We’re looking forward to our week of Prayer & Fasting at the beginning of January. As you begin to prepare for this time, I wanted to answer some common questions and concerns you may have. There are also lots more helpful tips on the International House of Prayer website.
Can I fast from something other than food?
- Normal Christian fasting means privately and occasionally choosing to go without food (though not water).
- That said, fasting is not limited exclusively to food. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose.
- If the better part of wisdom for you, for whatever reason, is not to go without food, consider fasting from television, computer, social media, or some other regular enjoyment that would bend your heart toward greater enjoyment of Jesus. Paul even talks about married couples fasting from sex “for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer” (1 Corinthians 7:5).
- Of course, if there are medical issues or you’re uncertain, do consult your doctor. 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.
How can I incorporate my family into this?
- The Bible doesn’t have any comment on children fasting.
- One idea could be to fast from something sweet and so create a bonus 10 mins at the meal table to pray and discuss. Parents and kids fasting and praying together will have a powerful effect on your family, not to mention all that you pray for!
- Children are discouraged from fasting normal food and should never engage in fasting without express parental consent and oversight out of consideration for their health and metabolism.
What about when I get really hungry?
- John Piper says, ‘And in that gnawing ache of growing hunger is the engine of fasting, generating the reminder to bend our longings for food Godward and inspire intensified longings for Jesus. Fasting, says Piper, is the physical exclamation point at the end of the sentence, “This much, O God, I want you!”
I’ve never fasted before. Is it wise for me to fast for a long period of time?
- No! Don’t go from no fasting to attempting a weeklong. Start with one meal on one day, say Monday, and look to build up to do it again on, say Thursday, then again maybe from Saturday evening through to communion on Sunday.
Is fasting really a normal part of Christian living?
- Jesus seemed to think so! ‘When you fast’ … (Mt 6). ‘They [the disciples] will fast’ … (Mt 9)
Can I join with others in King’s Church to fast and pray?
- Of course! Fasting is often private in the Bible but it is also sometimes communal and public, even national. We don’t need to be embarrassed or ‘religious’ about keeping our fasting absolutely private.
- It would be great to meet with your Life Group or others, perhaps someone who works near you.
What does God think about my fasting?
- If it is to earn his or others approval, then he isn’t very interested! We have God’s full approval because we are fully identified with Christ. Fasting has nothing to do with merit or favour from God or putting him in our debt.
- Fasting is intended to redirect our gaze and passions on God … something he loves and responds to as a willing, loving and powerful Father. Fasting changes us not God!
Will my prayers be more powerful?
- Our hearts will become more aligned with God and we will find ourselves praying more and more in line with his will
- The spiritual hunger for God that fasting generates will undoubtedly help us to ‘labour’ and ‘persevere’ in prayer.
Top tip from International House of Prayer: Breakthroughs often come after a fast, not 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.
Should I be aware of anything after the fast finishes?
- Break your fast gradually on a light and easy to digest meal. We will be sharing communion together on Sunday 10th, with bread and juice (no wine this week, for those with empty stomachs!). If you haven’t fasted at any other time, why not consider fasting from tea time on Saturday through to communion on Sunday, joining us for our celebration evening in the Clattern on Saturday in between?