Why Christians are Slow to Fast

Why Christians are Slow to Fast by Kristen FeolaThe Bible doesn’t come right out and say, “Thou shalt fast.” But there are several examples of fasting in both the Old and New Testaments. When Jesus taught his disciples basic principles of godly living in the Sermon on the Mount, He spoke directly on the topic of fasting. He said, “When you fast,” not “If you fast.” Jesus’ words in Matt. 6:16 imply that fasting should be a regular practice in the lives of His followers.

Should be. But often isn’t.

And why is that?

I believe it’s because of three main reasons. But before we take a look at those reasons, we need to define the the term fast.

What is fasting?

When you fast, you deny yourself food, or certain foods, for a specified period of time as an act of surrender and worship. Someone who commits to a fast is saying, “Lord, nothing is more important than You. I’m ready to sacrifice my time, my physical comfort and my desires so I can hear from You.”

There are basically three different types of fasts*:

• Absolute — no food or water

• Liquid — water, fruit and vegetable juices, and/or broth

• Partial — eating certain groups of foods and restricting others (i.e., a Daniel Fast)

Why we don’t fast

When you fast, you deny yourself food, or certain foods, for a specified period of time as an act of surrender and worship. Someone who commits to a fast is saying, “Lord, nothing is more important than You. I’m ready to sacrifice my time, my physical comfort and my desires so I can hear from You.”

Anyone who has done a fast — whether absolute, liquid or partial (such as the Daniel Fast)—would agree that fasting is difficult. Physically, you may suffer from unpleasant side effects, such as headaches, fatigue and intestinal discomfort, as your body attempts to adjust to the reduced caloric intake. Spiritually, attacks from the enemy increase in frequency and intensity, resulting in a barrage of frustrations and setbacks that can seem overwhelming.

But, the same people who would be honest about the challenges of fasting would also concur that the sacrifices are well worth the rewards. As you draw near to God, you experience a whole new level of relationship with Him. You become more sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit and can hear His voice more clearly.

Why, then, would believers refuse such an opportunity to enjoy sweet communion with the Lord? In most cases, it’s not due to a lack of desire. Instead, we hold back because of fear, ignorance or rebellion. And, trust me, I’ve experienced all three.

Fear

We’re afraid. Afraid of the unknown. Afraid of feeling hunger pangs. Afraid of starting and not finishing. Afraid of fasting alone. The enemy gets us all bound up in fearful thoughts, and we convince ourselves we could never do it. Instead of looking to the Lord for strength and help, we become consumed with our weaknesses and paralyzed by fear.

Ignorance

Many Christians simply have not been taught about the importance of seeking God in this way. Churches often do not encourage fasting and, in many cases, never even mention it from the pulpit. For example, I grew up in a Bible-believing church, but I don’t remember hearing a single message on fasting until I was an adult. I wish I would have learned at a much younger age about the benefits and blessings of fasting.

Rebellion

A large segment of the Christian population is aware of the benefits of fasting, yet they’re unwilling to submit to the Lord in this area of their lives. Their hearts are hardened when it comes to the idea of fasting. When God invites them to draw near to Him through a time of focused prayer, they dig their heels into the ground and stubbornly reply, “No!”

Why we should fast

When accompanied by fervent prayer, fasting will help you develop intimacy with the Savior in a powerful way. God promises that when we seek Him wholeheartedly, we will be richly rewarded.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matt. 5:6 NIV).

Following are a few reasons why you should make periodic fasts part of your relationship with the Lord.

  • Fasting is the example set by Jesus.

First and foremost, we should fast because Jesus did. Our Savior spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness fasting and praying before He began His public ministry (Matthew 4:1-11). During that time, the Lord was able to defeat Satan’s attacks because He was prayed up and armed with the Word of God. Jesus’ example shows us how fasting equips and empowers us for victory over sin. If Jesus, the Son of God, recognized the importance of fasting in His life, shouldn’t we as well?

  • Fasting helps you grow in faith.

Self-denial does not come naturally to us because the flesh is wired for indulgence. Therefore, when you commit to a fast, you understand and acknowledge that you can’t do it on your own. You realize how completely dependent you are upon the Lord’s strength and learn to lean on Him for the perseverance you need to finish strong.

  • Fasting changes you.

When you spend time in the Lord’s presence, you’re changed. You’ll be transformed as you meditate on the truth of God’s Word and apply His promises to your life.

Fasting is for anyone who is hungry for the Lord. As you empty yourself — physically and spiritually — you open the door for God to step in and do the miraculous in your life.

Don’t let fear, ignorance or a rebellious spirit keep you from seeking God through prayer and fasting. Accept the Lord’s invitation to draw near to Him today. 

  • Read testimonies from people who have participated in the January 2015 Online Daniel Fast.

(This post is an adaptation from my original article, “Why Christians Are Slow to Fast,” that appeared in Pentecostal Evangel on April 8, 2012.

*Note: A popular Christian practice in our culture is to declare a media fast (abstaining from Facebook, computer games, television, etc.). Although these forms of self-denial certainly have benefits, they’re not fasts according to the examples found in Scripture. With every instance of fasting in the Bible, people either went without food or a combination of water and food. Therefore, to fast means to reduce food intake as you spend time seeking the Lord in prayer.

 

Comments

  1. Very good article on fasting !!!!

  2. I completely agree with this article. I, too, grew up in the church and was very involved as a youth. It wasn’t until my husband and I joined our current church, Celebration Church in Jacksonville, FL, that we truly learned the principle of fasting. Our pastor is very passionate about fasting and even wrote a book about it! Kristen, we love the recipes in your book– they have helped to sustain us during our fasts. I particularly enjoy the devotionals that you have in the “Focus” portion of the book. Thank you so much for providing this amazing resource!

  3. houston tx says:

    Amazing..ive been reading your articles all morning..my church never did the Daniel fast specifically but every year for 21 days starting the first sunday in the new year! We fasted differently ea week. This year i live in texas and the church i attend now will be doing the daniel fast. So this is my first Daniel fast sacrifice! GOD BLESSES ME AND THOSE AROUND ME ABUNDANTLY WHEN I FAST!! HE IS AN AWESOME GOD WE SERVE!! Your recipes i will def be using..also I LOVE TO FAST BECAUSE I LOVE THE EXTRA WEIGHT THAT COMES OFF AS WELL LOL..

  4. Renwick D. Jones says:

    My church does the fast every year but I didn’t participate because of those reasons you mentioned. I did try once and failed. One, I didn’t prepare the week before and two, and didn’t pray during the fast. Thanks to your article it gave me more insight about fasting and what is to be expected. Pray my strength in the Lord as I seek a more personal and intimate relationship with Him. Thanks again.

    • Thanks so much for your comments. I’m glad my blog post was helpful. You haven’t “failed” at fasting. Maybe that first fast didn’t go the way you’d planned, but the Lord used that experience to teach you. It certainly wasn’t in vain or a waste of time. The lessons you learned will make your next fast even more successful! Just remember, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). That verse even includes fasting. 🙂 May the Lord fill you with His power and peace in 2016 as you trust in Him!

  5. Johanell du Plessis says:

    Hi Kristen,I found your guidance and information very helpful and insightful.This is the 1st year I will be joining in the Daniel fast,our church The Friend of God in Goodwood South Africa believe wholeheartedly that this is the way to start a new year.As you know in our country we face many issues and challenges,plse keep us in your prayers

    • Hello! I’m so thankful you’ve been blessed by the information on my website. Thank you for beginning the New Year in prayer and fasting. It’s so exciting to know believers from all across the globe are seeking the Lord together. May God bless you abundantly in 2016 as you serve Him!

  6. This information was very helpful only today a co worker told me about the daniel fast thanks for all the information looking forward to do the Daniel fast

  7. Dr Indira Gilbert says:

    The Greek word is “Nesteo” found in the New Testament means abstaining from food. Therefore if Christians wish to fast there should be no eating at all! the ‘Daniel Fast” is no biblical fast. Daniel did not fast!!! He abstained from meat to prove a point!!!! A brain child of ?????

    • I appreciate your comments. However, the prophet Daniel DID fast in Daniel 9: “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes (vs. 3). Another description occurs in 10:2-3: “At that time, I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 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.” I believe the passage you are referring to is Daniel 1. And Daniel did not enter into a fast at that time; rather, he took a stand, which resulted in a 10-day test.

  8. Edith Reyes says:

    I grew up with my mother encouraging my brother and me to fast along with her. It was an absolute fast and we were not forced but encouraged, even if we could only fast during daylight hours. I was 5 years old and my brother was 8. I always felt closer to God after a fast and still do! God is so good to us to help us grow closer to Him! In this day and time, we need Him more and more!

    • Hi, Edith! I think that’s great that you learned about fasting at such a young age. Yes, fasting is a way to draw closer to God. It also helps us realize in a deeper way how dependent we are upon Him. Thanks for your comments. May God bless you as you seek Him!

  9. Kristen,

    Your posts were helpful, especially during this fast. The part about the enemy attacks being more prevalent during fasts gave me a little boost. Having a wonderful relationship with God, I was so distraught with the enemy’s threats, worry, and judgement, which was nauseating. It made me want to forgo this fast out of frustration just so I wouldn’t feel the judged.

    I know things like this, are sometimes what God may want to help you overcome. By bringing it to the forefront it allows me to see the enemy’s workings, which at times were sent in the form of the abuse underwent. Seeing it showed me who the culprit was. The same things and words they said, was what the enemy used.

    I can see how God used this fast, to help me overcome, what Satan did. Should he come again with his deceit, I can withstand it. Having overcome things in the past, he still comes with the same temptations, but I know if Hod helped me overcome those things, he always will.

    So this years fast, judgement, worry, threats, myths, were the battles I fought. Thanks to that bit of info it made me want to fight through the rest of the fast.

    As God said to me, “It will move.” He has equipped us with his strength, and I have faith that it will move….and I can’t wait.

    **I also do the fast with Celebration Church Jacksonville, FL. -To Cristin (from the post above)

    • Hi, Bernice! Thank you so much for sharing what the Lord has been showing you. I’m so glad to hear some of my posts were helpful on your journey. Praise God for the mountains He has moved and WILL move in your life! Just keep standing on the truth of His Word when the Enemy attacks. God is faithful to help us when we need strength. May the Lord continue to fill you with His power and peace as you trust in Him!

  10. Gail Sutton says:

    I like the general idea of the Daniel fast although it’s not really a fast. It’s a 21 day diet. A fast is what Jesus did for 40 days. I know a holy man that fasted for 14 days with no water but that’s normally a bad idea. Drinking liquids only is a liquid diet. The Daniel fast is a great idea. It’s basically eating much more from the table of God and less from the table of man. Hopefully it precludes eating from the table of the devil.

    • Hi, Gail! Thanks for your comments. The Daniel Fast actually IS a fast; it’s a partial fast, which means that you abstain from certain foods as an act of worship and sacrifice to God. Although you are able to eat (as opposed to a water or liquid fast), you still experience self-denial. Many people do lose weight on the Daniel Fast, but it’s certainly not intended to be the focus. The purpose of the Daniel Fast is to be a time of focused prayer. So if someone does the fast and doesn’t pray, then, yes, it becomes more of a diet.

  11. I am hoping to start the Daniel Fast later this month together with my church CITAM in Nairobi kenya. We are praying that God would hold our country together as we approach the elections next year. We want his peace to prevail so that God’s people will be at rest. If you could also whisper a prayer for us, we would really appreciate it.

    • Liz, that’s wonderful! The first time I did the Daniel Fast was with my church (see my recent blog post). God will certainly bless you for seeking Him through prayer and fasting! I pray He will pour out His favor on your church in a supernatural way. May lives be eternally changed because of your commitment!

  12. I am beginning a daniel fast tomorrow. It will be my first, and I am hoping for a breakthrough in my ability to trust God and also lean into who he says I am. I am starting this scared, but I am starting it anyway.

    • Praise the Lord! I love that you’re doing it afraid. You aren’t letting fear hold you back. “When I am afraid, I will trust in you” (Ps. 56:3). May the Lord overwhelm you with His great love on this fast. I pray you will sense His nearness as you fast and pray.