“Lord, I have made thy word my choice,
my lasting heritage:
there shall be my noblest powers rejoice,
my warmest thoughts engage.” (Isaac Watts)
When we don’t understand, we don’t act. That’s what kept me from fasting as a regular habit. But when I studied fasting for myself, I came to understand its value. And now I can fast on a regular basis. I can act.
One thing I have learned is that successful fasting takes preparation. The fasting experience will go better if you plan for it, and you’re more likely to continue it as a regular practice if you prepare. Of course, you can just wing it, but I don’t think it will be as enjoyable or effective that way.
So, in order to move you toward action, here are “Eight P’s” to help you prepare to fast. They’ll help you think through the various aspects of the fast. It’s also helpful to write down your responses and then pull them out during the fast. That’ll strengthen your resolve.
Purpose: What is the reason for the fast? Choose a focus for the fast. It could be a closer relationship with God, a turnaround in finances, physical healing for a friend, breaking an addiction, a new job, etc.
Pick: What is the fast I’ve chosen? There are different kinds of fasts like the Absolute (no foods, no liquids), the Normal (no foods, yes liquids), the Partial (abstain from particular foods or liquids like no meat or no desserts), etc. Not all fasts involve food. There is fasting from certain activities like watching TV, surfing the Internet, emailing, etc. Decide your fast.
Period: How long will I fast? Don’t try to be a hero by the length of your fast. Make the time period reasonable. Don’t go on a ten day fast if you’ve never fasted before. Start out gradual and build up to longer lengths of time. It is important to set a goal.
Plan: What will my life look like while I fast? Think through how your lifestyle might change during the fast. For example, don’t go to the gym. If you like to hang out at a bookstore that sells tempting treats, reconsider. In the spirit of Jesus’ instruction on not looking like you’re fasting, I recommend dressing better and grooming more carefully during the fast.
People: Who will be affected by my fast? You might have to cancel dinner plans; your workout partner might have to work out alone; your family might have to eat dinner without you. It’s your choice how much to tell them, but it could be cool to explain why you’re fasting. Who knows? Maybe they’ll join you next time.
Pearl: What will be my treasure when I fast? Get a verse from the Bible that will be your pearl during the fast. Meditate on it; memorize it; get it in you. It might be related to the purpose of your fast; it might be a favorite verse; it might encourage you to keep going. Whatever it is, it will energize you and give you peace.
Prayer: How will I combine prayer and fasting? Fasting sets up an atmosphere of prayer. Hunger pangs remind you to pray. Withdrawing from meals frees up time to pray. Setting a clear purpose sets your prayer agenda. Intimacy with God becomes your food. If you don’t combine prayer and fasting, then you’re really only dieting.
Post-fast: How will I end my fast? How you end your fast is just as important as how you start it. The details of coming off your fast depend on the type of fast. For example, if you haven’t eaten food for three days, don’t make your first meal a Big Mac. Eat bland foods like bread, rice or pasta. And, ease into exercise rather than trying to make up for the days you missed. Return to routine life with wisdom.
Hopefully these Eight P’s bring some more understanding about fasting. Now that you have understanding, you can act.