As with all Jesus Habits, we fast to deepen our relationship with Jesus and for no other reason.
Fasting is one of those Jesus Habits that we often think are just for the spiritually elite; someone that is much closer to Jesus than us. We don’t think it is something we could do or we take the posture of it not being for Christians to practice today. I think the latter is a cop-out and said in pride and envy, so let’s focus on the former.
I can understand the fear of fasting, going without food for a day is a big deal, going without food for weeks is just stupid. The questions run through our minds, is this safe? Can the human body really go without eating and it not cause harm? The body can go a long time without food. Water is a different story, but humans can go 1 to 3 months without food. Going a couple of days or weeks isn’t going to harm. I’m not a doctor and you should probably consult one if you have concerns.
21 Days with No Food
Let me share why and how I fast. I don’t share this so you think I’m a great Christian, I share because I believe it could help you find a deeper relationship with Jesus than you may be experiencing right now. I’ve fasted for 21 days a handful of times in my life. This isn’t a new practice and in some Christian circles it is practiced often.
The first time I fasted was a few years ago after reading a book where the author shared that their church fasted together for 21 days to start the year. I couldn’t shake the idea and it was pretty intriguing to me. I may just be naive enough to try things like this, but I was in a difficult season that didn’t look like it was going to end any time soon and I was willing to try anything.
So I planned and figured out my start and end dates and began my fasting journey a few weeks later. One huge benefit, food bill for the month is drastically cut. I find when I fast for a longer period of time, it creates a higher level of dependence on Jesus than when I fast for a meal or a day. The strange thing I experience is that it isn’t super-spiritual. I assumed going into a fast that I would feel or experience Jesus in a new and more profound way. Not my experience.
I pray more when fasting. My rule I learned from my youth pastor in high school was to pray when I thought about eating, but my prayers aren’t anything special. They are your run of the mill “God moves in this specific way” type prayer. Not a lot of intimacy. After the fact when you reflect on the time you spent fasting, it becomes a lot more spiritual than in the midst of it.
That first time I ever faster for longer than a couple of days started on a Monday and ended 21 days later on a Sunday. I made sure there was no major event that took place during that time to void the best I could talking about the fact I was fasting. I take Jesus’ words to heart recorded in Matthew.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
I want what the Father wants to give and would rather have that any day than the praise of man. Now, this is the super-spiritual part. It the moment I didn’t realized what was happening, a little time and perspective needed to change before I recognized it. But the day I started the fast was when everything blew up with my boss at the time. We’ve all been lead by ill-equipped leaders and I’m no different, but when you are in the middle of it it feels like a really big deal. The situation never got any better, it actually progressively got worse over the next couple of years. But the effect of the situation was limited. My dependence on Jesus, because I was fasting, was the thing that gave me great hope in the middle trial. Jesus set me up. He got me to commit to fasting before I ever knew what was about to happen and walked with me step by step through that season. My Jesus is good and so very faithful.
Tips for Fasting with Jesus
Fast for No Other Reason than Deepening Your Relationship with Jesus.
We do this a lot more than we realize. We do things in our spiritual lives that are done to be seen by others and to be praised for it. Take Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:16-18 to heart and fast in secret. Secret means anyone outside your family and close friends.
Start Small and Don't Put a Ton of Pressure on It.
If you have never fasted before, fast for a meal. If you’ve fasted for a meal before, fast for an entire day. If Jesus is leading fast longer, you should do that. I have found that fasting for a couple of days is always more beneficial to me and keeps my focus than just a single day. The longer you fast, the less time you will spend thinking about being hungry.
Take the Time to Plan What Fasting Will Look Like.
What are the rules of your fast? Just water, just liquids. I do recommend fasting from food and not something else regarding our relationships with Jesus. We don’t have any examples in scripture of fasting being done with something other than food. Figure out your start time and your end time. I recommend ending a fast at dinner time. No one wants to go to be hungry that close to the end.
Legalism is Never the Way of Jesus.
Seriously, if you accidentally find yourself eating something and not thinking about it, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just put the food down and stop eating it. You’re not a bad follower of Jesus and Jesus isn’t upset with you because in a moment you forgot you were fasting. Spend some time praying and talking with God and move on.
Take My Youth Pastors Advice and Pray When Hungry.
This is great advice and it keeps your mind on Jesus throughout your fast. Anytime you think about being hungry, take some time, and just talk with Jesus. It could be a simple quick prayer or a significant amount of time. It doesn’t really matter, it just matters that you are spending time talking with Jesus.
Tell Close Friends You Are Fasting.
It is easy to start a fast and end a fast and nobody know. Telling those in your life that love Jesus and love you in that order will create some accountability and it will make it feel real. Don’t tell the world. Also, you completely missed the point if you post it to social media. But telling a few close friends puts some skin in the game.
Helping Others Find the Full Life,