Help To Better End A Fast

This is a follow-up post to Help To Better Fast. I believe that fasting can change people, cities and even nations. That said, I believe it’s what we do after the fast ends that brings about the longterm difference. I consider seasons of fasting to be like a powerful conference — God can speak to you during it, you can feel moved, dreams can be reawakened, but if you don’t follow through after it’s all over then it’s been little of actual value for the long run. These are just a few practical things and a few spiritual things to make sure your fast is as effective in the long run as it was in the short run.

Don’t binge

Practically speaking, this means that if you haven’t eaten food for over 3 days then you should take it slow. If you haven’t ate anything for a week or so, don’t try eating steak right away, no matter how good it smells. I promise you it will be painful later, if not dangerous. Start off with bread, soup and salad. This is why Olive Garden is my favorite place to end a fast. The soup, salad and breadsticks combo is filling yet safe to eat.

Spiritually speaking, this means that you should not try to make up all your lost time by binging on media, food, or other things that you were fasting. Especially with longer fasts, you have trained yourself to eat and live a certain way. Do your best to keep the godly parts of that.

No spiritual vacations

Tailing off the end of point one, it is imperative that you decide not to take any spiritual time off after the fast is over. The few weeks after a fast is over, when the flesh is regaining it’s normal strength, are the most important to cement habits and practices you established when your flesh was weak during fasting. I encourage you to strive to keep your same prayer and devotional schedule the same as it was while you were fasting till it becomes a normal day to day habit and something ingrained into your life.

Fast again (and regularly)

Fasting should be a regular spiritual discipline in our lives. It’s a excellent way to keep our hearts and spirits in check and to make sure we’re not slipping into apathy or coldness of heart. I encourage you to plan and schedule your next fasting time before you end your current fast. I say this cause your spirit will look forward to it but your flesh will fight it tooth and nail once you end your fast. I know that most people are more quick to say “we should fast more” at the end of the fast than they are a week later. Schedule your fasting time and stick to it.

If you don’t know when to fast, pray and ask God when you should. He may call you to something weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. I highly encourage a few continual days of fasting every month at least. Again, this helps makes sure that every month we’re evaluating our hearts in the place of prayer and fasting. We ought to do it more than once a month, but monthly is better than never doing it.

For those monthly fasts, I highly encourage you to join the Global Bridegroom Fast (GBF). The fast is held the first Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of every month during the months of January to November, and the first Monday through Sunday of December, making a total of forty days of fasting each year. You can find out more information about the fast here.

Surround yourself with prayer

Decide to keep the atmosphere in your house and your life acclimatized to prayer. Choose to make sure your friendships and relationships are those who pray and who encourage you to pray in return. I also encourage you to start listening/watching the IHOP (International House of Prayer) 24/7 Prayer Stream. It’s free and it’s a way to use your speakers and/or TV in a way that’s not going to numb your spirit to God. You can view it free here.

Start a Bible study

Finally, the last thing I would suggest to make sure you don’t waste your fasting after you end your fast is to start a Bible study. This can be by yourself or it can be with your spouse, your family or a group of friends. The point of this is to move past the point you are during the fast, that you would grow after you fast not just during it. There are many great personal Bible studies. I personally recommend any from Beth Moore or Mike Bickle (free!). Many of these can be adapted for a small group. I also recommend doing any from John Piper as a group study (especially his Seeing & Savoring Jesus Christ DVD/book study). At the same time, sometimes the best thing to do is get together, open the Bible and pray and talk about it. Decide that you want to know Jesus better before the next fast and this will make sure that your fasting propels you somewhere deep in God.

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Help to Better Fast

A couple weeks ago I wrote on Help To Better Pray.  I felt it might be helpful to post a few thoughts and helpful tips regarding seasons of fasting in general.

Biblically, there is one main way to fast and that is to fast everything but water. When the Bible talks about fasting, it is usually talking about a water-only fast. The Esther Fast (no food, no water) was only done once in the Bible and was done in light of a coming holocaust. Many people talk about doing a Daniel Fast, but there is no mention that what Daniel and his friends did was a fast. Though in some ways what they did was fast, the Bible never calls it a fast. The reason I’m bringing this up is that many take the easy way out by deciding to do a Daniel Fast.

The main reason why we fast is to create hunger in our hearts for God by making our flesh uncomfortably weak.

In your Christian walk, you will realize that the quickest way to stir up hunger and longing for God is to deny your flesh food. When our flesh is weak, our spirits become strong. A second reason why we fast is for discernment. The more we starve our flesh, the clearer we hear from God.

In reality, when it comes to fasting, there are only a few things that are required:

  1. Do whatever God tells you to do.
    If God tells you to fast by only eating vegetables, then do it. If He doesn’t tell you any particulars, don’t wimp out. Fast like the Bible says to.
  2. Fast only what is doctor-approved and authority-approved (parents/pastors/doctors).
    If “God told you” to not drink water for a week, your doctor, parents and pastors will tell you that you didn’t hear from God. These checks are there for our good.
  3. Avoid media and other time-wasting activities.
    If we’re not careful we dullen our spirits and hunger by consuming crumbs and trash from media. Do you best while fasting to spend as much time with God as you can. There’s always time to go to the beach, shopping or to watch that TV show.
  4. Seek God.
    If we hold back food from our flesh but don’t seek God, we’re not fasting, we’re dieting.

Here are a few tips to get the most out of your fasting time.

Practical Tips

Overcome the first 72 hours

When doing an extended fast, whether 7 days, 21 days or 40 days (or longer), the hardest part of the fast is the first 72 hours. It is the time that the body realizes it’s not getting it’s normal diet and lifestyle. This can begin some slight pains both physically, mentally or emotionally (such as hunger, boredom, loneliness, etc). It is important to remember that all these things are fleeting. Your body will adjust after the few days. I find myself at the end of the fast wanting to continue the fast instead of ending it, but those first few days can be killer. Remember to see the light at the end of the tunnel and keep praying for grace. You’ll make it.

I will say to expect free food during the fast. Also expect your favorite shows or movies to appear while your fasting media. There’s something about fasting that draws people and media to tempt you in every way, but be strong. The Lord loves our seeking Him!

Buy mints and gum

This point sounds silly, but trust me, your breath will reek after a day of fasting. Help yourself out and buy some mints and gum. Another benefit is that you trick your stomach into thinking you’re eating if you chew gum. I’ve had major stomach pains lighten up simply by chewing a piece of gum.

Drink water

On a water only fast, I think the hardest thing to do is to drink water. After about a day, I begin hating water. I feel sick of it. It is  incredibly important to keep drinking it. The average person should be drinking 3-4 liters of water a day. Force yourself to drink or you will become dehydrated.

Suspend exercising

I advise suspending exercising while fasting if you’re only drinking water. It’s not healthy to work out your body without feeding it. You will force your body to start eating muscle, and your heart is the most vital muscle in your body. Don’t mess with it. Doing this opens the door to anorexia and bulimia.

Spiritual Tips

This is a fast, not a diet

It’s so easy to start thinking about how to lose weight while we’re not eating. Resist the temptation to think that way. It will turn your fast from a spiritual act into a carnal one. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

Pray during the fast

This may sound like an obvious point, but I find it amazing how many times I’ve fasted and I rarely ever pray. I’ll read the Bible some but I’ll seldomly enter the place of prayer during this time. There is a tendency while fasting to focus on the hunger (or whatever it is you’re fasting) instead of focusing that attention and time to God in prayer. I also think that we try to bear the fasting “burden” ourselves thinking that God will call us a wimp if we approach Him complaining or speaking how we’re hungry. This is not how God thinks. He is moved that we desire Him enough to put away things we enjoy to better seek Him and better stir our heart to love Him. If we pray for grace and strength when we are struggling in our fast, He will gladly give it. Use this fasting time to speak and pray to Him more. Let it stir you to seek Him longer and more regularly.

Remember the phrase “in secret”

The phrase “in secret” comes from Matthew 6:16-18:

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Jesus states that fasting is something done in the privacy of your life. Our fasting time should be between the Lord and us. There is no need to proclaim what sacrifices we are making for the Lord. Neither should we look all depressed and hurting during the fast. This can be a little challenging especially if you’re fasting all food for the first time; the hunger pain can be quite intense for the first few days. Regardless, Jesus calls us to be joyful, keeping our fasting secret to all but Him. (Note: As a husband, the only one besides Jesus who knows what I’m fasting is my wife. We fast together as one flesh. Also I highly encourage all children and youth to tell their parents what they are fasting, if they are.) If hiding the discomfort of fasting from others seems too hard, then pray (point #1) that God would give you grace and joy to fast.

It’s about love, not legalism

If you don’t make it and you cave into your desires for food or entertainment, don’t stop! Remember, the act of fasting is not about the human will trying to prove itself to God. It’s about love. It’s not about legalism. Reject any lie that tells you that you’ve ruined the fast and that God is disappointed with you. Pick yourself up and continue fasting and seeking Him. The Lord delights in us. He remembers that we are weak and that we stumble and fall and He rejoices when we get back up and continue to do that which we originally set our hearts towards.