I have received some questions about fasting. So I thought I would take some time to address some of those questions today.
How long should I fast?
One of the questions is about how long I should fast. If you have never fasted, consider fasting for one meal. Eat breakfast in the morning. Break open up God’s Word and feast on the words of Scripture at lunchtime while refraining from eating. Drink water and juice throughout the day. Then eat a good dinner as you celebrate the goodness of God.
You might consider trying this “one meal fast” one day a week during the season of Lent. After you have fasted like this for several weeks, consider a full 24 hour fast during Holy Week. Again, make sure to drink water and juice during the day.
If you are to attempt a fast longer than 24 hours, I will encourage further reading and study about this discipline. I would also recommend you consult a doctor before doing so.
What if I have a health condition?
Many people have health considerations when it comes to fasting. If you are diabetic or have certain heart conditions, fasting may not be for you. Again, you should consult your doctor. If you are unable to fast from food, consider other alternatives for fasting. You might consider refraining from eating a full meal and eat few crackers.
What if it makes me hungry and gives me a headache?
Yes, your stomach will let you know it is angry with you. But that is part of the idea of fasting. You are telling your stomach that it will not hold control over you. The same with your headache. The truth is that fasting will make you uncomfortable. You will need to slow yourself down for the day. If you regularly exercise, this is not the day to go for a run. A big reason fasting is lost on many of us is because the idea of abstaining from excess and slowing down is such a foreign concept. The world tells us we can fix our problems with food. We can fix our problems by taking a pill. We can fix our problems with our money. Fasting reminds us that God alone is the one who is the true fix.
What if I tried it before and it didn’t do anything for me?
I have practiced fasting with my congregation in the past. I had some church members share with me that they did not get anything out of it. We are accustomed in America to the quick fix. We look for quick weight loss programs. We use instant messaging. If the results are not immediate, we quit or give up. You do not always see immediate results with fasting and other spiritual disciplines. It is a process where growth takes place over time through consistency. Lasting change rarely happens overnight. Sometimes you need to give it a chance.
Is fasting required?
I have been asked if we need to fast. The answer is no. Jesus told us to baptize. He told us to take eat his body and take drink his blood. These are sacraments, and they are not optional. But when it comes to fasting, it is not something required of us. It is beneficial for us, but not required. Because it is not required, it is easy for us to dismiss it. Is your excuse not to fast is a legitimate excuse? Are you holding on to something because you need it? Or your you holding on because you don’t want to let it go?
Questions for Reflection
- What questions do you have about fasting?
- What benefits have you experienced from fasting?
- What holds you back from fasting? Is it a legitimate excuse?
- Share your comments.