Disclaimer: this article is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. Only a licensed doctor can provide advice which is tailored to your situation. Fasting carries many risks and not all of them are described in this article.
Repentance and Deliverance
The most powerful and important time of fasting is as part of repentance from sinful choices and major mistakes. For repentance a short water-fast is best . It doesn’t have to be long, often just three days is perfect. This shows God you are sincere and not just expecting him to do all the work in your life. Sometimes we have a lazy mindset where we feel like God is supposed to transform us to the point where we no longer desire sin. Oftentimes this only happens partially though and there are certain sins we have to overcome through sheer willpower and discipline. The key phrase “fake it till you make it” applies. Fasting allows more of God’s grace to flow to help break bondages and strongholds. In Judaism the Day of Atonement is the major day of repentance and thus it is also a day of fasting. This is the most holy day for the Jewish people and it mentioned in Leviticus 16:29.
Fasting and repentance is life-changing. Trying to repent from major sin without fasting is much less powerful and you risk falling back into the old ways. When the apostle Paul was convicted by Christ, he fasted for three days and it was only after this that his sight was restored (Acts 9:9).
At the summer 2009 end I was getting stuck in serious sin. I was losing my Christian attitudes and really getting tossed around by the devil. I had a craving to learn about occultism instead of the Word. My pride was through the roof. I had love for myself and not for others. I was not guarding my heart or mind from demonic thoughts leading me astray. It all combined on one day and I came under heavy demonic oppression. I tried to repent, but there was no power behind it and the bondage was not being broken. I was afraid to sleep with the lights off because the demonic presence was so strong it saturated my room. The only moments I had slightly more peace were when around others. Anytime I was alone there was a nonstop flood of demonic thoughts and emotions battering me 24/7. Any negative emotion such as fear or hopelessness was now 20x stronger. I would feel it physically throughout my entire body, not just in the head. There was no joy from a bright sunny day, but the entire environment was warped into one of gloom.
So I fasted for three days, but still there was no power. I was trapped in this maze of darkness not even knowing how to get out, although it should have been obvious. I had not acknowledged the depths of my sin and was acting as if it were so kind of mysterious accident why the demonic oppression came on me. I was only halfways repenting. After about 40-ish days of suffering I knew clearly in my heart that I had to water-fast for seven days. During this time I also began to seek God with all my heart, praying on my physical knees, crying out to him with tears of repentance. Midways through this fast God met me. I received three spiritual gifts: prophecy, tongues, and word of wisdom. I found the Godspeak International online ministry (no longer in operation) and had powerful encounters with God for the next two months afterwards. None of that would have happened if I had not been obedient by truly repenting with all my heart and water-fasting.
Normally in English we use “fast” to refer to speed. Even the name “fast” is symbolic. It refers to how spiritual activity goes faster while your natural/physical activity slows down. Fasting is a form of spiritual warfare against demonic forces. Some only come out through prayer and fasting. This may cause you to become irritable as dormant spirits and ancient strongholds are forced out of their cover.
Matthew 17:19-21 “Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them….. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”
There are a multitude of verses connecting genuine repentance with fasting:
Joel 2:12 “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:”
Ezra 8:21 “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.”
Jonah 3:4-5 “And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.”
There is another time where I missed a critical assignment God had for me. I had been shown pictures of a person sitting in darkness with no hope. These mental visions were repeated to me over and over. I prayed asking God what he would have me do. On a certain day I saw a poor old lady in a wheelchair and the Holy Spirit spoke “this is your assignment” nothing more. I walked over to her and tried to make conversation, but it was awkward. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. As I turned to leave, the Holy Spirit spoke “don’t go,” but I reasoned that I would go back to my house for a minute and then go back to her with a plan. At the house I received a phone-call which kept me trapped there for 10 minutes. I felt a darkness and gnawing on my inside. I had only felt this once before and it comes when you directly rebel against a clear spoken command of God. This is the grieving of the Holy Spirit. By the time I went back outside the lady was gone and I had missed my critical assignment forever with no way of meeting her again. I immediately got on my knees and cried out to God to make a way and to bring back this opportunity. I fasted for three days on a water fast while praying everyday for God to restore this missed opportunity. At the end of the fast, the lady reappeared and I was able to help her. She was living alone and had no electricity or heat for winter and was relying on unreliable relatives to drop off food if they remembered. She was also a Christian. I was able to help her temporarily and connect her with long-term permanent help as well. Without having repented in sincerity with fasting, this opportunity would have been gone for good.
Fasting as a group or with a partner is often promoted because you will have accountability to continue. It can sometimes be worse than going at it alone however. There are two fasts I did with friends when they were the primary ones who wanted to do the fast. The first was a one-week juice fast. I finished this one, but did not feel at all closer to God or more spiritual in any way. The second was when a friend was going to do a 21-day fast and invited me to join him. I gave up after only two days of this one and felt no power. The truth is, God may have been calling him to the fast but not me. Wanting to join out of duty or obligation without really feeling called in my heart to this fast was a mistake. Never tag along on someone else’s fast. Pray for the number of days God want YOU to do and go with what he puts on your heart.
Spirit vs Flesh
Throughout Paul’s writings he constantly mentions a struggle between the flesh and the spirit. This is one of the main themes that recurs over and over. The cursed NIV translation bastardizes the text, replacing “flesh” with “sinful nature” for no reason. Nowhere in the original Greek is there any mention of a supposed ‘sinful nature’ belonging to humans. That is the translators own human opinion (which they are entitled to but should not be forcing on the rest of us). Now fasting is key to putting our spirit above our flesh. This is the ultimate show of who is in charge.
Galatians 5:17 “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”
Romans 7:18 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing….”
Our fat stores toxins that accumulate over time. These are released as the fat breaks down during fasting. Likewise our physical body is the storehouse of old demonic strongholds of habits and patterns we obey. We think of demons as spiritual, but they attach to our flesh when we give in and create habits. Our body is a spiritual temple. Several times while fasting, God showed me pictures of ancient sins and strongholds being rooted out. Think of all of the spiritual toxins from our time spent watching television alone. Years and years of this filth accumulating inside of us. Fasting is the only way to get rid of it.
This can be a strategy for a longer fast when you want to avoid the health risks of water-only fasting. Rather than limiting yourself to juice only, it is better to do liquid-only, which includes protein shakes and meal-replacement drinks. This can help to lessen muscle breakdown on a longer fast. Electrolyte-replacement drinks similar to Gatorade/Powerade can be useful for a longer fast as your body could start to run low on electrolytes which is highly dangerous, but look for a brand that has higher potassium. Running low on potassium in particular leads to serious heart arrhythmias which can result in death. Apple/Orange juice cartons are quite common in juice fasting as well. The body can only break down a set percentage of fat per day which leads to an energy deficit, unless you are quite heavy. Juice allows you enough energy to get through the day on a longer fast. This can also help for labourers and jobs where you must be physically active and cannot do a water fast as well as those of us who do not have much fat reserves. People with health problems that prevent them from doing a water fast may consider juice. Juice fasting should be restricted amounts of juice though, not gluttony of fluids. If you drink an equivalent amount of calories in juice as you normally eat in food, then it is not much of a fast (really not even a diet for that matter). Only drink enough to give you sufficient energy to make it through the day. Like I mentioned earlier, don't limit yourself to juice, buy some protein powder to make shakes with and meal-replacement drinks. Juice is full of sugar and fructose and there is no reason to do juice-only instead of liquid-only. On another note, if you are in serious repentance, juice fasting might not always cut it. For repentance a short water-only fast is better than a long juice fast (this is between you and God though).
Suffering can be fluid and exchangeable. We all have to suffer to experience the weight of glory. If you suffer voluntarily through fasting and sacrificial giving, this allow God to remove other types of suffering that would otherwise have had to come into your life. We all have to bear our cross. By choosing fasting, you may be able to avoid other type of suffering. As a Christian we all have to suffer somehow as part of our walk in Christ. He uses this to mold our character and strengthen us inside. Normally true Christians would often be martyred or harshly persecuted for their faith. In the west we do not have as many opportunities to suffer for Christ. One of the ways we can is by fasting.
2 Corinthians 4:16-17 “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;”
Friends will tell you it is legalistic or “religious” to fast and that you don’t need to because we are “under grace.” This is bull. You are not fasting to receive salvation but to remove the things blocking God in your life. Soothsayers will try to discourage you and make false prophecies that you don’t need to fast. Make sure you know the reputation and character of a person you allow to speak a word into your life. There are many mixed words which are 50/50 flesh and spirit.
When God puts a time on your heart, go with what you originally heard and don’t change it later. I prayed once and felt on my heart to commit to a 7-day water fast. A few days in people began telling me that three days is plenty and that a full week is too much. I began to pray about it and a thought came in my head saying 3-days was enough, and then I broke the fast early. This was satan speaking through the lust of my flesh. God does not change his mind. When you are confident you heard him the first time, don’t ask again. You just open yourself up to hear from your flesh instead of from God.
Another common mistake is the idea that if you eat something part-ways through a fast it means that you have broken it. One groggy morning on a one-week fast I accidentally grabbed a handful of raisins in the morning and started chewing on them without even thinking about it. I realized the mistake afterwards, but continued on the fast rather than quitting or thinking I had to restart and God blessed the fast. Maybe you are fasting for one week and have a moment of weakness on day 3 and eat a chocolate bar or snack lying around and you feel as if you have to give up and start over. This is not true. God still wants you to continue in the fast for the number of days he has assigned. Apologize for your moment of weakness and pray for more strength, but do not end the fast. Continue abstaining from food until the full 7-days are up. This is the same principle in our walk with God. When we happen to sin do we give up on the faith? Of course not! We repent and move forward, continuing to serving Christ.
Breaking the Fast
It is crucial to come off a fast slowly, especially when you are on a longer-term fast. There is a major health risk known as the “refeeding syndrome” which occurs when you eat too quickly after starving yourself. This can result in death. One rule which is often repeated is that for every four days of fasting, take one day to transition back. So if you fast for 12 days take a minimum of 3 day of limited calories after the fast. Make sure to chew food extra good as well. You definitely don’t want to go to an all-you-can eat buffet when the fast is done.
Here is a link to some more resources on fasting