The Call: Seeking God's Voice

Q&A on Fasting

Why a week of church-wide prayer and fasting?

Ezra 8:21: “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us…”

There are certain times when, as a church family, we need to reorient our hearts towards God, to collectively seek His guidance, particularly at the onset of significant seasons in the life of the church.  As we embark on this period of leadership transition, we recognize that this is a God-sized initiative that cannot happen under our own power. Therefore, we are putting together a week of focused prayer, worship and fasting to draw nearer to God and to pray for the future of our church.

In the Bible, fasting was a practice of God’s people, where they would abstain from foods for a period to seek to realign their hearts’ affections with His. Based on biblical truth and historical pattern, when we humble ourselves in prayer and fasting to cry out to God, He responds! He did it with Esther’s fast. He did it in Nineveh. He did it in Joel. And He did it in Acts 13 with the leaders of the Antioch Church. We have a God who sees, hears, and responds to the humble and fervent prayers of His people.

If you call River City Church your home, please join in with the staff, ministry leaders, and elders for this time to hear from God fresh and new and to seek His direction for our church.

What is fasting? Is it commanded in the Bible?

Fasting is voluntarily restricting food — or any other regularly enjoyed, good gift from God — for the sake of a spiritual purpose. Fasting is not commanded to be done regularly in the Bible. In the New Testament there is no commandment to fast but Jesus assumes his followers will fast, and even promises it will happen. He doesn’t say “if,” but “when you fast” (Matthew 6:16). And he doesn’t say his followers might fast, but “they will” (Matthew 9:15).

What is the purpose of fasting?

At its core, fasting is trading a dependence upon a physical thing for God alone. Dallas Willard says, “Fasting confirms our utter dependence upon God by finding in him a source of sustenance beyond food. In fasting, we learn how to suffer happily as we feast on God.”  Our physical hunger reorients our appetite to an eternal hunger for the Father. In short, fasting enables us to cleanse the sanctuary of our hearts, opening the way for a greater submission to the Holy Spirit.

We don’t fast to get something from God. We fast to get God. We already have every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). Fasting is not about "earning" an answer to prayer. God wants to answer our prayers and He answers out of grace. Fasting simply prepares us for God's answer. It is a way of setting ourselves apart and humbling ourselves before Him.

Are there different types of fasting?

Fasting biblically is abstaining from food. Moses fasted twice with no food for 40 days. Jesus fasted once from food for 40 days. These are absolute fasts. Paul fasted from food and water for 3 days after his conversion as well. There are also fasts abstaining from certain food such as meat and eating only vegetables and water (“Daniel Fast” – See Daniel 1:12). This is a partial fast. A popular fast is not to eat food and only drink water and/or juice for a determined number of days. There are many other options you can do. You can abstain from solids from sunrise to sunset and eat dinner, or skip breakfast or lunch every day. You can skip a meal for 6 days and then do a total fast from food and water on the 7th day.

We encourage everyone to seek the Holy Spirit’s leading as to how they participate in this fast. Some possible ideas are:

  • Water fast—no food; consuming only water

  • Juice fast—no food; consuming only water and fresh juices

  • Daniel fast—no meat, sweets, caffeine; consuming only fruits/veggies

  • Media fast—recommended for those with health issues that can’t give up food; giving up TV, social media, internet, movies, etc.

It is important that when you fast, you spend the time that you would normally spend cooking/prepping/ eating food or watching/listening to media and replace it with prayer, Bible reading and worshiping God. There is a morning and evening devotional on the website for you to use in your study and prayer times.

What if I have health issues and can’t give up food?

Seek medical advice if you are older or have health challenges. Pregnant or nursing women, those who need to constantly monitor their glucose levels (diabetics), those with eating disorders, and those with life-threatening health issues should not participate in a food fast. If you have health concerns that restrict you from fasting food, consider fasting from television, computer, social media, or some other regular enjoyment that would bend your heart toward greater enjoyment of Jesus. Consider fasting from talking on the phone socially, browsing the internet and personal email (unless work/homework related), reading the news, playing video games, hanging out with friends, hobbies, and marital relations for married couples (see 1 Corinthians 7:5); use that time to devote yourself to God. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose.”

How do I prepare physically for a fast?

Two days before your fast, limit your intake of food to fruit and vegetables. Fruit is a natural cleanser and easy to digest. Stop drinking coffee. Prepare yourself for mental irritations such as impatience, crankiness and anxiety.

What are some physical side effects of fasting?

The more food you abstain from, the more side effects your body will feel. Your body is conditioned to receive food so if you go without any food, you will begin to feel the body releasing toxins. You might experience coating on your tongue and bad breath, headaches, weakness, occasional dizziness. Make sure that you get plenty of rest and sleep daily. You may feel hunger if you continue to drink coffee. If you go on a complete fast from food, you will feel hunger pangs. The first three days will mostly likely be the hardest. Usually, as the days go on, the hunger pangs will decrease and it may feel easier. If your hunger pangs return days later, consider reintroducing food as your body might be running out of its resources in order for you to function properly. Supplement juices that will give your body the necessary nutrients and if hunger pangs continue or your fear for your health, reintroduce food slowly into your system.

Do not hurt your body above the usual side effects of fasting (hunger pangs, headaches, tiredness). Look out for unusual signs in your health and consult your doctor if you suspect something is wrong. Don’t hesitate to end your fast if you become ill.

How do I prepare spiritually for fasting?

Fasting sounds much easier in concept than it proves to be in practice; the world, our flesh, and the enemy conspire to introduce all sorts of complications that keep it from happening. Satan tempted Jesus during his fast. We must expect the same. One the first day of your fast, you can bet donuts will somehow show up somewhere. Your spouse or roommate will suddenly be inspired to cook your favorite foods. Take this as an encouragement from God to press ahead.

Many times, you may feel increased emotional tension at home. Discouragement may come in like a flood. Don’t despair.  Recognize the source and take your stand as a child of God. Be decisive so that when you are tested you will be able to carry on your fast with determination.

If you fail to keep your fast, don’t give in to condemnation. The “to fast or not to fast’ dilemma can be a major scheme of the enemy. Even though you may fail several times, God always extends grace. Hit reset and resume right where you left off.

What are some of the spiritual benefits of fasting?

Fasting can create a deeper hunger for God and his kingdom. Fasting will help us remember that we do not live by bread alone but by the word that comes from the mouth of God and that our true joy can only be found in God.

Idols of our hearts may be revealed as we seek God in our fasting; it can uncover the things that control us that we might not have known otherwise.

Expect to hear God’s voice in the Word, through dreams, visions, and revelations. Daniel prepared himself to receive revelation through fasting (Dan 10:1-2). Scripture also speaks of a fasting reward (Matt. 6:18). Breakthroughs often come after a fast, not during it. Do not listen to the enemy’s lies that nothing is happening. Every fast done in faith will be rewarded.

Scriptures on Fasting

  • Genesis 24:33

  • 2 Samuel 12:15-17

  • Leviticus 23:27

  • Judges 20

  • Esther 4:16

  • Daniel 9:3-5

  • Daniel 10:2-3

  • Joel 2:12-13

  • Jeremiah 36:6

  • Jonah 3:4-10

  • Nehemiah 1

  • Isaiah 58:3-8

  • Luke 4:2-4

  • Matthew 6:16-18

We are excited to call our church family to humbly seek God and pray as we fast together over this week. Our hope is that this time of prayer and fasting will refresh us personally and also our church as we seek His presence and direction!