“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:31–33
Most of us don’t wonder where our next meal is coming from. In fact most Americans have a refrigerator full of food at any given time. It is often hard to be mindful of the reality that our full pantries are evidence that God provides for our physical needs.
Many children are taught to pray before meals to thank God for the food He has given them, but in our day-to-day lives, because food is so abundant, we often forget to acknowledge Him. And because most of us are working for a paycheck, it can be difficult to understand in the way that a farmer might that we are dependent upon God for food. It seems as though we are feeding ourselves, but in reality, all this provision is coming from His hand.
God gave us these disciplines as tools, and there are lots of ways to apply them. Some of us are unable to fast from food due to a health condition; others of us have fought eating disorders, and while the Lord has brought measures of freedom in the area of food, fasting from food would reintroduce an unhealthy relationship with food and possibly bring about a relapse. For some of us, food is not our go-to or struggle, so fasting from food wouldn’t challenge us in a meaningful way. But this doesn’t mean fasting isn’t for you. It just means that you can pray see what you need to fast from in order to depend on the Lord in a deeper way. For example, you might fast from Netflix, social media, shopping, or even exercising—whatever it is you depend on to sustain and motivate you when life gets tough.
For those of you who are new to fasting, step one is to establish what kind of a fast God is calling you to do. Take some time to consider this question in prayer and with a close friend who is emotionally safe and spiritually mature, and ask his or her advice on what you should be fasting from.
If you decide to do a food fast, make sure you prepare your body. Some people think if you are fasting you should pig out the day before. This will actually make fasting more difficult. Instead eat sensibly the days leading up to the fast, and drink lots of water. Try to limit your caffeine so you aren’t dealing with caffeine deficiency on top of hunger pangs.
Choose a specific time to begin and end your fast. If you are new to fasting, consider a twenty-four–hour fast, fasting from lunchtime to lunchtime.
It is also important to choose a more low-key day to fast. You will not have the same energy level you usually do. As the day wears on, it will be harder and harder to stay committed to your fast. Keep a Bible verse or quote where you can see it to remind you to continue and persevere. It also helps to write a prayer list so you can keep your focus on those items as the hunger becomes more intense. Especially if you are not used to it, fasting feels like a huge hurdle, so it can be helpful to write out yet another list of ways God has shown His faithfulness in your life. You can also turn to others for help. Sometimes God asks you to fast alone in complete secret, and other times He asks you to fast together with someone else who can encourage you.
It might help you to think through what you are going to say to people if they ask you if you want to go to lunch or why you aren’t eating. Of course, if someone asks you to lunch, simply explaining that today isn’t best for you should be sufficient; but other people may ask more pointedly. At this point it is ok to say something like, “I’m not eating today for personal reasons.” Of course, people like your husband or your doctor might need a more detailed answer to this question. Try to keep from drawing attention to yourself so that you can delve deeper into your relationship with God. While fasting challenges us, it ultimately brings us joy in reminding us that our good Father abundantly provides for all our needs.