, Luke 4, and Mark 1, Jesus fasts 40 days in the wilderness with no food, but He did drink water. Jesus did this to deny His flesh and be able to overcome the temptations of Satan.
In Acts 10:30, Cornelius fasted four days for the salvation of his family. An angel of the Lord appeared and told him that God had heard his prayers.
In Acts 14:23, two of the disciples, Paul and Barnabas, prayed and fasted in order to gain wisdom from God on appointing elders to the churches.
What Are Alternatives to a Food Fast?
While I have enjoyed the benefits of food and beverage fasts, simply turning off the television and depriving myself of history, art, drama, game shows, detective stories and even the so-called “news,” has truly been rewarding. I find the peace and quiet of no transmission of programming, including radio, spiritually awakening. It allows my focus to be much more vertical—on Jesus Christ and His Word. My prayer life is enhanced during
these periods of fasting as is my relationship with my heavenly Father. The cost of temporarily abstaining from food or any of the alternatives below to a food fast don’t compare to the benefits of fasting.
- Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.)
- Television (including watching professional sports)
- Entertainment (fairs, theaters, museums, art shows, concerts, etc.)
- Unnecessary telephone conversations
- Unnecessary shopping & spending
All of these things rob precious time from us that we cannot retrieve. And social media is a major offender. The first insight is in truly learning that social media is much more of a mindless habit—and a very strongly ingrained one—than a pleasurable or fulfilling activity.
Think about it: do you access these things out of compulsion or intention?
Challenge yourself by fasting from food (if viable) and/or social media. You may find that your time off social media may be more insightful than you imagined. It may strangely feel like more work to jump fully back into the fray and keep up with what’s allegedly going on (e.g., unfiltered chitchat and photos). It might even be exhausting. Your fast from social media might make you more intent on using it for thoughtful, purposeful actions rather than letting it control how you spend your time. Imagine using social media in a life-enhancing rather than life-consuming way.
Let us start and/or maintain a prayer and fasting lifestyle!
Gail is a native of Sacramento, the youngest of three daughters born to Joseph and Ida Rogers. After graduating Kennedy High School, she went on to graduate from CSU Sacramento and St. Mary’s College, where she received her graduate degree in Leadership.
Gail enjoys teaching and public speaking, and is passionate about helping meet the needs of single mothers and their families in their community. She and her husband are the proud parents of four children and eight grandchildren.