How to Begin: Start with a clear goal. Be specific. Why are you fasting? Do you want to hear the Holy Spirit more clearly? Do want a greater hunger for God’s presence and His Word? Do you need direction, wisdom, healing or restoration of marriage or family issues? Do you need a financial miracle? It is helpful to keep a written list of the issues and people about which you are praying. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. Pray daily and read the Bible.
Choose Ahead of Time: It is important to choose ahead of time what type of fast in which you will participate. Not only will this help with making the necessary preparations to implement your plan, but as you commit to a specific fast ahead of time, and know how you’re going to do it, you will position yourself to finish strong. Choosing your fasting plan is a personal decision between you and God. There is nothing more spiritual about one fast as opposed to another. Your personal fast should present a level of challenge to it, but know your body, know your options and seek God in prayer and follow what He leads you to do. Do not let what you eat or do not eat become the focus of your fast.
Stock Your Pantry: Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with the items you need. Being unprepared to fast sets you up to give into temptation. Choose well when selecting products. Choose raw food as often as you can and limit artificial ingredients.
Preparing Spiritually: Confess your sins to God. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of compromise and complacency. Forgive all who have offended you and ask forgiveness from those you may have offended (Mark 11:25; Luke 11:4; 17:3-4). Surrender your life entirely to Jesus Christ, renounce worldly desires that hinder you (Romans 12:1-2).
Set Apart Time for Bible Study: Fasting without prayer and Bible study is merely a diet. Be sure to devote plenty of time to Bible study and prayer. Use the time you would otherwise engage in meals or eating to spend in prayer.
Make Church Attendance a Priority: Make it a priority to attend church during your fast. Being around other believers will encourage you to persevere.
Deciding What to Fast: The type of fast you choose is up to you. You could go on a full fast, in which you only drink liquids, or you may choose to fast like Daniel, who abstained from sweets, meat and liquids other than water.
Deciding How Long: You may fast as long as you like. Most can easily fast from one to three days, but you may feel the grace to go longer. Use wisdom and pray for guidance. Beginners are advised to start slow. If you are fasting for the first time, omit one or two meals. Then move on gradually to longer periods, such as a day or two. It is better to begin by setting a short period as your objective and achieving it. If you set too long a time at the outset and fail to meet it, you may become discouraged and give up.
What to Expect: When you fast, your body detoxifies, eliminating toxins from your system. This can cause mild discomfort such as headaches and irritability during withdrawal from caffeine and sugars. Usually these are indications that your fasting is overdue and you need the physical cleansing that a fast brings. Sleep can occasionally be affected as well. You may find that you require more sleep or do not sleep as well. Limit your activity and exercise moderately. Take time to rest. Spend time listening to praise and worship. Pray as often as you can throughout the day. Get away from the normal distractions as much as possible and keep your heart and mind set on seeking God’s face.
If You Have a Health Condition: Fasting should never bring harm to the body. If you have concerns, be sure to consult your health professional before going on the fast or making any major dietary change. For most everyone, including those with health conditions, the Daniel Fast is a very healthy way to eat. So health professionals will likely support that eating plan, but may suggest a few modifications if you have health issues that need special attention. For example, pregnant and nursing mothers might get instructions to add fish, chicken and cheese into the Daniel fast, but otherwise, stay the course. Diabetics may need to add more carbohydrates or include chicken and fish. Also, those who are especially active either through sports, bodybuilding or vocation may need to slightly alter the eating plan.
If you desire to engage in a Full Fast (only liquids) but have a health condition that requires you to maintain blood sugar/protein levels, you might find protein powder mixed in juice or water a helpful way to maintain a Full Fast. Please consult your physician first about this alternative.
Having a health condition should not keep you from some type of medically advisable fast. Everyone can engage in some type of fast, even if it is partial or excludes just certain items of food. I encourage you to check with your physician…but remember–being addicted to coke, french fries and candy bars is not a “medical condition.”
Don’t Get Discouraged: If you mess up, don’t quit. Get back on your fast and keep going. (You don’t have to go back and begin at day one again. Pick back up where you were.) God’s mercies “are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23). He will give you the grace and strength to finish! Keep going regardless of immediate results. You may not see the answer to your prayer while you are on your fast. It may come days or weeks later. Keep fasting in faith, knowing God is “a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6)!
How to End: Don’t overeat when the time comes to end your fast. Begin eating solid food gradually; eat small portions or snacks.