Fasting as a practice for approximately 20 years, the Harris’s have experienced many benefits as a direct result and have learned many things. Initially failing more than succeeding, they learned from experience how NOT to fast. The following is a compilation of many of the lessons learned and suggested guidelines for participating in a safe and effective spiritual fast. References other than the Bible and personal experience include: “Guidelines For A Long Fast” by Dr. Barry Culberson, and Toxic Relief by Dr. Don Colbert.
FASTING - Frequently Asked Questions
The Webster’s definition of fasting is to abstain from all or certain foods. A Biblical fast is abstaining from all or certain foods in order to gain spiritual or supernatural benefit from God.
Many believe that fasting is an ancient discipline not relevant today. Second Timothy states that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” Both the Old Testament and New Testament include examples and instructions for fasting. Because the Bible addresses fasting so plainly, it is clearly relevant to believers today.
Though scripture does not directly command us to fast, Jesus indicated that there would be a time for fasting. When asked why His disciples did not fast but the disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees did, Jesus responded “…Can the children of the bride-chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days” (Mark ,20). Jesus understood the need that we have for fasting. With the bridegroom gone and soon to return, fasting is especially relevant for us!
Also, in Matthew 6, after Jesus had instructed His listeners in the proper way to give alms, and the proper way to pray, Jesus began to instruct His listeners in the proper way to fast. He said “When you fast” not “if you fast”, indicating that it was accepted that they would fast. In the same way that Jesus expects us to give alms and to pray, He expects us to fast. It is a discipline of the believer.
Aside for the obvious reason that Jesus expects it, consider another aspect of fasting – the fact that you are exercising control over probably the most dominant human drive. As you deny your flesh and subject it to such discipline, you weaken its ability to motivate you. And as you submit yourself to God and spend time seeking His will and His presence – as you spend time in His Word, you strengthen and empower your spirit man.
An example of the need to fast for more power spiritually is seen in Matthew 17. When Jesus, Peter, James, and John came down from the mount of transfiguration they were met by a man with a demon-possessed son. The disciples had had no power to free him despite the fact that Jesus had recently empowered them for ministry and sent them out (Matthew 10). Jesus explained that their inability came from their unbelief or lack of faith – but then also stated that “this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” Jesus here indicates that there are things that can only be accomplished through prayer AND fasting. Sometimes our prayers alone may not be enough to see victory or deliverance in an area and just because we have had power in the past does not mean we have power today.
Isaiah 58 indicates that an acceptable fast to the Lord will not only loosen the bands of wickedness, but remove and break them - never to be used again! “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6)? So, fast to overcome wickedness in which the enemy entraps or holds you. Don’t be satisfied with just loosening the bands, fast for the yoke of bondage to be completely broken – complete freedom!
When you fast with the proper motivations, you can expect to be rewarded. “But thou, when thou fastest, … [fast] unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matthew ,18).
Also, for those who fast acceptably, “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” (Isaiah 58:8-12).
And it seems obvious, though not specifically spelled out in scripture, that at least a part of your reward will be that for which you are fasting – assuming it is in accordance with the Word of God and the will of God for your life. You may not see immediate answers to prayers prayed while fasting. Often times, the fast will act as a catalyst with the answers on the way, much as Daniel’s answer came at the “end” of his fast.
§ Fast unto your Father and not unto man. “But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: …” (Matthew 6:17,18).
§ Fast from a sincere heart to be right with God. “…turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping… And rend your hearts and not your garments…” (Joel 2:11, 12).
§ Fast with a “right” heart evidenced by compassion for those in need. “Is [this fast] not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh” (Isaiah 58:7)?
Wrong motivations for fasting will nullify the fast and displease God.
§ Fasting for show and pretense.
“Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Matthew ).
§ Fasting out of habit and with insincerity.
“Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me” (Zechariah 7:5)?
§ Fasting in unrighteousness without repentance. “…they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the LORD doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity… When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them…” (Jeremiah 14:10-12).
Physically, fasting improperly can lead to sickness and in extreme cases, death. It is very important that you prepare your system for fasting and then again to receive food when your fast is completed. If you are participating in a long food fast, eating after your digestive system is in neutral may cause serious problems.
From a spiritual standpoint, if you “mess up” and eat during your fast you should promptly ask God’s forgiveness and simply resume fasting without condemnation. God will still honor the fasting that you do. Avoid temptations when possible – being around food and food aromas, watching the food network and food commercials, and etc.
The Bible contains examples of 2 types
of fasts: the corporate and the individual. The corporate fast involving all of
The following is an explanation of common types of fasts. Some participate in variations or combinations of the four listed - perhaps fasting certain meals, or certain foods and certain meals, or certain days of the week.
1) A partial fast - fasting only certain foods and/or drinks (also known as a Daniel’s fast per Daniel 10)
2) A food fast – eating no food, but drinking water
3) A food fast – eating no food, but drinking liquids (preferably juices and water)
4) A food and water fast – eating no food and drinking no water. It is NOT recommended to fast food and water for more than 3 days.
1) If you take medication or have health problems, check with your physician BEFORE beginning a fast of any length.
2) Cleanse your system before a long fast with prune juice, a mild laxative, or an enema. Eat soft and easily digestible foods the day before beginning.
3) If you’ll be drinking only water, some suggest you drink juices or Gatorade to wean self off food for the first three days.
Before beginning, it’s important to define your fast – the type, length, and purpose of your fast. Consult with God when determining these criteria. Find out what He requires. If you don’t clearly define your fast before beginning you may be tempted to determine it as you go (per your flesh – which is part of the problem to begin with).
The following are suggested guidelines for performing a food fast lasting for one week or longer. Proceed with prayer and caution. The physical effects of fasting vary from person to person and fasting may be dangerous if done improperly.
1) If you are fasting with water alone, drink distilled water. Water with minerals may aggravate your stomach after a few days. If you get very weak or sick feeling, you may make a temporary modification to your fast. Mix a little non-acidic juice with your water or drink a light broth.
2) If you are fasting drinking only water combined with juices or other liquids (like Gatorade), you may want to avoid highly acidic juices such as tomato, orange, and grapefruit. Less acidic juices such as white grape and apple juices are good.
3) Pray a minimum of one hour a day including Bible reading and meditation.
4) Fast and pray for: 1) your personal and spiritual needs, 2) your family, 3) your church, 4) your city, 5) your nation, and 6) your world. Make a list of specific things you want God to do in each of these areas.
5) At each temptation or remembrance of food, consecrate yourself anew to God and your fast. Remind yourself of the reasons for your fast and be encouraged that God is seeing your efforts in secret and will reward you openly.
Carl and Terri generally participate in a food fast drinking mostly juices. After trying several of the juice recipes from Toxic Relief, some emerged as favorites.
Carl’s favorite breakfast juice:
Terri’s favorite breakfast juice:
5 or 6 strawberries
Favorite evening juice (for two):
4 or 5 carrots
3 stalks celery
1/5 head of cabbage
Two handfuls of beet greens or spinach
Mix with the same amount of canned tomato juice and heat.
Carl likes to mix hot sauce in his.
Terri likes to mix lemon juice and creamer in hers.
After a long fast it’s very important to break it with caution and consideration to avoid complications. Do not hurry to get back to eating as you did prior to the fast. Don’t start off with a big steak or a double cheeseburger or any of the other heavy foods you’ve been dreaming about. Because your system has not been producing the necessary digestive juices for eating, a good rule of thumb is to spend just as many days getting back to a regular diet as you spent fasting. Go slowly and allow your system time to adjust to dealing with food again. Gradually work up to heavier foods. If you fasted food for 21 days, it should take you approximately 21 days to get back to steak, pizza, and spicy foods. This is especially important if you fasted and drank mostly water and light juices.
1) If you fasted drinking only water, mix a little bit of light juice with your water as you begin to come off your fast. Then continue on as follows.
2) Eat small amounts of yogurt (something with active cultures). After completing a long fast, your stomach will be smaller. You will not be capable of eating the amount of food you could before. Take it slow with small portions.
3) Toward the middle or the end of the first day, begin to eat cream soups. Continue to eat cream soups, noodle soups, and vegetable soups for the first day or two.
4) Then eat very light easily digestible foods such as applesauce and soft vegetables. Then move up to a plain baked potato, baked chicken breast, and a light green salad with very light salad dressing.
5) Bowels may be irregular at first, but should soon return to normal. If not, try eating more yogurt or taking some probiotics to help regulate.