“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:16–18
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry… Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.” Luke 4:1–2, 14
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 13:2–3
“They said to me, ‘Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.’ When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 1:3–4
“When exercised with a pure heart, and a right motive, fasting may provide us with a key to unlock doors where other keys have failed.” Arthur Wallis
“The discipline of fasting can focus our prayers in the way that a magnifying glass can focus sunlight to start a fire.” Pete Greig
“Fasting is an opportunity to lay down an appetite – an appetite for food, for media, for shopping. This act of self-denial may not seem huge – it’s just a meal or a trip to the mall – but it brings us face to face with the hunger at the core of our being. Fasting exposes how we try to keep empty hunger at bay and gain a sense of well-being by devouring creature comforts. Through self-denial we begin to recognise what controls us. Our small denials of the self show us just how little taste we actually have for sacrifice or time with God. This truth is not meant to discourage us. It’s simply the first step in realising that we have to lay down our life in order to find it again in God.” Adele Calhoun
Talk to a doctor before undertaking longer fasts, and take their advice.
Take baby steps: if you’ve never fasted before then just start with one meal. Once you’ve tried that a few times, try fasting from your evening meal one day to your evening meal the next day.
As you fast, look for what begins to stir in you that you normally keep at bay through comfort eating and drinking. If anger, for example,m starts to rise, invite God into it and ask him what the cause of that anger really is.
Use the time you would normally be eating to read your Bible and pray.
Breaking a fast early can cause people to feel guilty and like they’ve sinned. Achieving a fast can cause people to feel pride and like they’ve earned favour with God. Watch out for both of these reactions as neither are healthy nor a Biblical picture of fasting.
Jon Soper, who leads Exeter Network Church with his wife Jo, discusses the discipline of fasting and how as a practice it helps us to be with Jesus.