A biblical fast can be defined as simply abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. In Bible times, meals and food preparation took a lot more time, and physical and mental energy, than we generally spend on it today. There were no grocery stores and no drive-thrus. Yet, it was encouraged and expected by Jesus that believers would fast (Matt. 6:17-18, Matt. 9:15), taking the time and energy spent for food preparation and consumption and spending it instead on seeking God. For many Christians, fasting in our current culture can mean abstinence from food, as well as from television and other forms of entertainment, and spending the time normally given to those things to instead draw closer to God. What makes this time of fasting rich is using the time to pray, read the Bible, and worship God.
Scripturally and historically, our Judeo/Christian forbearers have given us examples of different kinds of fasts, which can be grouped into 3 (three) broad categories from a dietary perspective. We urge you to consult with your doctor if you are doing any dietary fast. It is important to note that neither Jesus nor His apostles gave us any specific rules or requirements for fasting. “It was a personal matter between the disciple and his Master, in the light of needs and circumstances.” This is for informational purposes only and is not meant to prescribe any fasting requirement.
- The “normal fast”: abstaining from all forms of food, but not from water. This is usually for short periods of time (1-3 days), except when Jesus was in the wilderness prior to His temptation by the devil (see Matthew 4 & Luke 4).
- The “absolute fast”: abstaining from drinking as well as eating. This type of fast is rare, done only for short periods of time, and is not what we recommend.
- The “partial fast”: This is more of a restriction of food, or certain types of food, rather than abstinence. In this category, you will find examples such as:
The Daniel Fast: Based on Daniel 1 and 10, eliminates meat, “choice foods” and alcohol, and drinks only water.
Juice only fasts: this is what it sounds like. No solid foods, only juices and water to drink.
Meal fast: Omitting a certain meal each day, and spending that hour with God.
Intermittent Fast: practiced by many for dietary health reasons, entails restricting eating for the day in one block of time, for instance 4-8pm, while abstaining from food for the remaining hours of the day.
The Wesley Fast: For a portion of John Wesley's ministry, he advocated fasting one or two days per week, as one was led by the Holy Spirit.
There are many other variations of fasting. This is a simple list to give you some ideas. There is an abundance of information available on the internet. We can also point you to resources we know of, if you contact the church office. The most important thing about any Christian fast is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and fast unto God. We do not want to find ourselves guilty of fasting for the praise of peers, as Jesus warned against in Matthew 6:16-18.
Pray about what/how God would have you fast over these 21 days. Whatever time you normally spend on the activity you are setting aside, spend that time with the Lord in prayer, Scripture reading, and worship. Connect with others who are also participating and pray together.