Fasting is often difficult (thank God for the times when its easy!) and the enemy will do just about anything to keep you from it. Now you may not struggle with the same hurdles that I’ve encountered, but if you’re anything like me, than hopefully you’ll find some of these tips helpful. Here are a couple things I discovered recently in my attempts at fasting:
1. Set clear guidelines
Almost every time I do a fast, if I don’t set very clear guidelines for the type of fast I’m going to do (and even when I do), I am always tempted to bend the rules or make excuses to get out of it. For example, I know that I want to fast in some way on a particular day, but I am indecisive about what kind of fast I’ll be doing – will I go on water only? Will I allow myself to drink juice? Will I say no solids, but any type of liquid? Will I say just fruits and vegetables? No sweets? One meal? etc. If I don’t make a clear decision on what I’m doing, I’ll end up fasting nothing! Or, if I say I’m going to fast and I start off thinking I’ll do water only, by mid-morning I’m allowing myself some juice, by lunch I’m having a milky, sugary, caffeinated latte, by supper time I decide I’ll let myself have a bowl of soup and then by the end of the day I’m having a big plate of nachos with cheese and salsa before bed! Now, there is always grace and this is not a regimented religious exercise where you have to follow strict rules – it’s about your heart – but you’re really cheating yourself of entering into the voluntary weakness of fasting if you don’t give yourself clear boundaries for your fast and seek to do your best to follow them.
2. Have accountability
Now, we know we’re not supposed to broadcast our fasting to the world and the general rule is that it’s between you and God and nobody else needs to know about it. By flaunting your fast to the public, you are receiving your reward on earth for a few moments, but losing your eternal reward in heaven. At the same time, I believe it is super helpful to have one person, like your spouse or a close friend, that you tell what kind of fast you are doing and then ask them to keep you accountable! If my husband has no idea that I have intentions to fast on a certain day, I am 100% more likely to break my fast than if I know that he knows. Even if he’s not around to see me, it’ll be in the back of mind that he might ask me how my fast is going and that might be just enough to keep me from eating that ice cream sandwich. Now hopefully we would fear the Lord more than man and fast with the knowledge that He is always watching and sees everything, but if you need that extra little help, I would suggest telling just one person and give them permission to ask you about it!
3. Have a prayer plan
I remember the first time I heard teaching on fasting as a youth where the speaker said that “fasting without prayer is dieting”. While I believe there is still value in fasting when you’re just gritting your teeth through it and prayer is farthest from your mind, this is definitely not God’s highest for fasting. Fasting without prayer is mostly starving yourself for no reason. The goal or purpose is to spend the time you would normally give to preparing food and eating and use it to sit at Jesus’ feet in communion with Him. How this looks will be different for everyone – perhaps you’ll read your Bible and simply meditate on the Word, perhaps you’ll do a study on a certain topic in the Bible, perhaps you’ll spend time in worship and adoration, or you might like to focus that time on interceding for the needs of others. Whatever it looks like, there should be some form of prayerful communing with God. But for me, the same as having clear guidelines for the type of fast I’ll be doing, if I don’t have a plan of action for my time with the Lord, chances are I’ll play games on my computer while I’m skipping lunch! Not having a plan makes me feel a little lost, so it’s often a good idea to have a scripture picked out that I want to read, or a specific topic I’ve been wanting to study, or a list of needs I want to pray about.
That’s it for now – if I come across more stumbling blocks to fasting (which I’m sure I will), then I’ll be sure to write about what I find helpful to overcoming them in a future post!