Continuing with our look into fasting, how do you know what type of fast to do or for how long to do it?
I would tell you that it depends on what you are trying to achieve. Seek God’s guidance in this. He will lead you.
I greatly encourage all Christians to offer the first fruits of the year to the Lord with a fast.
“As for the offering of the firstfruits, you shall offer them to the LORD.”
In his book, Fasting, Jentezen Franklin talks about his church and others who do a corporate fast for the first 21 days of the year. It is also the practice, for those who keep the Appointed times of the Lord to fast on Yom Kippur. I have also practiced fasting the first day of each week (Sunday) from sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday.
Types of Fasts
The Bible mentions several kinds of fasts:
The Absolute Fast: No food or drink. It is advised that you seek a doctor’s supervision before fasting like this, and limit the time period. Esther called her people to an absolute fast for three days and nights, and God saved them from extermination.
The Normal Fast: Taking only water is what Jesus did in the wilderness before beginning His ministry. It is also what Moses did when he received the Ten Commandments, and again when he interceded for Israel. These were all forty-day fasts.
Absolute and normal fasts are the ultimate submission to God, and are often connected in the Word with the people’s desperation for God’s intervention. You may also want to include clear juices or broth on an extended normal fast for strength. We live a much more demanding life now than they did in Bible times.
Absolute and normal fasting can also be done for a specific time each day, say from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., or sundown to sundown, or a specific meal each day.
Know that you don’t have to do an absolute fast to receive God’s blessing.
The Partial Fast: Abstaining from certain foods. The most well-known partial fast in the Bible is Daniel’s fast, which is eating only vegetables and drinking only water. It was not the dietary change that made Daniel and his companions rise above the other young men. It was their submission to and loyalty to God. Clearly, God honored Daniel for giving up the luxuries of meats, breads, sweets, wine, and food probably offered to false gods. The first such fast for Daniel lasted 10 days with his friends. The next was for 21 days, when he was distraught over a prophetic dream. Though God heard him on the first day of his prayer, a demon fought the messenger angel, preventing him from bringing Daniel an answer for 21 days. In other words, breakthrough came after 21 days. (Read Daniel 10 for the whole story.)
Patricius, or St. Patrick is another example of God honoring a partial fast. As a slave in Ireland, Patricius had little to eat. Still he offered a portion of every meal to God as he sought a deeper relationship with Him. God used him mightily for His kingdom.
Duration of Fasts
Numbers are very significant to God. They are another form of communication and a hallmark of His omnipotence. Though God will honor an earnest fast of any duration, if you are seeking specific things, you may want to keep these numbers in mind.
ONE: Signifies first of all the one true God. It also signifies unity (The Trinity, Three-In-One) and commencement. On the first day, God said, “Let there be light.” It symbolizes an awakening, if you will. Jesus is the Light of the World, God’s one and only Son, the firstfruits of those who have died. This is a good place to start if you are new to fasting.
THREE: Signifies Devine perfection and completeness. Again, The Trinity. On the third day, God completed the fundamentals of His creation. The dry earth rose up out of the deep, and the fruits rose up from the earth. Likewise, Christ rose from the dead on the third day. And don’t forget Ecclesiastes 4:12:
“A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
SEVEN: Signifies Spiritual Perfection. Every work that is connected to the Holy Spirit bears the number seven. It is His watermark. God ended His creation work on the seventh day and blessed it. It is the number of jubilee. The flood came seven days after the Ark was loaded. It is a number common in prophecy and sacrifice. The seven loaves and seven baskets of leftovers. And the Book of Revelation is filled with sevens! There is power, here!
TWENTY-ONE: This of course is the combination of THREE and SEVEN. A good duration for a Daniel fast.
FORTY: The number of Divine order (10) applied to earthly things (4); this is the number of probation. During the Flood, it rained for forty days and forty nights, Israel was forced to wander in the wilderness for forty years, Moses fasted for forty days and nights when he received the Ten Commandments, and Jesus fasted forty days and nights in the wilderness before He began His ministry. In my first post on Effective Fasting, I talked about the significance of the number forty in breaking the yoke of Satan. It is a very powerful number.
Whichever fast and duration you choose, remember to offer it up to God and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help and guidance. If you are determined to do an extended fast, you may want to start with a normal fast for one to three days and then go to the Daniel fast for the rest.
The important thing is your focus. Spend as much time as you can in prayer and praise, focusing on God. James 4:8 says,
“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners;
and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
Let that be your focus, and you will be amazed by how you grow more sensitive to Him, and what He reveals to and about you. I never thought I’d say this about anything, but it is truly better than chocolate!
I hope you choose to make fasting a part of your Christian walk. And I hope you will share with me what God is doing in your life as a result.
God’s grace and peace be yours,