What It Means To Do A 'Spiritual Fast'

Spiritual fasting is more than giving up food.

spiritual fasting Sayan Puangkham & Vladimir Arndt / Shutterstock

If you grew up involved with a church, you're probably familiar with the term "spiritual fasting."

Some churches participate in an annual spiritual fast such as the Daniel Diet. Others give up something as a religious practice during the season of Lent.

But spiritual fasting isn't starving yourself to lose weight; rather, it's a highly devotional act to the Lord above.

What is spiritual fasting?

Spiritual fasting is when you voluntarily give up food, or something that brings you contentment, to focus on your thoughts and relationship with God.


Though fasting differs depending on your personal faith, most Christians practice two different types of fasts: a partial fast or a complete fast.

A partial fast comes from Daniel 10:3, where the prophet Daniel gave up delicacies for three weeks. A complete fast involves only drinking water or juice for an extended period of time.

RELATED: What Spiritual Bypassing Means — And How It's Toxic To Your Mental Health


What is the purpose of spiritual fasting?

Fasting isn't a foreign idea to spirituality. Some people fast for spiritual growth, while others have personal reasons for fasting.

While many might assume that fasting is done as a way to win God's praise or to harm the body, that's simply not the case.

Spiritual fasting is done to help you focus on your faith, become more focused on Him, and can even be used as a way to cope with difficulties, such as overcoming addiction, mourning a loss, or to find your life purpose.

For example, Buddha fasted on the path to his enlightenment. Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights while in the wilderness before going to the cross. Muslims fast for Eid and Ramadan. Christians fast for Lent.


Gandhi fasted 17 times when he strived to liberate India. Other leaders took this path to spirituality to petition for the resolution of problems.

Not only did Martin Luther King, Jr. fast, but he influenced others with his actions who followed his non-violent manner in changing culture prompting spiritual fasting as a tool for social change.

What are the spiritual benefits of fasting?

Fasting for spirituality is not only beneficial for your mind, but for your body as well. You'll find that you have more energy, become closer than ever to God, feel cleansed and transformed, and are growing spiritually.

When you seek out answers or a renewal of faith, a spiritual fast can help you truly understand your beliefs, and how empowering they can make you feel. Additionally, by giving up food, you allow your soul to cleanse itself, and your body-mind connection can improve.


Many people also find that they have more energy while fasting. From a scientific standpoint, this is because your liver stores glucose, your body's main energy source, for up to 12 hours after a meal. When you fast for longer than 12 hours, your body switches to fat metabolism, leading to positive adaptive cellular stress responses.

What does the Bible say about spiritual fasting?

The Bible and scripture say that fasting is a way to repent, to grow closer to the Holy Spirit, and renew your commitment to Him. The Bible also stresses that fasting is a private endeavor, not one that should be done for recognition.

There are dozens of examples of fasting in the Bible, including the New Testament and the Old Testament:

Matthew 6:16–18: “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.”


Deuteronomy 9:9: "When I went up on the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord had made with you, I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water."

Acts 27:33-34: "Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. 'For the last fourteen days,' he said, 'you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food — you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.'”

Other instances of fasting include when David fasted and mourned the death of his children (2 Samuel 12:16), when Daniel fasted after receiving a vision from God (Daniel 10:3-13), and when John the Baptist's disciples fasted to repent (Matthew 9:14-15)

RELATED: 9 Beautiful Ways To Connect With God Without Going To Church


What happens during a fast?

Prayer and fasting often go hand in hand, along with going to church and reading the Bible. However, if you feel like giving yourself some alone time during this process, that is entirely up to you.

During the fast itself, you're abstaining from food and drink, but not from water. It's important to drink water to stay hydrated. You should also make sure you get enough sleep.

How long should you fast?

You can fast for a day, a week, or even an hour. However long you decide to fast is completely up to you.

No matter what period of time you choose to fast for, be mindful to drink water; it's dangerous to not do so.

How often should you fast?

Again, the frequency you decide to fast is entirely your choice. Just be sure you are taking proper precautions to protect your health.


Do you need to tell anyone you are fasting?

Absolutely not. This occasion is between you and God, and you don't owe anyone that explanation. You can tell your family or friends, but do not feel like you're entitled to share this news.

Let it be known that you are not doing this to become better than the next person. This is a time where you can restore, refresh, and revive your relationship with God.

Whether you choose to give up food, music, or social media, your decision is no greater than the next in God's eyes. If you are a beginner

How To Do A Spiritual Fast

1. Take small steps when starting your fast.

When people decide to fast for the first time, they should consult with their doctor. Most people may think they can go a full week without eating, but that's for a doctor and the individual to decide.


The reason people start small is because each person's body is different and adjusts at their own pace. Start by fasting one meal for a week or two, or by skipping a snack.

2. Create a play-by-play for each day.

During the beginning of your fast, you will find that not eating or not going on social media will seem grueling. It's good to journal out a plan for what you will be doing during your fast and why.

For example, if you choose to fast from the internet and not go on Instagram for an hour, write down what you will be doing instead, such as reading, going for a walk, or something similar.


3. Be mindful of how fasting will affect your loved ones.

Although this time is used to get in tune with yourself and God, don't abandon those around you. If you are giving up food or something you do, you may feel down and easily agitated.

Remember to not take this out on anyone around you. At the end of the day, God would not want you snapping at others while sharing this intimate moment with Him.

4. Remember that you don't need to give up food.

If skipping meals from hours on end is not your preference, don't worry!

As mentioned, you can give up social media or even listen to secular music. Anything you choose to give up will mean the world to God and growing your spirituality.


5. Don't lose sight of your end goal.

It may seem harder than it is to say "no" to your stomach once it starts to ask for food. Spiritual discipline during this time is essential, and it will strengthen all areas of your life, whether you see it now or later.

This is your time to live and breathe prayer and resilience, and to prove to yourself that you are capable of anything if you put your mind to the test.

RELATED: What It Means To Have A 'Soul Contract' — And How It Affects Your Life's Purpose

Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who has written hundreds of articles about relationships, trending news and entertainment, numerology and astrology. Follow her on Twitter for more.