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The first time I ever fasted was in college. I didnt know of anyone who fasted, so I read some
online articles, filled up a Nalgene with juice, skipped breakfast and headed off to my summer
job ready to conquer this fasting thing. Two hours later, my juice was gone, I was famished, had
a headache, couldnt think clearly and the vending machine slowly crept toward me from across
the room. It was then that I realized that fasting isnt something to be conquered. It showed me
just how limited, weak, dependent, and self-focused I was.
Since then, I have learned to love fasting; it is not always pleasant in the moment, but over the
years it has shaped me and has borne eternal fruit. Fasting has become a central discipline in
my life and in the life of my faith community. We have fasted corporately on a number of
occasions in response to the Spirits leading and as a result, we have seen amazing
breakthrough, powerful protection, and unprecedented unity.
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Fasting is giving up a legitimate pleasure to make space for God. The spirit behind fasting is
saying no to pleasures so that we can more fully say yes to God. We live in a culture that
doesnt know how to say no to pleasure. Fasting is a prophetic declaration that God is the
source of all satisfaction and success and that we are utterly dependent on Him. If missions is
the vehicle, prayer is the fuel, and fasting is the octane it adds spiritual power to something
already powerful.
Traditionally, fasting has been understood as abstaining from food, but for some people, fasting
food is either not possible, or it is unwise. Many need to give up something that is more
important to them than food. This can be social media, news, entertainment, or socializing. This
is where I will say that if something has become a door to sin in your life fasting that particular
pleasure is probably necessary. There have been seasons when I have fasted reading books
other than the Bible because I would go to ministry books and people before I went to the Bible
and God giving this up allowed God space in my life to be my source.
Fasting doesnt earn us anything from God, it simply positions our hearts to receive more power,
grace, and wisdom. Were not trying to convince a reluctant God to give us something. When
we fast, we declare that He is the good Father who gives His children good gifts. Fasting is us
aligning ourselves with Gods will and plans, not Him aligning Himself with us. Fasting changes
Fasting has a way of sharpening and sensitizing the human spirit. It removes the callouses that
develop from being inordinately attached to our physical surroundings. The physical is good
God created it and called it good, but it tends to dull our spirits because we forget our need for
God. We appreciate the physical more when we recognize that every good and perfect gift
comes from above. Fasting cleanses the sanctuary of our heart so that there are no other gods
before the LORD.

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Jesus doesnt allow fasting to be optional in the life of the disciple. He teaches in the Sermon on
the Mount, When you fast (Matthew 6:16-17) not if you fast. In Matthew 9, he stated that
his disciples were not presently fasting, but when he is taken away from them, then they will
fast. And the disciples did fast when Jesus was taken away. The Didache, one of the earliest
non-canonical church writings which contains the teachings of the twelve apostles, contains the
following: And let not your fasts be with those of the hypocrites [the religious Jews], for they fast
on Mondays and Thursdays, but you fast Wednesdays and Fridays. (comment and italics mine)
There are a number of Biblical categories of fasting:
For spiritual power (Possessed Boy of Matthew 17:21)
For revelation and prophetic insight (Daniel 9; Cornelius in Acts 10:30)
For fulfilment of prophetic promises for us or our ministries (Daniel 9-10; Nehemiah)
For mourning, repentance and/or mercy in crisis (David in 2 Samuel; Saul in Acts 9:9;
Joel 2)
For deliverance and protection (Esther 4; Ezra 8)
For direction, discernment and consecration for mission (Acts 13:2 and 14:23)
For preparation for mission and power in trials (Jesus in the Wilderness in Matthew 4)
For consecration of a season or person (Nazarites like Samson and John the Baptist;
Anna of Luke 2)
For increased desire for Jesus present presence and future return (Matthew 9:14-17)
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But when you fast your Father who sees in secret will reward you. - Matthew 6:17-18
Some rewards of fasting:
We become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and feel his presence.
Our desires change and our hunger for righteousness increases.
We receive more revelation of the Word and prophetic insight.
We become more physically healthy and are empowered with more self-control.
We become more aware of our human limitations and dependence.
We receive more of Gods grace and power.
We are rooted and grounded in our identity as sons of God with authority and the bride
of Christ with intimacy.
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There are many different ways to fast food.
Benedictine Fast: A 24 hour fast that usually includes skipping breakfast and lunch.
Saint Benedict (525 A.D.) required his monks to fast in this manner twice weekly. This is
a great method for establishing a routine lifestyle of fasting.
Daniel Fast: Only fruits, vegetables, and water. This fast which avoids the finer foods is
good for those who have strenuous physical responsibilities.
Juice Fast: Only fruit and/or vegetable juice. This is good for extended fasts.
Water only Fast: It is physically possible for a healthy person to go 40 days on only
water, but this should be done only under medical supervision.
Jonathan Kenerson is on staff with InterVarsity at UMaine-Orono. He helped plant Imago Dei Anglican
Church where he is a lay pastor. He also works as a part-time bridge engineer and helps run his family
farm where he lives with his wife and three (and counting) children. He can be contacted at
Total Fast: No food or water. Be careful with this one and never go more than three
days. The Biblical precedent for this fast is Esther and the situation was extreme
(genocide of her whole ethnicity) and she fasted in community.
Some practical suggestions:
Set aside a regular time to pray and be in the Word. It seems to go without saying, but
prayer and fasting go together.
Choose a purpose for the fast and keep a prayer list.
Expect God to speak to you through His Word, impressions, dreams, and visions.
Drink plenty of water and get some moderate exercise - like walking.
Dont be discouraged if you dont perceive breakthrough. This often happens much later
and beyond our ability to perceive it. Hearts are often tenderized once a fast is over.
Know that fasting shifts heavenly powers (Daniel 10).
Some cautions:
Do not fast food if you are pregnant, nursing, or have had eating disorders. If you have a
medical condition that might conflict with fasting food, only fast under the supervision of
a medical professional.
Extended fasting (more than a day) should always be done with the guidance of a
mentor or spiritual director, and you should write out your purpose for the fast (i.e.:
encounter the love of God, break sinful patterns, increase faith, miracle or deliverance,
etc.). See the resources below for more information on extended fasts.
Fasting is always voluntary. Spiritual leaders may call for a corporate fast, but
participation is the choice of each individual. This choice should be made between you
and God and possibly a spiritual mentor. Dont fast with the wrong spirit, its much less
Dont boast about your fast, but inform people who need to know that you wont be
Prepare for spiritual opposition. I promise you that whatever day you fast is the day
someone decides to bring donuts to work. Jesus was tempted when fasting, dont expect
If you fail, dont give in to condemnation. There is always grace with God. Acknowledge
your failure, receive Gods pleasure over your life that youre one of His favorites, and
continue your fast. Its better to try and stumble than to fail for never having tried.
#;+&/-+ 5-%6;+1-%< (A wonderful resource from our CRU brother)
A Hunger for God by John Piper
Celebration of Discipline (Chapter 4) by Richard Foster
The Rewards of Fasting by Mike Bickle and Dana Candler
Shaping History through Prayer and Fasting by Derek Prince
Fast Forward by Lou Engle