I decided to research this subject in the interest of educating myself about the spiritual benefits of fasting ... and since I enjoy sharing information, I'm posting all my discoveries here on my site.
Before you attempt a fast on your own, be sure you are aware of your personal health conditions and the risks you may be taking. Fasting is a wonderfully healthful practice ... but it must be conducted with care and diligent attention.
A Summary of My Discoveries About Fasting
Our bodies have been designed to heal themselves -- as any doctor will tell you, their real job is to find ways to get the body to respond and thus heal itself. But we are not only physical in our makeup! We are spiritual beings, too ... and fasting addresses both of these aspects of our life, simultaneously.
Fasting is the single greatest natural healing therapy available to us. It turns our energies inward, giving our cells and organs a break ... a time to breathe, to catch up, and to restore themselves. But even more importantly, it is our Creator's own instructional remedy for spiritual problems. It brings our spiritual nature to the forefront of our consciousness, creating a greater right-side-up awareness of the fact that we are spiritual beings inhabiting a physical body, rather than the other way around.
Naturally, I'm happy to know that fasting restores my physical body, makes me healthier and gives me more energy and vitality ... but my greater interest lies in answering this question: As a Christian, why should I practice fasting?
In Matthew 6:16-18, Yahshua says when you fast - not if. It was plainly understood, in those days, that if you had a relationship with Elohim, you fasted regularly. Period.
Fasting is a way of seeking Elohim for answers to your own or someone else's problems, be they physical, material or spiritual ... and it's a way of showing your willingness to serve Him by giving yourself over to a time of prayer and meditation.
In a sense, fasting is a way of putting on the new man as Ephesians 4:17-24 talks about. As believers, we don't reform our flesh, we crucify it ... and, if you ask me, fasting is a sure-fire way of doing just that.
Fasting involves a conscious, intentional and deliberate decision to put the desires of the flesh down and to turn to some quiet time, alone with Elohim. This is something that is to be done privately, strictly between yourself and Elohim ... where you stop the merry-go-round of this world, to magnify your spiritual walk with Him for a time.
Ephesians 6:12 tells us that the problems we see happening in the world around us are mere reflections of battles going on in spiritual realms. The devil is more diligent and persistent than most of us are ... he knows the battleground is in the spiritual realm and uses our worldly desires to deceive us into placing our focus in areas that are ineffective and, in the process, often gets us to break Elohim's laws which gives him rights to steal our peace. Fasting can open our eyes to the truth and spoil the devil's snares.
Every time you feel hunger gnawing at you during a fast, let it serve as a reminder of the bigger battle that you are waging against the enemy of your life: Satan and his armies. And don't be too surprised when you see your situation taking unexpected turns that bring you victories in ways you never could have imagined before your fast.
Fasting can reveal greater truths about your situation and you can expect answers and solutions to come to you -- not only because Elohim Himself has told you that He will answer you ... but also because of your own sharpened, super-sensitized ability to hear Him ... which is a product of any sincere fast.
Scriptures About Fasting
For me, there is one Scripture that says it all ... and that is Isaiah 58:6-14, where Elohim gives us an undeniably powerful list of the accomplishments we may expect when we privately and sincerely turn to Him through fasting and prayer.
Isaiah 58:6-14 | A Diligent Time of Fasting & Prayer Will: Loose the cords of wickednessAnd further, Elohim assures you that He will answer your call ... that when you cry for help, you will hear Him say to you Here I am!
Undo the bands of the yoke
Set the oppressed free
Break off every yoke
Feed the hungry and cover the naked
Cause your light to break forth like the dawn
Make your healing spring forth speedily
Cause your righteousness to go before you
Make the esteem of the Father your rear guard
Don't misunderstand, however ... this is not a way for anyone to get Elohim to do their own bidding. In Jeremiah 14:10-12 Elohim makes it clear that when some people fast, He will not recognize their cry because they love to wander and do not restrain their feet ... i.e. because their walk with Him lacks integrity and discipline.
In Acts 23:12 a group of men tried to twist Elohim's arm with fasting ... of course, as pointed out in the above instruction from Jeremiah, Elohim does not recognize such calls.
As we are told in 1 Corinthians 7:5, fasting blocks Satan's temptations. And in Matthew 17:21 Yahshua reveals that sometimes the only way to cast demons out of others is through prayer and fasting.
Yahshua tells us, in Matthew 6:16-18 that when we fast, we shouldn't show it; we shouldn't let others know, but if we do ... that will be our reward. He teaches us, rather, to stand tall ... to fast privately between ourselves and our Father in Heaven ... and then He will reward us.
Yahshua repeats that same message in Luke 18:10-12, speaking of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who fasted publicly, twice each week. Mondays and Thursdays were Market Days and they were sure to be seen fasting by everyone who came to town to do their shopping. They appeared with their hair a mess ... wearing old clothes, covered with dirt ... faces smeared with white chalk, making themselves look pale ... and with ashes dumped over their heads as a sign of humility. They received their worthless reward of saying to everyone, Look at our great spirituality! ... they were far more interested in pleasing men than they were in pleasing Elohim.There is one Aramaic word for fasting:In Biblical terms, fasting means to deliberately abstain from food for one reason alone: to acheive communication and relationship with the Father.
tevath (say "te-vahth")
There are two Hebrew words for fasting:
tsuwm (say "tsoom")
tsowm (say "tsoam")
There are four Greek words for fasting:
nesteia (say "nayce-tye-ah")
nestis (say "nayce-tis")
nesteuo (say "nayce-too-oh")
asitos (say "ah-see-tahs")
The Physical Aspects of Fasting
No longer only a concern of Western societies but now fast becoming a global concern, the foods we ingest are full of chemicals ... ranging from pesticides to preservatives to Elohim only knows what else ... while abusive dietary habits generate many chronic degenerative diseases ... including hypertension, heart disease, allergies, arteriosclerosis, diabetes, and cancer.
Fasting provides a preventive measure for chronic illnesses through a natural detoxification process that allows the body to cleanse and rid itself of the poisons that deteriorate our well-being and that deplete our energy, stamina and creativity. It gives the digestive organs a rest ... stomach, intestines, pancreas, gallbladder and the liver, which is given some quality time to dissolve stored and circulating chemicals while creating many new elements that benefit the body. The blood and lymph are also cleared of toxins as all the eliminative functions are enhanced. With fewer new demands, each cell can repair itself and expell its waste, as will be noticed by a new vibrancy of the skin and greater clarity of mind.
Further, conducting a fast creates the perfect time to break any habits or addictions. This full-scale process of elimination and detoxification makes it easier to break away from addictions than at any other time.
Dealing with hunger is, naturally, the greatest challenge of fasting. Feelings of hunger will usually pass after two or three days, accompanied by an unexpected "abdominal peace."
Headaches are certainly possible during the first day or two -- do not take aspirin or Tylenol, etc.
Fatigue, irritability and/or dizziness can occur ... at times.
Sensitivity is usually heightened -- mental clarity and awareness is increased ... emotions run stronger ... taste buds are sharply awakened ... familiar sounds may seem louder or more irritating than usual ... and your sense of smell can also get your attention, in positive or negative ways.
There may be a thick white, gray or yellow coating on the tongue ... poor breath and/or tastes in the mouth ... strong-smelling urine or stools ... skin odor or skin eruptions; small spots or even boils ... upset stomach ... flatulence ... and, less likely, nausea and vomiting -- all depending on the amount of toxicity being dealt with.
Discharges from the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, sinuses or in the urine may be noticed, due to an increased release of toxins from the colon, kidneys, bladder, lungs, sinuses and skin ... this is a good sign that problems due to overeating and/or a sedentary lifestyle are being cleared up.
Insomnia or unusual dreams are possible ... as are feelings of doubt, a lack of faith or a fear that you shouldn't be doing this.
There may be peaks and valleys, but usually your energy level will be good, accompanied by a sense of feeling cleaner, healthier and more alive.
Most symptoms are positive signs of detoxification and pass within a day or two. If any symptom lasts longer than two or three days, it may be a side effect or a new problem possibly unrelated to fasting. If a symptom worsens or if fainting, heart arrhythmias or bleeding occurs -- obviously, the fast should be stopped and a doctor consulted.
General Rules for Fasting
Fresh juice from raw fruits and vegetables provides calories and nutrients which build new cells and also provide healthful enzymes. Juice fasting is safer than water fasting because it supports the body nutritionally while cleansing ... this produces a better detoxification and a quicker recovery ... but it's important to use real juice, not concentrates or processed juices.
When planning any type of fast, it's a good idea to do a little cleansing beforehand. For example, the day before beginning a One-Day fast ... or five days before beginning a Five-Day fast ... ten days before beginning a Ten-Day fast ... start eliminating sugar, refined foods, fatty foods, meats and other acid-forming foods from your diet, replacing them with raw fruits, vegetables and healthful liquids; soups, etc. This will make your full fast much less intense.
Vitamin suppliments and prescriptions or drugs are not recommended during any fast ... and, of course, that includes alcohol, nicotine and caffeine.
Be sure you make plans to set time aside for the essentials:
Prayer and meditation.
Fresh air to oxygenate cells and tissues.
Sunshine to revitalize your body.
Warm - not hot - Baths -- at least twice daily to cleanse your skin.
Brush your skin with a dry, soft brush prior to bathing to remove surface toxins.
Walk, ride your bicycle and/or swim moderately to help eliminate toxins.
Keep busy! Clean your house. Be creative. Make plans for your life.
Pay attention to your body ... observe it ... listen to it ... get to know yourself.
P.S. -- Joining others in a fast is a great way to generate strong bonds and provide an added spiritual lift.
Different Types of Fasts
The One-Meal Fast:
Here is a great way for first-timers to try fasting. You can fast every day of the week or one day per week ... simply skip one meal! However, the important part is this: The time you would normally spend eating (15 minutes to an hour) is spent in solitude and in prayer.
The Half-Day Fast:
The Half-Day fast lasts approximately 18 hours. It begins after lunch ... skipping your usual evening dinner ... and ends with a light breakfast the following morning.
The One-Day Fast:
The One-Day fast lasts approximately 36 hours. It begins after an evening meal ... skipping all meals the following day ... and ends with a light breakfast the morning after. Or another way to conduct a One-Day fast would be in accordance with Leviticus 23:32, where you would fast 24 hours ... from sunset on Friday, to sunset on Saturday; a Sabbath fast.
The Two-Day & Three-Day Fasts:
After a One-Day fast becomes familiar, you can step up to performing Two-Day and Three-Day fasts with a day or two inbetween fasts. On the day(s) inbetween, you would consume water, juices, soups, raw fruits and vegetables only.
The Five-Day & Ten-Day Fasts:
After the Two-Day and Three-Day fasts become familiar to you, you can step up to a Five-Day fast ... and eventually, a Ten-Day fast. When your fasting experiences are stepped up gradually this way, a full-blown water and/or juice only fast can be dealt with more comfortably ... and can reveal the more profound, powerful and spiritual experience that longer fasting produces.
Breaking Your Fast
When stopping a fast, it is important to return to eating again in a gradual manner. Chew more slowly ... do not overeat or mix too many foods, being careful to avoid creating new symptoms. Here is a crucial time for learning individual responses or reactions.
A good rule of thumb is to take half of the time you spent fasting and apply that to returning to your normal diet which, hopefully, is more sensible and healthful than it was before your fast; less sugar, less processed foods, etc.
Note: Fruits and fruit juices should not be used right after a meat eater's first fast because they may coagulate intestinal mucus and cause problems. Rather, vegetable juices, broths and extra acidophilus will help to shift the meat-eater's colon ecology.