Knowing when it is “right” to fast can seem tricky, especially when it is new to you.
Before we dive into when to fast, let’s do a little defining of what God’s will is for us. The key to knowing what God wants you to do is knowing Him. The closer we are to the Lord, the more our desires align with His, and the easier making Godly decisions becomes.
We don’t see the apostles sitting around wondering what God wants them to do; they respond to uncertainty with prayer and action (Acts 1:12-26). This is the model they set before us. I’m establishing all this to remind you that there is freedom in our walks with Christ. We will not be condemned for fasting at the “wrong time”. He delights in our obedience to Him, and that’s ultimately all that matters.
Now that we know about God’s will, let’s dive into fasting. There are a few key ways I’ve seen that indicate practically when we are to fast:
- when you are seeking guidance from the Lord on something
- to reset you heart
- when your pastor mandates it
- if it keeps coming up in your life
Let’s break these down: fasting is a way to hear the Lord’s voice more clearly. It can be helpful in directing us towards a heaven-set mind so we make more Godly decisions. I have found it especially helpful when deciding between two things that are generally good. Do I stay in my city and spread the gospel with my local church or do I go abroad as a missionary to the nations? Do I start a Bible study with girls at church or join the worship team? All these are good things, but fasting can help clear your mind to focus on what God particularly prepared you for.
Fasting has been clinically proven to reset our bodies, which is another evidence of how good our God is in giving his people that practice before science even knew it’s benefits. But, it is also a spiritual reset. Fasting brings revelation and deeper connection with our Lord (who also fasted, by the way Matthew 4:1-11). This replacing of time spent eating with time with the Lord reminds you of how essential He is. He is the bread of life and fasting realigns our hearts to consider Him in that way.
Pastorally mandated fasting is something that rubbed me the wrong way at first. When I heard my pastor say there would be a church-wide fast, I thought, “Who is he to force us into a fast? That’s such an intimate and personal decision!” But, as I’ve grown more in what fasting means, I’m recognizing how silly that hesitation was. Saying that our pastor can’t organize a church-wide fast is like saying they can’t organize a prayer meeting or a worship night. Fasting should be as integral and natural of a part of our relationship with God as prayer is, and it should be natural for a community of believers to fast together (Jeremiah 36:9). If your pastor is calling for a fast, you can trust they are receiving guidance from the Lord to do this as a church.
Finally, if fasting keeps coming up, it may be Holy Spirit tugging at your heart to go into a fast. Have you ever noticed Him working in that way? You read a Bible passage about fasting, then one of your friends starts a fast, then your pastor does a sermon on fasting, and you start to think…. “Hey, maybe someone is telling me I should fast!” Holy Spirit works through all these things to direct us (John 14:26). And, it may not be clear at first why we should fast, but sometimes we need to respond with obedience. Obedience can produce the most beneficial times with the Lord as He reveals things you’ve been blind to.
There are a lot of excuses people make up to keep them from fasting – and I’ve definitely fallen into these. You’ll say things like: “I can’t fast while I’m working” or “I’ll fast after this happens” or “I’m not equipped to fast” or “I’ve failed at fasting too many times”. There is always going to be something to keep you from fasting, but ultimately, if the Lord is calling you to something, you do it. You don’t wait around for the “right time”; God will provide for you in whatever He called you to do, we just need the faith to believe that.
Ultimately, a fast will not benefit you at all if you don’t give it to the Lord, so instead of worrying about whether or not to fast, spend time going before God and laying that fast at His feet.
“Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.” – Hebrews 11:6
grace + peace