“So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.” – Ezra 8:23
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Fasting for weight-loss has become sort of a craze. Intermittent fasting is trending – there are many apps nowadays to help you fast to shed a few extra pounds. But what about fasting for spiritual purposes? We could all shed the weight of sin. The Bible says that we are to lay aside every weight and the sin that easily ensnares us (Hebrews 12:1). Fasting is not a command given in the New Testament, but we can still benefit from it. So let’s look at how to do a spiritual fast in 5 simple steps.
1. Decide what you will deny yourself.
Fasting in the Bible is comprised of self-denial. Often people did not eat or drink any food or water (Deuteronomy 9:18). However, you can choose to deny yourself of anything – things that you cherish or often partake in.
For example, a lot of people use social media very often so that it becomes a crutch that disables and distracts them from getting much else done. Do you check your Facebook or Instagram account every 5 minutes? Do you spend countless hours looking at other people’s photos and posts? Then you may want to deny yourself social media for a while.
For some, social media is not a problem. You can chose to lay off the sodas you may often drink, or television, or sweets. Some married couples may decide to forego physical intimacy for a while. Whatever it is, first, decide what you will deny yourself.
2. Choose a Length of Time for Your Fast
After you decide what you will be denied during your fast, choose how long you will fast. It doesn’t have to be 40 days and 40 nights like Moses (Exodus 34:28), Elijah (1 Kings 19:8), and Jesus (Matthew 4:2) did. Daniel fasted 3 weeks (Daniel 10:2-3). And the Israelites, at times, fasted for a day (Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 7:6). You can fast for however long you’d like (though it’s not recommended to go beyond 40 days with both no food and no water).
Fasting is a time set aside to entreat God, to focus on your relationship with Him. Daniel prayed while he fasted. He said, “Then I set my face towards God to make request by prayer and supplications with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). When Jesus’ disciples could not cast out a demon from a little boy, Jesus told them, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). There is power in praying and fasting. Jesus can perform works in you that you thought were impossible, just like with the disciples.
When you feel the urge to do the thing that you chose to deny yourself of, then pray. Put the phone down and pray. When you feel hunger pangs, pray. Pray and ask the Lord to give you strength to endure. And pray and ask God for what you need done in your life. You may also be fasting and praying entreating the Lord on someone else’s behalf – maybe a sick relative or friend. Spend moments that you would be doing other things – like checking social media – praying. You’ll be glad you did.
4. Read the Bible.
When you fast, your purpose is set on God – on focusing more on Him. What better way to focus on the Lord than to read His Word? “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Reading the Word of God can also assist you in your praying, as you can pray the Scriptures back to God. An example would be, “Father God, please incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things” (Psalm 119:36-37). This will be a perfect prayer for those denying themselves social media, because it becomes easy to covet other people’s lifestyles and things when viewing the best of what they want you to see.
5. Confess your sins.
Fasting in the Bible is often accompanied by confession of sins (1 Samuel 7:6; Nehemiah 9:1-2). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). During the time of solid devotion to God in your fasting, it’s good to let God know that you acknowledge the wrong in your life and that you want to make it right with Him.
Starting a fast is not difficult. Sticking to it is another story. But if you are serious about what you are entreating God for, then you will have no problems doing it. Remember, all you have to do is:
- Decide what you will deny yourself.
- Choose a length of time for your fast.
- Read the Bible.
- Confess your sins.
If you have any additions to the list of how to complete a spiritual fast, let us know in the comments!
May God bless you and keep you as you seek to grow closer to Him.
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