How to Fast

Fasting is a voluntary weakness, the spiritual discipline of restraining or abstaining from a pleasure—often food, but not necessarily—in order to gain something spiritually. Central to the fast is the idea of humbling ourselves through self-denial. Fasting is just one of many spiritual disciplines that are considered part of a normal Christian experience.

There are other ways to practice the discipline of self-denial and voluntary weakness that are not tied directly to food (Isaiah 58). This is important for those who have a medical limitation to food fasting.

Some alternatives to a full food fast might be:
• Partial food fasting mixed with varying lengths of abstinence
• Time restraints on eating (not before noon, not after 3 pm, etc.)
• Entertainment (TV, movies, videos, books, sports, eating out, etc.)
• Favorite pastimes (shopping, various recreations, computer, hobbies, etc.)

The partial food fast might be an option for some with medical limitations and is also an excellent way to begin exploring the grace of fasting. This fast is modeled for us by Daniel, who ate “no satisfying food” for three weeks (Daniel 10:3).
You can mix the partial food fast with varying lengths of time. For example, you might choose eating only fruits and vegetables  for a week or two or try eliminating your favorite foods for a month or more.

Restricting your eating by time of day is another option: eating only one meal a day or choosing to eat only during certain hours. An example of this might be not eating between 6 am and 6 pm or only eating between 11 am to 1 pm, etc., and practicing this for several days or more.

You can also augment a total abstinence fast (no solid food) with fruit juice or clear vegetable broth. A very small amount of juice (normally diluted by one half to two thirds) or broth can have a very dramatic effect on your energy level while fasting. Remember, we are engaged in trying to make ourselves more available to the Holy Spirit, not just trying to see how miserable we can make ourselves feel!

With any fast it is wise to restrict, if not eliminate, all entertainments and spend that time in extra Bible reading, prayer, worship, fellowship or service. Remember, in the Christian fast we are not just abstaining from food—but in place of eating we are feeding our spirit.