Mike Bickle’s Rewards of Fasting -great free book!
“But the days will come when the Bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.” — Matthew 9:15
Fasting increases our capacity to recieve from God. The Holy Spirit lives in our innermost man but we only experience Him in our innerman (see the greek eph 3:16/Jn7:38). This taking on of ‘voluntary weakness,’ positions us to be strengthened Spiritually and our capacity for God increased. It accelerates the work of the Spirit, and increases our capacity to recieve from the Spirit. To connect with the Bridegroom, we feed our hearts on the affections of God.
It does not earn us more of God, but it does make us more sensitive to the Holy Spirit. New levels of authority in prayer are unlocked in new levels of intimacy in God and maturity in the Spirit.
Jesus said the Father will reward those who fast (Mat 6:15). He said “When you fast,” not if you fast, impling He was expecting fasting to be a discipline of His disciples. Many are seeking to build their life on the rock of the sermon on the mount (and will be called great in heaven,[matt 5:19]) and part of the lifestyle of the sermon on the mount is fasting.
There has been a resurgence of fasting in recent decades, as God calls His people to regular fasting as part of a normal Christian lifestyle. We must prepare ourselves adequately so that the fast can honor God and fulfill its purpose. The following is a general overview of biblical precedent and guidelines for wise fasting to help and encourage you.
Pray the Word
Prayer is key, fasting without prayer is dieting. So much power comes from taking Scriptures and making them prayer. We must take the written word and let it take us to the written Word. Also God has created the body so that power comes from singing Scriptures and tounges (Eph 5:18-19). Fasting intensifies this. We want to be filled with the Spirit, and studying Scriptures helps us understand application and significance, then taking those revelations and praying them and meditating on them and beholding Jesus transforms us. As with any prayer “don’t stumble over the time-delay.” Sometimes revelation comes right away, sometimes as you’re passing the salt at the table. Journaling revelation helps us steward it.
I find feeding my heart on the affections of God from Scripture sustains me in fasting and beholding Jesus in the Scriptures is often easier and more transformative. A prayer list helps!
Fasting is Biblical
The practice of regular fasting as normal Christian behavior was taught by Jesus (Mt. 6:16–17, 9:15), exercised by the early church (Acts 13:2), and has been the regular discipline of believers throughout church history. The practice of fasting in Scripture usually includes, abstinence from food (Dan. 10:3) and may be engaged in for varying durations—typically for no more than a few days at a time. Fasting for one or two days a week over the years is quite remarkable in impact.
Abstaining from all food for extended periods of time is biblical but should never be undertaken without counsel and appropriate supervision. The same standard applies to an absolute fast (Esther fast—no food or water for three days) of any duration (Est. 4:16). The maximum length of an adult fast that is biblically supported is forty days without food, for a male adult in good health, and three days without water. The Bible does not speak of children engaging in fasting food.
Fasting is Always Voluntary
Though spiritual leaders may invite others to join in corporate fasting with a specific goal in mind and for a specific time, fasting can never be forced or made compulsory. In light of this, fasting should not be mandatory requirement in the body, but we should promote and encourage it as a biblically and historically proven means of obtaining God’s grace in the context of commitment to prayer and to the Word (Joel 2:15).
Participation in regular fasting as a lifestyle necessitates a healthy lifestyle on days when food is not being fasted, and should include exercise and a proper diet. A “fasted lifestyle” is a disciplined lifestyle, in which we steward our bodies and time with wisdom and diligence. Fasting is not only abstention; it is an exchange where we abstain from certain things in order to “feast” on God’s Word and prayer, whereby the abundance of His grace is made more readily available to us. When undertaken with this type of commitment, a fasted lifestyle is sustainable on a long-term basis, just as it was for Daniel and his friends (Dan. 1).
Some with health issues can fast speech which is powerful.
The Benefits of Fasting
While the physical impact of fasting is real, the spiritual benefits of fasting are undeniable. Any fast undertaken must be done with spiritual wholeheartedness and wisdom when dealing with our physical body; we must count the cost honestly and honor the temple of the Holy Spirit. Whether we are partaking or abstaining, everything should be for the glory of God.
Physically Preparing for a Fast That Extends More Than Two Days
Prepare your body for the fast and prevent constipation during and after the fast by eating certain preventative foods at least two days beforehand (even longer before an extended fast), such as: fresh fruit and raw vegetables, fruit or vegetable juices, oatmeal, etc.
Eat smaller meals a few days prior to the fast
Avoid high-fat and sugary foods before the fast.
Make your commitment and determine the length. You can fast in many different ways. Pray and ask God what he will give you faith for in terms of the duration of the fast.
A Daniel fast, with vegetables and water, is good for those carrying a heavy workload. Don’t get french fries from McDonalds saying they were once potatoes etc.
A fruit or vegetable juice fast allows you to enter into fasting but still gives enough energy to function. Many people have done a 40-day juice fast. If you have sugar sensitivities or problems (e.g. diabetes), consult your doctor before attempting this (or any other) fast.
A water-only fast has been undertaken by many people. Depending on your weight and metabolism, you can go forty days on water alone.
A total fast is without food or water. Do not go beyond three days without water. Discuss your plans with your doctor, church leaders, and spouse or parents. Many do not encourage this type of fast without specific confirmation from the Lord or through your church leadership or parents.
Helpful Hints for Your Fast (Physical)
Drink plenty of non-tap water. (Drinking at least half of your body weight in ounces of water per day is a good rule of thumb whether you are fasting or not.) Distilled water is most beneficial, but filtered and purified water also work well.
It is wise to abstain from strong stimulants such as caffeinated and sugary drinks during a fast, including the artificial sweeteners found in diet drinks. Also, avoid soy protein drinks, which have been known to cause health problems during a fast.
If you are on a juice fast, drink raw fruit juices such as apple, grape and pineapple, which are excellent sources of necessary natural sugar to stabilize blood sugar and keep energy levels up. Orange and grapefruit juice are also good, but these are not recommended for arthritis or allergy sufferers. Monitor juice acidity carefully as it can cause canker sores (mouth ulcers). Raw vegetable juices such as carrot, celery, beet or green vegetable combinations are excellent as well. Fresh fruit and vegetable juices can be made in a juice extractor or purchased ready-made (be sure to buy juices without any added sugars). Some of the benefits of drinking raw juice versus bottled are that it does not stimulate digestion (hunger) and it maintains all of its enzymes and nutritional value.
Expect some physical discomforts because of the detoxification process, especially on the second day. You may have fleeting hunger pains or dizziness. Withdrawal from caffeine and sugar may cause headaches, but it is a part of the detoxification process. Physical annoyances may also include weariness, tiredness, nausea and sleepiness.
During a fast, four major areas of the body are going through a detoxification process. Take care to attend to each of these:
The large intestines — During a fast of three days or more, taking an herbal laxative (inquire at your local health store) before bedtime will help eliminate solid waste products; these can cause headaches and sluggishness if left in the body during a fast. This should be done early during the fast and then intermittently throughout the rest of the fast. The body begins detoxifying during a fast, depositing the toxins into the intestines. If you do not take a laxative, the toxins can hurt your intestines or reabsorb into your bloodstream, making you feel nauseous.
The kidneys — Drinking fruit juices, vegetable juices, broth, or just plenty of water will remove many toxins via the kidneys.
The lungs — If strength permits, walk half an hour during the day to help cleanse the lungs. Also do some deep breathing throughout the day by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth.
The skin — Since one-third of the waste products eliminated during a fast are removed via the skin, adequate bathing is essential. Use a natural bristle body brush or loofah sponge on your skin prior to bathing, to help cleanse the skin.
Helpful Hints for Your Fast (Spiritual)
Seek advice and permission before the fast. Seek medical advice before the fast, especially if you have any existing medical concerns or conditions. If you are under 18 years of age, discuss your desire to fast with your parents. Spiritual covering, submission, and unity are important factors when fasting. Discuss your plans with your church leaders. Remember, fasting is an attitude of the heart! Ask them if they would consider fasting with you.
Fast and pray in order to humble yourself and purify your worship. In fasting we are not trying to get something from God, but seeking to realign our hearts’ affections with His. In fasting we can more readily say, “We love you, Lord, more than anything in the world.” Lust of any kind is perverted worship, but fasting enables us to cleanse the sanctuary of our hearts from every other rival.
Don’t boast about your fast. Let people know you won’t be eating only if necessary (Mt. 6:16–18).
Do the fast with someone else. Two are better than one! I encourage couples, parents, kids to consider fasting together. Several generations fasting together has a powerful impact.
Have a clear target as your prayer focus. Without a vision (a clear, prophetic prayer goal), the people perish. Write down your vision, so you can run with it (Hab. 2:2).
Take time to pray and read the Word. This may seem obvious, but busyness and distractions can keep you from devotions. Reading books with testimonies of victories gained through fasting will encourage you, too. Shaping History through Prayer and Fasting by Derek Prince, Fast Forward by Lou Engle, and God’s Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis are just some of the books about fasting that are available.
Expect to hear God’s voice in the Word, dreams, visions and revelations. Daniel prepared himself to receive revelation through fasting (Dan. 10:1–2). There is a fasting reward (Mt. 6:18). Take Scriptures and sing them to Jesus, ask for revelation on them, personalize them if you feel led and the context allows. Try to pray in tounges 15 mins or more a day. The Spirit will unlock things for you. Develop a prayer list, such as asking the Spirit to reveal the Father to you more, Eph 1:17-20 and Eph 3:16-19, John 15:9, John 3:29 etc. Here’s a few ihop lists FELLOWSHIP and Prayer Time. If nothing is working try the ihop webstream (the picture under Worship Video Archives on the right) or misty edwards youtube videos.
Prepare for opposition. On the day of your fast you can bet that donuts will be at the office or in class. Your spouse (or your mom) will suddenly be inspired to cook your favorite meals. Press through. Many times you may feel more tension build at home. Satan tempted Jesus on the fast, and we must expect the same. Discouragement may come in like a flood, but recognize the source and take your stand on the victory of Christ.
If you fail, don’t give in to condemnation. The “to fast or not to fast” dilemma can be a major tool of the enemy. Even though you may fail several times, God always extends grace. Just hit the “delete” button and continue on your fast.
Feel free to rest a lot and continue to exercise with supervision.
Some breakthroughs often come after a fast, not always during it. Do not listen to the lie that nothing is happening. It is our conviction that every fast done in faith will be rewarded.
THE WISDOM OF WEAKNESS
- 2 Cor 12:9 gives a spiriutal principle that God’s strength is made perfect in voluntary and involuntary weakness. In 1 Cor 1 Paul talks about strength and in that chapter, Paul seems to refer to the cross that we as disciples must all pick up and follow. Luke 14:27 And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. Paul says this cross is foolishness to the world, and we know it is not a literal cross for us unless we are percecuted. Paul is referring to the weakness of the lifestyle disciples must live (2 Cor 5:15). These values of the ‘fasted lifestyle,’ are the expressions of restrain such as prayer, giving/tithing, serving, and cheek-turning/blessing/meekness.
- God has chosen weak things like fasting as a way into more of God. 1 Cor 1:27 God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. God has chosen fasting as a weak thing, an expression of the cross that we are to embrace. It seems likely Paul referenced Isa 58: “Is this not the fast I have chosen” here. (note v9 about how complaining can hinder).
- He’s chosen the weak thing of fasting as one way into the 1 Cor 1:23 power of God and the wisdom of God. For 2 Cor 12:9 God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. If we want more spiritual strength, we must at times embrace weakness. When He Eph 3:16 strengthens us with might in the innerman, that might is to increase our ability/capacity to contain the Spirit of God, even eventually unto the fullness of God.
- We can experience answered prayer and the Spirit without fasting. Fasting is an intensifier, an accelerater, and is and expression of humility, desire and discipline. The person who fasts understands the gap between what God wants to give them and what they are actually experiencing.
How to Successfully Break Your Fast
Break your fast gradually. At this point you will need to exercise watchful self-control. Break your fast on a meal that is light and easy to digest (i.e., a pound of grapes, a shredded apple, watermelon or steamed vegetables).
When breaking a fast of ten days or more, the break-in period should be extended one day for every four days of fasting.
A fast of three days or more should never be broken by eating a normal meal (including animal proteins, bread, sugar, dairy and processed foods) because these heavy foods put a severe strain and shock on the digestive organs which have been resting throughout the fast. Eating too heavily after a fast can produce serious discomfort (stomach cramps, nausea and weakness) and can nullify the physical benefits of fasting; it can also cause serious irreversible complications.
After breaking an extended fast, continue drinking fruit or vegetable juices because the stomach is continuing to detoxify.
During any fast exceeding two days, your stomach will shrink. Do not over-expand it again by overeating. If you have been prone to eat too heavily, guard against going back to this habit. If you train yourself to eat more lightly, your stomach will adjust itself accordingly.
While continuing to drink fruit or vegetable juices, add the following:
1st–3rd day after the fast (increase amount of days for extended fast) — Eat fruit and raw/steamed vegetables only. Example meals for the first few days are a pound of fruit, a baked or boiled potato without butter, steamed vegetables, or a vegetable-only salad without oil-based dressing. Avoid bananas for the first few days; they have no juice in them and can easily cause constipation.
Thereafter — you may return to heavier foods such as animal proteins, but maintaining a healthy diet after the fast will promote lifelong health and allow you to fast correctly in the future.
Take extra care in breaking a water fast. Begin with drinking fruit or vegetable juices and gradually ease into eating fruit and steamed vegetables.
It is important after a fast to begin to discern between real hunger and cravings so you do not feed your cravings.
Important Medical Information
Years of fasting incorrectly can cause permanent physical damage to your body. These negative effects are not typically felt at a young age, but they will accumulate after years of fasting. In their zeal, some people have begun fasting in an extreme way before understanding how fasting physically affects the body; increasing your understanding and taking care of your body while both fasting and eating will ensure your ability to live the fasted lifestyle for many years to come.
Pregnant or nursing mothers should never fast all food and/or drink, as fasting could be very dangerous to their baby’s development and health, and their own personal health. Pregnant or nursing mothers could engage in types of fasting such as giving up certain kinds of food. However, women who are pregnant or nursing must always maintain a balanced diet. Any kind of fasting which leads to detoxification could be dangerous to the baby as the toxins can affect the baby via the mother’s milk or her bloodstream.
People who have struggled with eating disorders in the past, should undertake any fasting with wisdom and caution. Fasting should not be used as a motive for weight-loss; it is important to enter back into “normal” healthy eating after a long fast (as described in the previous section).
If you have a diagnosed illness and/or are taking prescription medicine, fasting should only be done under the direct supervision of a doctor or healthcare professional.
Some people have trouble fasting and become extremely hungry, dizzy and nauseous because they have undiagnosed low blood sugar, so they should drink fruit and vegetable juices to help keep the blood sugar stable during short fasts. If the juice contains too much sugar for your system, dilute it by 50 percent with water or drink a “green drink” (made by juicing carrots, celery, spinach and parsley). If these or any symptoms persist, you should stop fasting and seek immediate professional help from a doctor or healthcare professional.
If you are having digestive trouble after breaking a fast (i.e., diarrhea), mix a cup of unsweetened applesauce with a cup of cooked brown rice. This should stop the diarrhea. Also, take digestive enzymes (inquire at your local health store) to aid your stomach’s digestive transition.
The level at which a person engages in fasting food should be determined according to age, and with regard to any physical limitations. Those with a known or suspected physical disability or illness, or those with any history of an eating disorder, should never fast, except in consultation with, and under the supervision of, a qualified doctor. Pregnant or nursing mothers should not fast food or drink as it could negatively affect the health and development of their baby and their own personal health.
Minors are discouraged from fasting food and should never engage in fasting without express parental consent and oversight. Minors who desire to fast are encouraged to consider non-food abstentions, such as TV, movies, Internet surfing, video games and other entertainment, perhaps even quit it altogether. If older teenagers do fast food under their parents’ supervision, we encourage them to use juice and protein drinks to sustain them, out of consideration for their health and metabolism.
Additional Resources on Fasting and Healthy Living
Fast Forward, Lou Engle
Shaping History through Prayer and Fasting, Derek Prince!!!! (minus the pre-trib chapter)
The Genesis Diet, Dr. Gordon Tessler
God’s Chosen Fast, Arthur Wallis
Hunger for God, John Piper