Religious fasting has been practiced for thousands of years across different cultures and religions. Fasting is the act of abstaining from food or drink for a specific period for spiritual purposes. In recent years, it has also become very popular to employ fasting to improve your health.
But in the religious context, it is a way to show devotion and dedication to one’s faith and discipline oneself physically and spiritually. At the congregational scale, you can also ask your members to practice a period of fasting for church growth.
The practice of fasting can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as Egypt and Greece, where it was used for both religious and medical purposes. In the Bible, fasting is mentioned multiple times, and it was a common practice among early Christians.
Guide to Prayer and Fasting
In the Christian tradition, biblical fasting is an essential part of spiritual discipline and is seen as a way to draw closer to God. It is a time to reflect on one’s relationship with God, repent of sins, and seek spiritual guidance. Fasting is also believed to strengthen one’s faith, purify the body and mind, and increase one’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.
There are different types of fasting practiced in the Christian tradition, including water fasting, juice fasting, and partial fasting. Water fasting involves abstaining from all food and drink except water. Juice fasting involves drinking only fruit and vegetable juices. Partial fasting involves restricting certain foods or meals during the fasting period.
The protocols for fasting for church growth vary among different denominations and individuals, but there are general guidelines that are followed. The duration of the fast can range from a few hours to several days or weeks, depending on the purpose and individual’s ability to fast.
Types of Christian Fasting
In the Catholic Church, fasting is observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, where believers are required to abstain from meat and limit themselves to one full meal and two small meals. During Lent, Catholics also practice voluntary fasting and abstinence as a form of penance and spiritual discipline.
In the Orthodox Church, fasting is a significant part of the liturgical year, and believers fast before major feasts such as Christmas and Easter. The Orthodox fast requires believers to abstain from meat, dairy, fish, and oil for specific periods before these feasts.
In Protestant denominations, fasting is less formalized but is still practiced as a personal discipline. Many believers fast before major events or decisions, seeking spiritual guidance and strength.
How Long Should I Fast For Religious Reasons?
It depends on the religion. In Catholicism, traditional protocol called for fasting for the entire Lenten Season except for Sundays. In the Muslim faith, practitioners are called upon to fast from sun up to sun down every day for 29-30 days, depending on the year. In the end, it’s up to the individual to decide what’s right for them. Health concerns should also be taken into consideration.
Best Fasting Prayer
There isn’t necessarily a best fasting prayer. Or rather, the best fasting prayer is one that speaks to your soul and your faith. It feels personal to you.
One example of a fasting prayer that Christians can recite while fasting is the following (feel free to edit and adapt it to your own faith):
“Lord, I come before you in humility and submission, seeking your presence and guidance. As I fast, I ask that you cleanse my heart, mind, and soul from all that is impure and unworthy. Help me to focus on your will and purpose for my life, and to discern your voice and direction. Strengthen me in body, mind, and spirit, and give me the grace to persevere in this fast. I surrender all to you, knowing that you are faithful and just, and that your love and mercy endure forever. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.”
This prayer is a good one to recite while fasting because it acknowledges the need for humility and submission before God, and it seeks to align one’s heart and mind with God’s will. It also recognizes the need for cleansing from impurities and distractions, and the importance of focusing on God’s purpose and direction.
Additionally, the prayer asks for strength and perseverance in the fast, acknowledging that fasting can be challenging and requires the grace of God. Finally, the prayer affirms faith in God’s faithfulness, love, and mercy, which can provide comfort and encouragement during the fast.
Fasting Mentioned in Scripture
Fasting is mentioned in several passages of the Bible, including:
- Matthew 6:16-18 – “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
- Joel 2:12-13 – “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.
- Luke 4:1-2 – “And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.”
- Acts of the Apostles 13:2-3 – “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”
- Ezra 8:21-23 – “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.”
These are just a few examples of the many passages in the Bible where fasting is mentioned.
Fasting and Prayer in Other Religions
Fasting is a practice that has been embraced by various religions around the world. It involves abstaining from food and drink for a period of time, and is often used as a form of spiritual discipline, purification, and self-reflection. While fasting is most commonly associated with the Christian tradition of biblical fasting, it is also practiced in other religions, each with its own set of protocols and purposes.
In Islam, for example, Muslims practice fasting during the month of Ramadan. This involves abstaining from food and drink from dawn until sunset, and also avoiding smoking and sexual relations. The purpose of fasting during Ramadan is to purify the soul, increase one’s spirituality, and develop self-discipline and empathy for those in need.
In Judaism, fasting is a common practice, particularly on Yom Kippur, which is the Day of Atonement. On this day, Jews fast for 25 hours, abstaining from food and drink, and spend the day in prayer and repentance. Fasting is also practiced on other occasions, such as during the Fast of Gedaliah and the Fast of Esther.
In Hinduism, fasting is associated with specific festivals and rituals. For example, during the festival of Navratri, Hindus fast for nine days in honor of the goddess Durga. Fasting is also practiced on certain days of the week, such as Mondays and Thursdays, and is believed to purify the body and mind and increase spiritual awareness.
Fasting is not a central practice in Buddhism, but is sometimes used as a form of spiritual discipline or purification. In some Buddhist traditions, monks and nuns may fast as part of their ascetic practices, and laypeople may choose to fast on certain occasions, such as during meditation retreats.
In Sikhism, fasting is sometimes practiced during the month of Sawan, which is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. During this month, Sikhs may fast on Mondays or on other auspicious days, and also engage in other forms of spiritual practice, such as chanting and meditation.
While the specific protocols and purposes of fasting may differ across different faiths, fasting is generally seen as a way to purify the body and mind, cultivate self-discipline and spiritual awareness, and deepen one’s connection with the divine.
Fasting for Spiritual Growth and Church Growth
The practice of religious fasting can be an effective tool for helping a small church grow. There are several strategies that a small church can use to incorporate fasting into its growth plan.
Encouraging regular fasting among members is one such strategy. This could be done by organizing regular fasting days or making fasting a part of church events. Providing guidance and support to members who are new to fasting is important as well, by offering resources on how to fast safely and effectively and organizing group fasts.
Another strategy is to use fasting as a tool for prayer and outreach. This can be done by organizing a prayer and fasting event for a particular cause, such as reaching out to the community or seeking God’s direction for the future of the church.
Emphasizing the spiritual benefits of fasting, such as increased spiritual awareness and deeper prayer life, can also help motivate members to participate in fasting and deepen their commitment to the church.
By incorporating fasting into the church’s growth plan, a small church can deepen its spiritual practice, strengthen its sense of community, and grow in its mission to serve others.