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How to Fast for God: A Guide to the Spiritual Discipline of Fasting

2. Commit to a Time Period

If you are just beginning, fasting for one meal is a good pace to start. You might, for example, eat a light breakfast and dinner, but fast for lunch. Another option is to fast from Saturday evening to Sunday morning, breaking your fast with Sunday Holy Communion. Many Christians practice this type of fast year round.

In Holy Week, some fast from Palm Sunday to Good Friday. But as a starting point, I suggest you begin a fast on Maundy Thursday evening, and continue through Good Friday. You might break your fast with light food at 3 p.m. on Good Friday, the time Jesus breathed his last on the cross.

3. Consider Liquids

For most fasts, it is advisable to consume some liquids. Water, of course. For a longer fast, some juice (no added sugar, and heavily diluted with water). Vegetable broth or herbal tea are other options, again without sugar and diluted with water. One should not drink caffeine or alcohol while fasting. However, if you anticipate a caffeine headache, you may wish to drink a very small amount of coffee or tea. Remember, a fast should not be debilitating or self-abusive.

4. Avoid Television

We can be surprised at how prominently food features on TV, especially commercials. If you do decide to watch TV, be aware of this. On the other hand, you might use your fast as a chance to also fast from media, electronics, or noise.

5. Exercise

I recommend continuing whatever normal exercise routine you already do. A student of mine who taught aerobics wondered if she should cancel classes during her fast. I suggested she keep her schedule, and it turned out she was able to complete all her classes. Again, fasting involves dependence on God. God will provide the energy and strength you need.

6. Pray During Hunger or Weakness

At some point, you are likely to feel hungry and/or weak. This may be the time to tap into solidarity with those who are without food. Also, this is a time to come back to trust and dependence on God. You might pray: “Dear God, give me the energy beyond my own physical state, at this time.” In essence, this this is a definition of grace. As creatures, we have limits. But with grace, we appeal to power that comes from without as opposed to within. In other words: Grace is something good I need, that I cannot give myself.