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6 Uber-Practical Steps to a Spiritually Significant Fast

Honestly, I never look forward to whenever my church does a 21-day fast to kick off the year.

I don’t look forward to it because what should be a deeply spiritual act nearly always deteriorates into nothing more than a shift in what I eat.

I keep trying year after year to raise the spiritual bar, but haven’t quite nailed it (yet). What I have nailed is a few practical pointers that I hope will help on your next fast.

1. Jesus, Only Jesus

Fasting is primarily a spiritual activity, not a dieting exercise.

There’s no spiritual benefit to just not eating or avoiding sugary foods. So don’t get too caught up in the details of what (you’re fasting) and forget the why (deeper intimacy with Christ).

That’s why I recommend a food and reverse fast.

In short, a reverse fast is when you intentionally make time during your day to seek God more than you would typically. Where people tend to spend most of their time focused on the food-aspect of a fast, a reverse fast reverses the priorities and places it on God.

It’s been, by far, one of the more practical things I’ve done to increase spiritual engagement during a fast. Read about it.

2. Focus Your Fast

Fasting in the Bible always accompanied a specific reason.

Write down 1-3 main things you’re praying and believing God for during your fast. Be bold. Dream.

Give the fast a reason to matter personally and spiritually to you. Spend time praying for these things, listening for God’s direction (if applicable), reading related Bible verses, etc.

By fasting, you are engaging in a spiritual battle. Know what you’re fighting for.

Know what you’re fighting for. It provides purpose and motivation. When you have a reason for going into battle, you’ll fight harder, longer and with more passion.

 3. 100%, Not 98%

Right now, commit to yourself and God that you’re going to honor your chosen fast 100% of the time. Not 98% or any other number lower than 100%.


Let’s be honest, when you make an exception due to “extenuating circumstances,” the odds of you completing the fast go down drastically. If you justify doing it “just this once,” there’s nothing keeping you from doing it again.

When making an exception on a fast, 99 out of 100 times it’s probably not for a valid reason and more because of a lack of discipline (or planning).

The next couple tips will help you stay at 100%.

And even if you do drop below 100%, start over again that day. You’re now back at 100%. God extends grace. Take it. ;)

4. Make an Allowed List

Make a list of the foods you’re allowing yourself to eat and only eat foods from that list. And be specific. Specific types of foods (e.g., apples, bananas) within specific food groups (e.g., fruit).

Do this before you start your fast. Alternatively, make a list of fast-approved recipes and only eat those recipes during the fast.

Inevitably, you will ask yourself the question: is this allowed? I guarantee you’ll ask that question multiples times as you’re presented with catered work lunches, dinner out with friends, or cooking at home.

The list is designed to make that decision extremely easy; saving your time and energy for much more important things—seeking God (remember #1).

On the list, eat it (yums). Not on the list, nope.

And as you’re making the list, don’t get too caught up in the details of what’s allowed or what’s not in XYZ fast. For example, does whole grains include whole grain pasta or just whole grain rice? It doesn’t matter. Put it on the list or don’t. You choose for yourself.

Fasting is a discipline, not a diet. Focus on the discipline of fasting, not the food you’re fasting.

5. Plan, Plan, Plan

Create a daily calendar. Every day, every meal. Answer the question: what are you going to eat?

Again, it’s all about making decisions at the start which drastically reduce the number of stressful game-time decisions. Game-time decisions are often when you’re the most tired, have the least amount of energy, and zero willpower to stick to your fast. (It’s called decision fatigue.)

Cook as many meals in one marathon cooking session as you can. Store it and have it ready to eat when you need.

By failing to prepare (for your fast), you are preparing to fail. ~Benjamin Franklin

Identify potential roadblocks. Where in your schedule will you run into some challenges during the fast? Maybe it’s a work party or out-of-town travel.

What are you going to do in those situations. See #3. Stick to your fast. ;)

You can take a detour if you know where the roadblocks are. Pack your meal for those occasions. Have something ready to eat when you arrive at a roadblock.


 6. Jesus, Only Jesus REEEEEEMIX

With all these practical tips, let’s not forget why we’re fasting in the first place. To know Jesus more intimately. To see Him work in our lives on a much greater level.

How can we do that?

Spend more time in prayer, worship, and the Word. You created margin for those things with a reverse fast, right?

Those three things should be staples of your spiritual diet. Want those things just as much as you want food. Oh, and don’t forget to give God an opportunity to speak. Be intentional about listening for His voice and the Holy Spirit’s promptings.

If you need some worship music, follow whichever of my 30 Minute Worship Playlists floats your boat.

Use a daily reading plan during your fast. Try 21 Day Fast, 21 Days of Powerful Breakthroughs or any of these 23 plans.

Fasting is hard. You’ll be tempted. You’ll feel like a failure at times. Embrace your weakness because Christ’s power is made perfect in it (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.

Why You Should Fast

Fasting changes us. It breaks down the idols in our lives. Forces a reliance on God. Brings about humility.

But you know what the cool thing is?

Even though it changes us, fasting (in God’s goodness) can also lead to answered prayers.

So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

Ezra 8:23 NIV

That’s humbling and also demonstrates the spiritual significance of fasting. Let this verse motivate you to honor your fast, seek Him more and pray for bold things!

What are some other tips that have helped you be more successful in your fast (both practically and spiritually)?

12 replies on “6 Uber-Practical Steps to a Spiritually Significant Fast”

At day 7 now. How are you keeping up? Still going strong or run into some challenges?

This is my fourth year to do the fast and what a great article to read just prior to starting it again. You hit some great points that will help so many people. I now have a better plan to follow the Daniel Fast this year. Thanks !

No problem! Happy to hear you found this post useful! Praying you have a spiritually fruitful fast this year!

Your advice to write down what I’m fasting and praying for is a great tip, Brother. Note taken!

I, too, have been fasting the 21-day for several years now. Here are my tips:

Drink plenty of water and have bottles of it available. It helps with the hunger.

Make your own trail mix with nuts, baked oats rolled in coconut oil (granola), and dried fruit. Have it on hand-in your car/purse/on the job to prevent temptation.

Start the fast over 6-months from now. Halfway through the year we should take inventory of our spiritual growth. Have we been walking in what we set out to accomplish? What is our heart condition? What is God calling us to do to get back there? Most of us fall off the ‘new year’ train after only a few months.

Lastly, I read through Beth Moore’s Daniel study each year. There’s a DVD teaching to go along with it. The study is about seeking God’s wisdom (which is why Daniel was fasting and why we fast). It’s an intense study that requires daily homework and time to pray and think–which is what we have plenty of during these 21-days. Many churches have the dvds that you can ‘check out’.

Bonus tip: Most pivotal prayers happened when my nose met the ground and I didn’t let distractions lure me from losing focus on why my body was bended there. Push through the pull to move on. You can do it; “He who is in me is greater than He who is in the world.” (1 John)

Thanks for sharing these with us Trisha! I especially like the bonus tip. We’ll never go wrong humbled before God and in prayer/petition.

This is awesome !! This is my first time and honestly I’m excited about it I was curious of the whole how and why , now it’s very clear thank you for this Alex !!

Yeah, #2 is one of my favs as well. It’s definitely noticeable when I have something to pray for versus not. It makes a big difference!

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