Fasting is a popular trend in the world now, with intermittent fasting being one of the latest ways to achieve weight loss or maintenance. But spiritual fasting has been practised since Biblical times. We take a look at the similarities and differences.
BY: KELVIN TAN EDITED BY JUSTINA TAN
Fasting and praying in tandem have long been tenets of our Christian faith. The Church often encourages us to fast for an array of reasons: evangelical outreach events, the salvation of loved ones, physical healing, financial blessings, breakthroughs, and more. This abstinence from food can be done individually, as a cell group, or even a zone. There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to fasting. Whether you opt for a half-day fast, full-day fast, 21-day fast, 40-day fast, a single-meal fast, or the Daniel Fast (Daniel 10:2-3 NIV) where meat, wine and other rich foods are avoided, the premise behind fasting should be to focus on God and lean on Him.
Intermittent fasting has been gaining popularity for its purported health and weight loss benefits. Said to also boost energy levels and increase focus, intermittent fasting is when you eat within a specific time period and fast during certain hours, or even days. Intermittent fasting is not a diet. When you sleep for a long period of time, your body enters a state of fasting. When you skip a meal, you are inadvertently practising intermittent fasting.
There are seven ways to do intermittent fasting: the 12-hour fast, the 16-hour fast, the 5:2 diet, alternate day fasting, a weekly 24-hour fast, skipping a meal, and the Warrior’s Diet. There are similarities between Christian fasting and intermittent fasting. In practice, there is no difference. It’s the spirit behind the act of fasting that sets Christian fasting apart from regular intermittent fasting.
Scientists have conducted numerous intermittent fasting studies on animals, but the benefits to humans are apparent as well. It begins with weight loss, but can eventually result in a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, a reduced risk of chronic health conditions and improved brain health. However, the research done has been on only short-term fasting so it is important to note that there may be potential side effects.
HOW SHOULD WE FAST?
Fasting typically refers to abstinence from food, but may also include giving up other fleshly desires such as social media, bubble tea, alcohol and sugar. Fasting teaches us to grow more dependent on God—weight loss, improved health and finances are the happy side effects.
“Fasting is choosing to abstain from something and trusting that God will give you a breakthrough. Fasting also helps you to focus on God, trusting Him as your provider and strength and increasing your dependency on Him. It’s meant to be a personal activity between you and God, and not done simply because everyone else fasts,” shares 23-year-old student Parry Foo.
Fasting is a form of self-humbling before the Lord, an act of surrendering our bodily desires and growing more reliant on God. It teaches us to transfer focus from ourselves to God. As you fast and meditate on the Word of God, you will find yourself becoming more spiritual, more heavenly minded, more in tune with God, and more sensitive to His voice.
“This year, I did a 21-day fast because I wanted to consecrate myself before the Lord and draw closer to Him,” says Wong Li Chin, 21, a student. There are many reasons why Christians fast, be it getting rid of bad habits, believing for a miracle or to grow closer to God, but the main focus is to put God first.
Tan Kim Hock, pastor at City Harvest Church and Dean of Students at the church’s School of Theology, shares that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to fast before His ministry (Matthew 4:1-2). Also, Paul and Barnabas fasted and prayed before ministering to the Gentiles (Acts 13:2-3). As you continue reading the Bible, you realise Jesus’ ability to perform signs and wonders was intrinsically tied to prayer and fasting. The powerful combination of fasting and prayer unlocks God’s anointing in the supernatural realm.
LET’S GET STARTED
If you are sick, pregnant or a nursing mother, please do not fast. If you have a history of weak health or are on regular medication, please consult a doctor before you fast. Here are some tips to ease you into your fasting journey.
• Drink lots of water. Avoid citrus juices and coffee or tea, as the high acidity levels of these beverages may cause gastric problems. Dairy may cause a build-up of gas. Increase intake of isotonic drinks that contain electrolytes (such as 100plus), as your body needs these minerals when you are fasting.
• Avoid strenuous activity. You have a limited amount of energy in your body, and you need it to last through the fast.
• Pop mints. When fasting, you may encounter bad breath as your body releases toxins. An occasional mint will help to freshen your breath.
• Most importantly, pray. Start and end the day with a time of prayer and seeking the Lord. Fasting must always be accompanied with prayer. Otherwise, it’s merely dieting.
HOW TO BREAK FAST
Breaking fast isn’t as straightforward as simply eating again. No matter how long you have fasted, always ease back into eating with a light meal. The longer the duration of your fast, the longer you will require to break it. If you have fasted for anything longer than three weeks, it may take days to revert to your regular diet.