I’m Called to Fast… Now What?
Sometimes, the most confusing thing about fasting is which one we are called to partake in. There are many types of fasts and I will try to explain a few of them as simply as I know how. As you read through, God will draw you to the fast in which He is calling you. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you. Our flesh will always tell us it’s impossible, so try to hear His voice clearly.
A complete fast is a fast from everything, including water. I feel that you must talk with your doctor about this fast before you take part. This is extreme deprivation that I believe should be monitored closely by a loved one. I personally have not been called to this fast as of yet, but my husband has. In fact, he broke his fast by taking The Lord’s Supper. How awesome would that be? He said that it was an incredible experience. I’m not discouraging you from this type of fast. I just want you to be wise.
Another form of fasting is a complete fast from food and any liquid besides water. Again, I think this is an extreme fast and should be monitored closely. You are not allowing your body anything but water. I feel that a loved one should be informed, so they can care for you if your body reacts poorly. Once again, be wise.
A juice fast is another type of fast. In this fast, you drink only liquids that are pure fruit and, or vegetable juice. Water, of course is vital in conjunction with juices. Water is vital in every fast unless you are called to take part in a “complete fast” as mentioned above. Water removes toxins and helps our bodies to function properly. As you can imagine, flushing our kidneys and bladder is crucial. If you are addicted to caffeine, or sugar, water helps headaches and other symptoms leave quicker than they would otherwise.
The Daniel Fast is probably the fast that is most familiar to many of us. This fast is varied depending on who you talk to, but for the most part you eat only the food that comes from plants and drink only water. Fruit juice is between you and God, as is plant based sweeteners. My family and I did not choose sweeteners due to Daniel making reference that he did not eat anything sweet. One can make the argument that raisins in oatmeal are a natural sweetener, so again, it is between you and God. Before you allow certain items though, ask yourself why you are allowing it. If your motivation is to “get away with something”, to “outsmart” the system, or something in that vein, realize that you are giving self an opportunity to reign. We are dying to self through fasting, so pray and ask God to reveal your heart.
As you must realize by now, the Daniel Fast is actually stricter than veganism. So, you will have no meat, no additives, no artificial flavorings, no unnatural preservatives, no processed foods, no fried foods or solid fats, no sweets or sweeteners, no yeast or leavening of any kind, no caffeine or other stimulants, and no dairy products.
You can have fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, healthy oils (think olive and grape seed) and herbs. Salt, pepper, legumes, nuts and combinations of the above are also allowed.
I have many recipes to help in planning for a Daniel Fast. Some people have issues with recipes and feel that food should be only in its “natural state” while fasting. Again, that is between you and God. Remember, God calls each person to different things at different times. Every Christian’s journey is set apart for a specific assignment, so everyone’s training will look different. Allow for God to speak to each individual as He directs without condemnation. Romans 14 and 15 are my favorite chapters relating to this. I encourage you to study them.
My family also chose not to partake in modified products that simulate dairy. We did not get almond milk, soy cheese, or egg replacements. We strongly felt that we would just be going “healthy” instead of fasting. I personally realized as well that I would be trying to “outsmart” the system. I needed to allow God to reign, not my flesh. Again though, that is between you and God. You will be surprised when you start reading labels what you are allowed to eat on the Daniel Fast. Focus on what you can eat, not what you cannot.
There are also modifications of any fast. For example, one season I felt called to partake in a Daniel Fast for ten days. During those days, our church had two fellowship meals. Instead of putting off the fast that I knew God wanted me to partake in, I asked Him what to do about these times. He was so sweet. He guided me directly on what I should do. I went to the meals and was told in my spirit exactly what I was allowed to eat and what I was not. No one knew but God, my husband and I and it was a precious time of communion. At one such meal, I even had a brownie. A sweet friend had made a new type of dessert and was watching to see who would like it. I knew that I had to eat that brownie, or really hurt a Christian sister. The brownie was really good and I wanted another, but that was going beyond what I was being allowed to do, so I stopped at one and got to truthfully tell her how delicious it was while staying in obedience to my Father. After those meals, I went right back to my regular fasting allowances. It was a beautiful learning time for me. It was about grace and not legalism.
It is best if we can set aside whatever period of time God is calling us to fast, but sometimes that is not feasible. Large chunks of fasting is amazing times of renewal and sanctification, but there are seasons when a large chunk of time is not possible. In those times, I mark my calendar with the days I can fast for the amount of time that God is leading me to. For example, say I am called to a 21-day Daniel Fast, but during the period of time I believe God is calling me, I have children’s birthdays, a family get together, a church-wide barbeque, and a wedding. What do I do? I lay out my calendar and mark the days I can fast until it reaches the number of days God has called me to. If I pray and feel that this meets God’s approval, I go ahead. If not, I ask Him to show me a better way and He does. Does that make sense? It’s a heart issue, not a legalistic box to check.
Keep in mind, when partaking in any fast, you might want to reduce your normal physical activity until you know what your body can handle. Fasting is not a weight loss program; it is a spiritual journey. So, the normal miles you run, or weights you lift might have to be put on hold for a time. Remember, First Timothy 4:8 says, “For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
So, now that you know which fast God is calling you to, how long do you do it? Again, that is between you and God. There are 100 day, 40 day, 21 day, 10 day, 7 day, 3 day and 1 day fasts. There are fasts from a particular meal for a certain number of days. There are fasts from a particular food group. There are literally hundreds of ways for you to fast.
I know you want me to give you specific instructions, but I simply in good conscience cannot. It is TOTALLY between you and God. He will tell you. Trust Him. He will guide you. Relax. The only wrong way to fast is knowingly disobeying the Spirit’s prompting. Go for it and remember First Thessalonians 5:24:“Faithful is He who calls you, and He will also bring it to pass.”
Now that you are called to fast and have narrowed down the type of fast that God has in mind for you, here are a few tips.
The number one “tip” on fasting is to be prepared as much as possible. The last thing you want to do is to focus on anything other than your spiritual walk. So, prepare as much as possible before you begin.
A great help to you on your fasting journey will be WATER! I know I mentioned it before, but water is essential unless you are on a complete fast. The more water you drink, the quicker the toxins will leave your body. When this happens, headaches are less frequent. The more water you drink, the better you will feel. I realize that fasting is not about feeling good, but when you can focus on God without massive headaches, all the better.
Remove all items from your home that you are not allowing on your fast. This is difficult if you are not single, or no one else in your home is called to fast at this time. At least have a cabinet, or a refrigerator shelf that is yours alone. If your whole family is fasting, box up what you will not be using and store it away, or consider giving the unopened items to a local food bank. Remember, Isaiah 58 talks about sharing our food with the hungry while fasting.
If your family is not fasting with you, talk to them and explain what is happening so that they can help you, pray for you, cheer you on and understand why you might need a little space at times (for crabbiness or getting away from temptation).My family has always been super sweet and understanding, even when they aren’t getting their favorites at suppertime for a while.
I also recommend if you will still be making the meals for your family while fasting that you buy as much convenience food as possible. I always felt guilty about this because the rest of my family ate barely nutritious food during these periods, but they loved it. Frozen pizzas, corndogs, fish sticks, sandwich meat…that kind of thing. Sometimes, this isn’t possible, but if you can purchase things ahead of time that they love to eat and can maybe even fix themselves, all the better. But, be sure to not purchase your favorites. I love pizza rolls, so I do not purchase those. I also love chicken rings and French Fries so, if possible, they are not around during times of fasting. I do not like a certain brand of frozen pizza that my kids love. So, of course, that’s the kind I buy for them. By the end of a rather long fast, even the smell of those pizzas were tempting. So, be prepared to be desirous of unexpected things as well as the usual.
If your conscience just won’t allow you to serve your family junk, consider having meals prepared in the freezer ahead of time. Portion them out in such a way that when unthawed there is just enough for them. That way you won’t convince yourself that you “need” to eat the leftovers.
Obviously, also have everything you need for your fast bought and stored beforehand as much as possible. If you are on the Daniel Fast for a long period of time, you will clearly have to go to the grocery for more fresh produce, but other than that, try to have everything on hand so that you will not have to go into the great place of temptation called the grocery store.
If you are on a juice only fast, do not forget vegetable juices as well as fruit juice. Your body needs nutrition, so be wise. I do not like vegetable juice, but I make myself find something that I can stomach so that I can still function. The goal is not to end up sick in bed shaking from being weak, it is to hear God’s voice more clearly.
Cut out as many social engagements as possible (that revolve around food). Don’t be a recluse, but try to reschedule lunch dates with friends for another time. Or, change the date to a manicure (or the gun range) instead of being centered on food.
Another way to prepare for your fast is to have a devotional plan in place. Be flexible about this; God will show you what He wants to teach you, but it is good to start with something. Several devotionals are out there specifically that are geared toward fasting. Others are good, general Bible studies. Ask God to show you what He would have you to do. Obviously, you can read a portion of Scripture at each mealtime and ask the Lord to reveal to you what He wants you to see. Write down what He tells you. You can also pray back to Him the portions of Scripture you read. You can do a combination of the suggestions above; whatever you decide with the Spirit’s prompting is the right thing to do. Don’t panic if you are unsure, just have something on hand to begin and the Lord will show you the rest.
Another way to prepare for your fast is to compile a “distraction” list. When temptation is not allowing you to concentrate on anything but food, or a certain un-allowed beverage, go to this prepared list. On my “distraction” list I have things like singing, playing the piano, sitting outside, taking a walk, watching a movie, reading, scrapbooking, playing a board game, taking a bath (or a long shower), throwing darts, doing my nails, rearranging a closet, etc. The longer the list, the better. Why? Sometimes, you cannot be distracted by one thing, so you move to the next. Sometimes, I can read while fasting, other times it makes me want food more. In that case, I need another option.
Personally, I cannot watch “live” TV while fasting. I was shocked at how many food commercials there are, especially during a football game and I certainly cannot watch a TV channel totally dedicated to food while fasting. I also have trouble on Pinterest. There is so much good food! I can log in and search other areas, but cannot look at my normal wall. Sad, I know, but I’m just being honest. You might think you don’t need to have a “distraction list”. You might think that you will be able to remember things that will help, but honestly, some days I am just not able to concentrate, so I need the list. Be safe and do the same. If you don’t need it, all the better, but if you do, it’s there. God is our help, but He gives us wisdom to face temptation logically as well.
You will also need an arsenal of Scripture. Have a list handy for when temptation strikes, but also for continual motivation. Some verses that I have found helpful are Job 23:12, Psalm 101:3, Philippians 4:13 and Isaiah 58:6-14. I’m in the process of writing a series of devotionals to help during a fast, but Susan Gregory, One Cry and others have resources available now.
These are just a few tips that have helped me on my journey. I pray that you are not feeling overwhelmed, but excited for the calling that God has placed over you. God’s Holy Spirit will sustain you in ways you never imagined. He will be your strength and you will never regret any journey that takes you closer to hearing His voice.