Fasting is the practice of abstaining from something, like food, to focus more on one’s relationship with God. Paired with prayer, fasting typically happens when people seek wisdom from God, ask for His hand to move, or seek a deeper communion with Him. Let’s look at this example of fasting from the Book of Daniel:

“Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.”

– Daniel 1:11–13

Having been taken from his homeland, the prophet Daniel is faced with a difficult decision: He can either forsake his God and indulge in the new, lavish Babylonian lifestyle, or he can remember the Lord and choose a different path. Daniel chooses the different path. He chooses to fast.

Daniel isn’t alone in his choice to fast. Esther fasts when she plans to speak boldly to the king. Jesus fasts before he begins his earthly ministry. Fasting is a practice that symbolically declares to God that we are utterly dependent on him and our spiritual nourishment is greater than our physical sustenance.

The practice of fasting has also been deployed throughout church history as a means to enrich believers’ relationships with Christ. Disciplines like fasting shape our hearts and help us focus on the God – even in the midst of extreme distractions.

For us today, fasting is a discipline that we may utilize in particular seasons or practice as part of a regular life rhythm. Fasting is most commonly associated with complete abstinence from food; however, it’s not the only way we fast. Daniel restricts his diet to show God’s glory is greater than the rich delicacies of the King of Babylon. Esther restricts her diet to only water. Jesus completely abstains from anything for forty days during his fast in the desert. Options also include fasting during the day and fasting during certain meals.

Alternatively, you may abstain from certain types of food, like caffeine or sugar, for longer periods of time. Similarly, you might choose to fast from social media, television/streaming shows, or watching sports.

It’s important to note that fasting is not a practice to take lightly and there are some who should not practice it in regard to food. If you haven’t fasted before, you should start with restricting your diet for a short period time and build into fasting from more items. For example, skip your regular coffee for a few days and spend more time in prayer each morning. Eventually you might develop the ability to fast from a meal or two or even for an entire day. However, it takes time to develop this discipline wisely. Also, those suffering with eating disorders or other health concerns should consult a physician before practicing this discipline in regard to food.

Fasting is a helpful tool, but the goal of all of life is to glorify God. As you prayerfully consider fasting, point your eyes to Jesus and offer your worship to Him alone.