7 Types of Fasts and 7 Spiritual Benefits
Toward the end of a five day fast, I drove to a café to get my husband a latte. I was blown away by the intensity of my sense of smell. The ardent aroma of roasted coffee beans and rich scent of frothed milk pique my salivary glands. Fasting created a new physical and spiritual awareness to God’s bounty in my life. When I finally was able to drink my own latte a few days later, I was in awe of God’s goodness.
All throughout history there were seasons of feast and famine. The body and soul naturally went through times of hard work and lack and times of ease and abundance. However, today in western culture, we have 365 days of abundance. Our diet is not dependent on weather, season or location. We can eat all kinds of foods anytime we want, depending on our cravings.
With all this abundance of foods comes a greater need for self-control. We must decide the kinds and amounts of food that are appropriate for a healthy lifestyle. But even with a healthy standard of eating, we most likely won’t experience famine without choosing it. Our bodies were designed to experience both feast and famine. We feast to celebrate. We fast to transform.
The physical benefits of fasting our numerous.
Although this article is about the spiritual benefits of fasting, I wanted to highlight 5 of the physical benefits since our flesh is so strongly entwined with our spirit.
- Fasting decreases food related inflammation: Overconsumption of certain foods, like refined sugar, carbs, dairy and meat, can cause inflammation in the body. Fasting can decrease the inflammation created by too much of these foods.
- Fasting improves cell recycling: When we fast, our body has to recycle our own cells for energy. Our body consumes unhealthy cells first which can include pre-cancer and other disfunction cells.
- Fasting energizes your metabolism: Fasting for short periods of time can increase our metabolism since it has to rev up to burn the body’s fat storage.
- Fasting normalize insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance occurs when we consume too much sugar and carbs, which often leads to weight related diseases. Fasting can reverse insulin resistance in the body.
- Fasting promotes weight loss: Fasting creates a caloric deficit, which aids in losing those extra pounds gathered from too much feasting.
The spiritual benefits of fasting are also numerous.
Since the spiritual world usurps the physical world, these benefits shape our life and the world around us. Before fasting, however, make sure that you have the grace to fast. Sometimes when we feel like our life is falling apart, we try to fast. This to me is the worse time to fast because we are already under great amounts of stress. Fasting should only be done if the Holy Spirit is prompting us to fast. When it is God’s will for us to fast, He will give us the grace to commit to it.
“What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15.22 NLT).
Spiritual Benefit #1: Fasting Causes us to Rely on God
Food is one of the basic needs of life. Physical hunger is not a pleasant experience. It can actually be a difficult trial to endure, but God’s grace rises up in our lives during hard times. When we fast, it forces us to seek God and lean into Him for help and comfort. God meets us powerfully during times we are desperate for Him. Fasting shows God that our hunger for Him surpasses our hunger for anything else.
“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 61.3 NIV).
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6.33 NIV).
Spiritual Benefit #2: Fasting Helps us be Filled with the Fruits of the Spirit
When we fast, we can become irritable and negative because our flesh is not happy. However, God calls us to allow Him to produce the Fruits of the Spirit within us. Fasting forces us to bypass the emotions of our flesh (which tend to be negative when hungry) and reach for divine emotions given to us through Jesus Christ. When we feel “hangry,” we can grow our capacity under stress and choose to demonstrate goodness, gentleness and self-control.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5.22-23 NIV).
Spiritual Benefit #3: Fasting Opens our Heart to Hearing God’s Voice
When we fast, we have to focus on something else other than our hunger. This causes us to listen for God’s voice, since it is He who has called us to the fast. We have emptied ourselves of our most basic need, so we can put our full attention on God. This is the best time to make those difficult choices in life. When we are at a crossroads and don’t know which way to turn, fasting helps us to hear God’s direction. As we walk in the Spirit, we won’t be hung up by the desires of our flesh trying to hold us down and keep us off course. We will be able to hear more clearly from God when our spirit is stronger than our flesh.
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5.16 NIV).
Spiritual Benefit #4: Fasting Renews our Appreciation for God and His Blessings
We tend to forget how blessed we are. What once satisfied us now isn’t enough. More food, more clothes, more television, more trips. Whatever it is, we can forget how much God has given us, and our unquenchable desires become stronger than our love for God. When we take God’s blessings for granted, we take Him for granted. But God wants our hearts to be turned toward Him. He wants us to appreciate all that He has done in our lives. When we fast, we force are hearts to turn to God, and we gain a renewed appreciation for God’s presence in our lives. Our relationship with God is only possible through the Finished Word of Jesus Christ on the Cross. To know we will never be separated from God for all eternity is the ultimate blessing!
“That is why the Lord says, ‘Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning’” (Joel 2.12 NLT).
“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5.8 NLT).
Spiritual Benefit #5: Fasting Gives Power to our Prayers
Jesus said there are some breakthroughs that are only gotten through prayer and fasting. If we have been facing the same unanswered prayer for a long time, it may be time to fast. Prayer that is powered by both faith and fasting can be the very force that unleashes God’s promises in our lives. There are some spirits, like the spirit of lack and the spirit of chaos, waging war against our promises, and we want to fast for added power to defeat them.
“Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, ‘Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?’ Jesus replied, ‘This kind can be cast out only by prayer’” (Mark 9.28-29 NLT).
Spiritual Benefit #6: Fasting Creates an Environment for Miracles
Fasting forces the flesh to go under the authority of God’s Spirit within us. When we are effectively fasting, we are letting God have all the room. His Spirit becomes powerful and mighty in our words and actions. This is the perfect atmosphere for heaven to touch earth and transform our circumstances of lack, chaos and fear into God’s ordained circumstances of supply, peace and faith. However, we must ensure that our fast is done for heavenly rewards, not earthly rewards. God blesses us when we keep our fast secret unless our testimony of fasting is used to edify others.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6.17-18 NIV).
Spiritual Benefit #7: Fasting Motivates us to Consume God’s Word
We are both flesh and spirit. Many times, we keep our flesh well-fed, as our spirit wastes away. When we fast food from our bodies, we open the way for our spirit to consume God’s Word like never before. Our starved spirit feasts on God’s Word, supplying itself with much needed sustenance and nutrients it desperately needs. Whenever we take something out of our life, we must fill it with something else. When we take food out, we fill it with the Bible. As we read the Bible, the reigning Spirit of God within us will teach, grow and transform us and the world around us.
“But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you know nothing about’” (John 4.32 NIV).
“Jesus answered, It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4.4 NIV).
6 Types of Fasting
Water fast:You drink only water for a set time.
This type of fasting is the most difficult because so much of our culture is wrapped around food and drinks. I like to do this fast for a few days as a lead into one of the other fasts. It’s surprising how easy the other fasts are after a few days of having nothing but water.
Juice fast:You drink vegetable or fruit juice for a set time.
The juice fast fills the body with much needed nutrients and vitamins while still being able to flush away waste materials that have been stored in the body too long. Use a juicer at home or purchase fruit and vegetable juice without added sweeteners and preservatives.
Intermittent fast:You fast certain times or meals during the day.
Intermittent fasting allows you to skip meals in a day or fast certain days in a week. For example, some people would prefer to fast breakfast and lunch and eat a healthy dinner. While others would prefer to have breakfast and lunch and skip dinner. Or some people prefer to fast from sun up to sundown, so they can have small meal early before the day begins and a snack later after the sun has set. Also, some people choose to fast one day a week, like every Monday.
Partial fast:You fast certain foods or drinks.
A partial fast allows you to take out certain foods from your diet. This fast is still difficult because we may crave our comfort foods and feel entitled to have them. This is why I like to start with a water fast first. It makes me appreciate the partial fast. The Daniel Diet is an example of the partial fast, which has you only eat fruits and vegetables. Another partial fast would be to take out all foods that are unhealthy for a time, like sodas, desserts and junk food.
Calorie restriction fast: You restrict your calories.
Calorie restriction fast has you limit your calories for a day. For example, you can allow yourself to have 600 calories during the fast. You will still feel hungry, but you’ll be able to satisfy the hunger a bit with a few nutritious snacks. The calories can be saved for one meal or spread throughout the day.
Non-food fast: You fast something other than food.
A non-food fast is where you take something out of your life for a time that is not food. Some people like to fast social media, television, complaining or even worry.
Reverse fast: You add something into your life.
Reverse fasting is where you add something to your life for a time. I like to do communion for a season, so I will add a time of prayer every day that includes the eucharist elements. Some people like to add additional Bible reading time, exercise, date nights or journaling. Whatever it is, you simply need to set the amount of days you want to reverse fast and make sure you stay accountable to doing it everyday.
If you would like to know more about fasting, faith and health, check out my fitness book, Fearlessly Fit!