Fasting is consciously abstaining from food and drink: either entirely, or partially for a predetermined period of time. Fasting can also involve the abstaining from customary or choice nourishment and activities.
The purpose of fasting
Matthew 7:7-8 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (NIV)
To seek means to crave, and strongly desire something from someone. This is what God desires for us to do with Him. God wants people who will seek after Him (Luke 12:31). Fasting helps us to seek God.
Our body (or flesh) is our greatest hindrance to seeking God. Our flesh is very demanding. It craves for food and attention all the time. This can hinder us from focusing on God.
Fasting helps us to bring our bodies under control and focus on God. If you desire to hear God speak to you, or you have a particular prayer request that you strongly desire God to answer then fasting is a good way to approach it.
Ezra is a good example of a person who sought God's face with prayer and fasting. He called a fast when he needed to get something from God.
Ezra 8:21-23 There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. 22 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, "The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him." 23 So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer. (NIV)
When we get close to God the devil flees (James 4:7-8). Since fasting helps us to draw close to God it means we can break the oppression of satan, sin and sickness over our lives as we pray and fast.
Isaiah 58:6 [Is] this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? (NKJV).
Abstaining from customary and choice nourishment for a fixed period of time
Daniel 10:2-3 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. (NIV)
You could have what is commonly called a Daniel's fast. This means deciding not to eat certain customary foods such as bread, meat e.t.c. The advantage of this type of fast is that it is not so difficult on the body. It is a good way to introduce yourself to fasting.
A Daniel's fast can also be sustained for much longer than a total fast since you will still be eating certain foods.
Abstaining from certain customary foods will also help you to focus your attention on God.
2. Total fast
Abstaining entirely from food for a fixed period of time.
Abstaining entirely from food for a fixed period of time is an effective way of fasting. If you have never done this before then you should start gradually. You could start by missing your morning meal.
After doing this several times you could progress on to missing your food for the whole day. It is a healthy habit to drink water while you fast. Since this helps to keep your body working properly. Remember that the point of fasting is to keep our focus on God.
After a while you should be able to fast for two or three days in a row. You could either break the fast every evening or fast right through.
You have to be very determined when going on a total fast for the first time. Initially your stomach will protest vehemently. Ignore it. You will not die.
3. Living a fasted life.
Philippians 4:5-6 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (NIV)
The Bible encourages us to pray and petition (or seek) God continuously. To do this we will need to live a fasted life. This means abstaining permanently from those things which hinder our walk with God (Hebrews 12:1). Hindrances are not necessary sin. They could be normal activities of life which tend to take our focus away from God. We all need to look at our lives and ask the Holy Spirit to show us those things which hinder our walk with Him. We should then fast these things.
Is fasting necessary?
Matthew 6:16-17 "When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, (NIV)
Notice that Jesus said "when you fast.." and not "if you fast". Fasting is necessary if we are to get closer to God. If we are to hold on to the power of God and do His work; casting out demons e.t.c we will need to put time aside to pray and fast.
Mark 9:27-29 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. 28 And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?" 29 So He said to them, "This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting." (NKJV)
It is only by seeking God's face that we will receive the anointing and power to do His work. In the Acts of the Apostles we see the Apostles pray and fast as they went about God's work
Acts 14:23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (NKJV)
Acts 13:2-3 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent [them] away. (NKJV)
It is during times of fasting and seeking God that the Holy Spirit can speak to us and guide us. Not that He cannot speak to us at other times, rather it is because fasting helps us to be more sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Practical tips on fasting
1. 1. Set aside a specific time for fasting and stick to it; no matter what your stomach says.
It is advisable to drink water during times of long fasting.
2. Fasting pray and study of the word go together. Try and make time to pray and study the word during times of fasting.
3. If you have never fasted before then a Daniel's fast is a good one to start with.
4. Fasting helps us to seek God. It makes us more sensitive to the Holy Spirit. Times of fasting aid us in drawing closer to God since we focus on Him more during these times.
5. After fasting for a whole day it is advisable to end the fast with light food. Eating something heavy could upset your stomach.
6. Set regular time aside for fasting. There will be times when the Holy Spirit leads us to prompts us to fast. We should be sensitive to this prompting and obey.