Why we Fast
In the gospels, Jesus’ disciples are criticized for not fasting while the Pharisees and John’s disciples gave themselves to fasting. Jesus responded that as long as He, the Bridegroom was with them, there was no need to fast. But there would come a day when He would be physically taken away from them and on that day they and we, his disciples would fast. We fast in order to draw closer to Jesus and remind ourselves of our exclusive need for Him.
Is a physical reminder of a spiritual reality…our need and dependence upon Jesus
Gives us clarity in hearing Jesus’ voice
Helps us to discern God’s specific call for us in His mission
Gives us heightened spiritual awareness
Gives us breakthrough in difficult areas of our life
Draws us to a deeper place of intercessory prayer for the lost and injustice in our cities
Is not magic!! It is a physical reminder of a spiritual reality…our desperate need for God.
Prepare Yourself Spiritually
The very foundation of fasting and prayer is drawing closer to God. Here are several things you can do throughout your fast to prepare your heart to receive from God and respond to Him.
Ask God to bring to mind places in your life that not submitted to His leadership.
Confess every sin that the Holy Spirit calls to your remembrance and accept God's forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
Seek forgiveness from all whom you have offended, and forgive all who have hurt you (Mark 11:25; Luke 11:4; 17:3,4).
Make restitution as the Holy Spirit leads you.
Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit according to His command in Ephesians 5:18 and His promise in 1 John 5:14,15.
Surrender your life fully to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master; refuse to obey your worldly nature (Romans 12:1,2).
Meditate on the attributes of God, His love, sovereignty, power, wisdom, faithfulness, grace, compassion, and others (Psalm 48:9,10; 103:1-8, 11-13).
Begin your time of fasting and prayer with an expectant heart (Hebrews 11:6).
Do not underestimate spiritual opposition. Satan sometimes intensifies the natural battle between body and spirit (Galatians 5:16,17).
During meal times, rather than eating…spend time in prayer, worship and reading Scripture.
Gather with people in your microchurch, family or friends to pray and seek God together.
Prepare Yourself Physically
Fasting requires reasonable precautions. Consult your physician first, especially if you take prescription medication or have a chronic ailment. Some persons should never fast from food. If that is you, as Brian suggested, find another place in your life to make a significant fast. Physical preparation makes the drastic change in your eating routine a little easier so that you can turn your full attention to the Lord.
Do not rush into your fast.
Try small fasts before we begin the First 7. This could be fasting from one or two meals a day. Maybe you could try a 24 hour fast (dinner – dinner) before you begin the First 7.
Prepare your body. Eat smaller meals before starting a fast. Avoid high-fat and sugary foods. Don’t gorge yourself on New Year’s Eve!
Eat raw fruit and vegetables for two days before starting a fast.
Preparation on the Final Day Before the Fast
Avoid caffeine, alcohol and salty foods that will worsen the effects of not drinking and contribute to dehydration.
Drink lots of water. Stocking up on extra water will help stave off the effects of dehydration during the fast.
Eat normal sized meals: While being well hydrated will help stave off the effects of dehydration, over eating will not stave off the effects of hunger and may make you more uncomfortable. The excess fluids needed for your body to process large meals may also lead to dehydration.
Focus on complex carbohydrates like those found in pasta, breads, rice, fruits, vegetables, and beans. These are best for maintaining your body's muscle energy levels during the fast. These will help your body absorb water more efficiently, so eating carbs will aid in staying hydrated during the fast. Proteins and fats do not have this same hydration benefit. Whole-grain products and fruits/vegetables that are high in fiber are best, as these will not only provide energy but are slower to digest and will keep you feeling fuller the longest.
On Being Attentive to Your Body During Your Fast
Your time of fasting and prayer has come. You are abstaining from all solid foods and have begun to seek the Lord. Here are some helpful suggestions to consider:
If you are taking ongoing medication, be sure to consult with your doctor before fasting asking them how to go about taking your medication on a changed diet. It may be that you need to eat a piece of bread or something light in order to take your medication. Be sure to check with your doctor first.
IMPORTANT: be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day
Avoid caffeinated drinks. And avoid chewing gum or mints, even if your breath is bad.
Limit your physical activity.
If you exercise regularly, do so only moderately or consider ceasing exercise for the seven days.
Take time to rest. The point of our fast is to slow down and re-focus on Jesus.
Prepare yourself for temporary mental discomforts, such as impatience, crankiness, and anxiety.
Expect some physical discomforts, especially on the second day. You may have fleeting hunger pains, dizziness, or the "blahs." Withdrawal from caffeine and sugar may cause headaches. Physical annoyances may also include weakness, tiredness, or sleeplessness.
The first two or three days are usually the hardest. As you continue to fast, you will likely experience a sense of well-being both physically and spiritually. However, should you feel hunger pains, increase your liquid intake.
Ending Your Fast
Here are some suggestions to help you end your fast properly:
DO NOT eat a big meal upon completing your fast. Here are some specific suggestions for coming off your fast:
Day 1: Raw salad and fruit, have small snacks throughout the day
Day 2: Raw salad, fruit and baked or boiled potato, no butter or seasoning.
Day 3: Add a steamed vegetable and begin to easily reintroduce your normal diet.
Additional Resources for Fasting