January is a month where everybody and their momma are participating in some kind of fast. I think it's a great way to start the New Year. A good question to ask yourself is, why am I fasting? Is it a yearly tradition? Is it because the church is doing it, or is it personal for me? I believe there should be a purpose to your fasting and the length of it should be inspired by God.
The word fast means "to abstain". In the spiritual sense it means to abstain from food. Fasting is an important part of your spiritual life. “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret” Matthew 6:17-18. Jesus did not say "if" you fast, but "when" you fast. Fasting is a form of cleansing and repentance and draws you closer to God. When you fast from food for a certain period of time, it causes your selfish desires to come under subjection. When this happens you allow Gods desires to take control. When you empty yourself of food, you replace that emptiness with prayer and the word of God. As you meditate on God's word, it begins to cleanse the unrighteous areas of your life. This would be a fast for your own sanctification.
Another purpose for fasting is to get God's attention to specific needs in your life or in the life of others. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this because there are examples of folk in the bible who have fasted for God to meet their needs. This year I was on a personal fast with very specific needs that were extremely important to me and my family. I started out on the 21 day Daniel Fast because its always been tradition to do this fast in January. Honestly, I started to feel like this fast is too long (for me). The food aspect of it was not that challenging (for me) because I could still eat. Yes, the Daniel fast is a restricted diet but I found myself filling up on the things I could eat. Lastly, I didn't feel focused or connected to God. I told myself if I spent one hour in prayer and reading the bible, then I could watch tv. Yeah ok, I found myself on Facebook, Instagram, and waching more tv than spending time with God. It didnt seem like a sacrifice, I was just going through the motions. 12 days into the fast I decided to shorten it and make it more stringent so that I could focus on my relationship with God and my specific needs. Honestly, the shorter version felt more meaningful.
What I learned on this fast is that too many of us try to emulate fasts that we read about in the bible, and most times it's not necessary for us to do them. The normal biblical fast is one day, from sun up to sun down. Many of the extended fasts (40 day, 3 day etc.) we read about were God inspired and therefore the individual was supernaturally graced to complete their fast. If God impresses upon you to do an extended fast, by all means do it! He will sustain you. If not,
It really doesn't matter how long or how short your fast is. Make sure there is a purpose to it. Incorporate love, humility and repentance. Be sincere in your sacrifice to God so that he may honor it. Remember, God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.
Here are three types of extended biblical fasts and the different needs that caused people to fast:
The 40 Day Fast:
God looked upon Esther and her people's fast. He saw the sincerity of their hearts and the seriousness of the situation and he intervened. In the end the Jews were not destroyed. How awesome is that!! A nation was not destroyed because of a 3 day fast seeking protection from the Lord. Read the book of Esther in the bible for the complete story.
"I Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over" Daniel 10:2,3. Daniel received a vision from the Lord regarding the future of his people (the Israelite nation) but he didn't understand it. He fasted for 21 days until he received the revelation.
This bible fast allows you to eat fruits, vegetables and water only. It's known to be a fast for wisdom and understanding. Many people follow this fast for guidance, instruction or understanding in a particular area or situation in their lives.
Be blessed and wise in your fasting!