An Introduction to Prayer and Fasting
Welcome to 21 days of prayer and fasting at Renew church. We are so excited for all that God has for us in this season as we “make room” for Him. You’re invited join with us as we let God come and be all He wants to be, and do all He wants to do in our lives.
At Renew we have been doing 21 days of prayer and fasting for several years but this year we are making a real effort to get the whole church involved. Whether you have prayed and fasted previously, or whether this is the first time you have tried this, we are confident that this season of seeking God will be one of the greatest times that will see you find a new depth in your walk with God. You might be thinking that fasting is for the “super spiritual” Christian heavyweights, but it really is an essential practice for anyone who wants to move on in their Christian walk.
There are several different ways that you can get involved, so please take time to read the section on fasting in this booklet and follow the guidelines regarding your health. We also recommend watching a message from our friends at CLM Coventry. You can watch this by searching “CLM Church The Power of Prayer and Fasting” or by clicking HERE.
Fasting: What is it?
Simply put, fasting is a spiritual discipline which is taught in the Bible, whereby food is reduced or eliminated during a period of prayer.
The New Testament clearly teaches fasting to be a ‘normal’ part of the Christian’s life. Jesus taught His disciples about fasting (Matthew 6:16-18) and He undertook a very significant fast Himself before he began His ministry (Luke 4:1-15). The disciples heard God speak to them ‘while worshipping and fasting’ (Acts 13:2), they commissioned Paul and Barnabas after fasting and praying (Acts 13:3) and appointed elders ‘with prayer and fasting’ (Acts 14:23).
Fasting can be hugely beneficial during a time of seeking God. The discipline of reducing or eliminating food can help to bring the appetites of our body and soul under submission. In Psalm 35:13 (NASB), David says, ‘I humbled my soul with fasting’. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul says ‘I discipline my body’ – no doubt helped by the fact that he was ‘often in fasting’ (2 Corinthians 11:27 ESV).
Fasting can also heighten our spiritual sensitivity and it is not uncommon to sense the Presence of God more strongly than normal during a time of prayer and fasting. Fasting can also create both extra time and additional focus for our prayer and worship.
Besides this, the Bible shows us that fasting can be fruitful in other ways too:
-In the Book of Esther, a corporate time of fasting brought forth an amazing breakthrough (Esther 4:16-5:3).
-In Ezra, God’s people were protected as they fasted and prayed (Ezra 8:22-23).
-In Judges 20:26-28 God’s people were delivered as they sought the Lord with prayer and fasting.
-And Jehoshaphat called the people of Judah to a fast when they were being attacked on all sides and as they declared their dependence upon God through prayer, the Lord brought about a famous victory (2 Chronicles 20:2-25).
We will not impress God by our fasting, although the discipline of fasting can definitely help us to be more prayerful and draw near to God, and it is not uncommon to experience some kind of breakthrough following a fast.
TYPES OF FASTING
There are various forms of fasting. We recognise four distinct types of fasting:
The Full Fast
This is the elimination of all food for a period of time. Some might only drink water, others might drink fruit juices at standard meal-times (which can be surprisingly sustaining) or some other liquids such as squash – hot or cold. This might be for a day, or a number of days. This is the normal type of fast found in the Bible.
The Partial Fast
This is where food is eaten, but not at certain times – for example: forgoing lunch or not eating before 6:00pm.
The Selective (or ‘Daniel’) Fast
This is where certain foods are not eaten during a period of fasting. In Daniel 10, Daniel fasted from ‘choice foods, meat and wine’ for a period of 21 days and then he received a breakthrough. It would be common for people undertaking a Daniel fast to eliminate snacks, treats, meats and alcohol.
The Soul Fast
This is where certain elements of distraction and/or entertainment are eliminated either entirely, or during certain periods of time. It could mean coming off YouTube, Social Media, and/or TV/Netflix altogether or during certain hours, in order to pray. It could mean limiting ‘screen time’ each day. This type of fasting can be helpful for everyone, either alongside a food fast of some type, or in place of a food fast, for those who are unable to, or would consider it unwise to fast from food.
WHICH FAST TO DO?
During the 21 Days of Prayer, we are encouraging everyone at Renew to consider fasting in some way, for at least some of the time, as part of a special season of devotion to God. It is important to remember that fasting is to help you to pray and to press into God. It is neither compulsory, nor a competition! We recommend you ask God what He wants you to do. If God speaks to you clearly, then have faith to step out.
Ordinarily, we would recommend building your stamina. For instance, if you have never fasted at all before, then a ‘normal fast’ for one day per week, or a partial fast might be a good way to begin. Also, if you are taking medication, if you are pregnant, if you are still growing, if you have an eating disorder, or struggle with disordered eating*, we would recommend you plan a soul fast and seek medical advice if you want to do more. If for any reason, emotional or physical, you normally struggle to take on board the necessary amount of calories, then we would recommend that you don’t undertake a food fast. Similarly, if you have unhealthy or controlling habits around your eating (often indicated by the fact you would not want people to know about them) we would encourage you not to fast from food.
Also, we believe ‘it is not what you fast from, but what you fast to that is most important’. What we mean by this is that creating time for prayer and worship, and to be studying God’s Word is more important than what food you are cutting out. Fasting without prayer is starvation. Fasting with prayer is great gain!
1. Plan well
Decide at least a few days in advance exactly what you will do – when you will start your fast (determining the last time you will eat before you begin your fast); when will you break your fast; and exactly what will you fast from. Thinking it through and being very clear will really help you to stay on track and apply yourself mentally.
2. Don’t forget that God is with you!
This might seem strange to say, but it is surprisingly easy to drop into a mentality of thinking you are doing this for God. It is good to approach fasting knowing that you are doing this with God. He wants to walk it with you. He wants to assure you with His presence when you feel hungry. Talk to Him about how you feel. Let Him be your comfort and your reward.
3. Consider your responsibilities
If you are married, discuss your plans with your spouse. Consider your work commitments. Factor in what your children will need if you are a parent. Be wise and realistic and don’t abandon your responsibilities!
4. Water and caffeine
If you are undertaking a full (food) fast, remember to drink more water than usual (to compensate for the fluid intake that normally comes through food). Also, if you are a regular coffee or tea drinker, it is common to experience headaches (especially in the first couple of days) if coming off caffeine during a full (food) fast. If you come off caffeine 2-3 days before you begin your food fast, it can help significantly.
f you are undertaking a ‘full fast’ for more than 2 days, be ready to make sure you have time to rest well. As you take in less ‘fuel’ than normal, you may feel a little tired and some extra rest or sleep time will help.
6. Don’t be surprised by:
– The Cold: Again, if food fasting, you may feel a couple of degrees colder than normal, so wear an additional layer!
– Heightened emotions: With the absence of food, you may feel a little irritable at times! Position yourself joyfully and determine to be gracious with those around you – especially the ones closest to home.
– Bad Breath: Regular brushing of the teeth, use of mouth wash and chewing gum should help.
Firstly, you are likely to have made some significant spiritual progress. Don’t be in a hurry to return to old habits! Hold the ground you have taken. Consider what needs to change ongoing now.
Secondly, if you have undertaken an extended period of fasting from food, be gentle on re-entry. Some soup and bread in small portions might be a wise start and avoid rich foods until your body has returned to normal. If you are undertaking a full fast for more than seven days for the first time, we recommend you read up on how to break your fast in a healthy way.
Also please contact us if there is anything we might be able to help you with.
It is so important for us to recognise that fasting doesn’t change God or His willingness to hear us. However, it does change us and it can be a gateway for breakthrough.
The author and theologian Andrew Murray said:
“Fasting helps to express, to deepen, to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything…to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God”.
May you grow in God, know His Presence powerfully, and experience breakthrough as you seek Him through prayer and fasting!