I wish that I had read Foster’s section on fasting when I first began practicing this in my life. There really are no practical tips in the Bible on how to fast. Then, with having no one who wanted to dialogue about fasting, it seemed I was on my own. It was sort of like trial by error.
Foster gets into some of the scriptures concerning fasting, but it seems to me like a general overview and brief encouragement to fast. Many passages are largely overlooked.
The real value for me was in reading some of the practical tips he has on fasting. I was just trying to do this on my own with results that were less than optimal many times. I wondered why sometimes I would be hungry and sometimes I wouldn’t. I also wondered why I had increased bad breath and body odor during times that I would fast. Sometimes in breaking my fast, my first meal would completely mess my system up. Well, here are some tips for you on fasting from myself and Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Disciple.
Foster’s first big tip. You learn to walk before you learn to run. Begin with a shorter fast of perhaps one day before setting your mind to a longer one. Once you are in the practice of fasting in this way, then you may want to try a multiple day fast. Also, perhaps a partial fast could precede a full fast, perhaps allowing yourself fruit juices, whereas in a full fast, the only thing you would allow yourself is water.
Remember your spiritual attitude as you begin to fast. Outwardly go about the duties of the day, but inwardly be rejoicing, praying, and worshiping. Check wrong attitudes that may arise in your heart as you fast. If you are angry, don’t attribute this to going without food, but to the fact that the spirit of anger is within you. Remember that your stomach is like a spoiled child who needs discipline. The worst thing you can do for a child who is throwing a temper tantrum is to give them their own way. Likewise, our appetites need to be brought under the discipline of our will. Occupy yourself with increased spiritual activity such as praying, studying the Bible, or reading Christian books. If you are hanging around the house just staring at the refrigerator door, your mind will not be in the right place. Purposefully keep yourself focused on spiritual things.
Don’t eat more just before your fast in an attempt to stock up. Eat lighter and more nutritious. Your blood sugar level during your fast will be determined by the last meal that you had and also by regular eating habits. The more fruits and vegetables that you had in your last meal before you began your fast, the better off you will be. Fruits and vegetables stabilize your blood sugar level, while sugary snacks, starches, and junk food cause your blood sugar level to soar, then crash and burn. Make sure when you break your fast, especially if your fast is a multiple day fast, that your first meal consists of fruits and vegetables. Remembering that your stomach has shrunk during your fast, a light meal is recommended at this time. Once your metabolism gets going again, you will be able to eat like you did before your fast. An unhealthy meal such as fast food for my first meal has caused me to be constipated, rather than causing my metabolism to begin functioning as before.
On longer fasts, you will be weaker and lose your equilibrium if you move too quickly. Remember to take your time throughout your day. Don’t break your fast just because you feel weak or dizzy. These are natural effects from your body switching to burning fat as opposed to using what comes in through your stomach. You have to train your appetites to be subject to you, not the other way around. You also will feel colder during your fast. Your body is not producing as much heat since your metabolism has slowed down. Dress warmer if needed. When I fast it always seems like I have to wear socks to bed otherwise my feet get cold, and that’s underneath two blankets.
Foster attributes bad breath during fasting to the cleansing of the body of toxins as we drink only water. I hadn’t thought of this, but I guess it makes sense. We eat a lot of things with preservatives in them that actually weren’t meant for consumption. Headaches can be due to a withdrawal of caffeine.
Don’t forget that the real reasons why we fast are spiritual reasons. Weight loss, health, etc. these are secondary. What happens in the spiritual realm while you fast is of the highest importance. Receiving insight from God, overcoming the devil, interceding for others, these are the things we should be focused on as we fast. Remember not to fast for yourself, but unto the LORD.
-The Orange Mailman