**Word of caution**
There are medical conditions where you absolutely should not be abstaining from food. If you are physically not able to abstain from food, or if you have battled an eating disorder, then you should not abstain from eating. You can still observe lent by changing your diet and abstaining from some sorts of food, but please check with your physician if you have any questions on your health.
What is fasting?
Fasting is abstaining from food and drink apart from water, although there are partial fasts where a person drinks fruit juice along with water.
What is meant by abstaining?
Sometimes we refer to the practice of abstaining from some foods as fasting. Abstaining is simply not partaking in something, whether it be food or some other activity.
For our purposes, we will refer to fasting as a full or partial abstaining from food for a period of time.
What are some of the ways I can participate in a fast?
This means not having any food or water. Absolute fasts rarely go beyond 12 hours and many times they are observed from sunrise until sunset.
This means consuming only water for a specific period of time.
This means consuming only water and juice for a specific period of time.
Partial fasts or abstinence
Daniel fast: this is based off of the diet that Daniel and his companions observed in the book of Daniel and it is usually in reference to abstaining from meat, leavened bread, sweets, and wine. People observing a Daniel fast eat fruits, vegetables, lentils, and water.
Vegetarian fast: this means abstaining from meat, eggs, cheese, and dairy
Orthodox fast: during Lent the Eastern Orthodox Church observes a fast where they do not eat meat, meat products, fish, eggs, dairy, wine, and oil.
Fasting is observed over a set period of time, and that can vary.
Lunch to lunch fast: Eat lunch on one day, and then only drink water until lunch the next day. You can also observe a ‘dinner to dinner’ fast.
Sunrise to sunset fast: Abstain from food from sunrise until sunset
Wednesday and Friday fasts: Wednesday and Fridays have traditionally been fasting days for Christians from the earliest times.
What if I’m new at fasting, where do I start?
If you are new to fasting, it is best to start with a dinner to dinner or a lunch to lunch fast. This is a way to help introduce you to fasting and how your body will respond. Set aside the time you would normally be eating and use it for prayer and scripture reading.
If you are fasting for the first time this Lent, then you may want to consider fasting on Friday, or on Wednesday and Friday throughout the season. This is a good way to fast and this pattern has its roots in the very beginnings of the Christian movement.
What about giving up things besides food for Lent?
Abstaining from activities such as television or social media during Lent is a wonderful idea. These are not technically considered fasting, however. Fasting has to do with eating and drinking. You are absolutely encouraged to consider what things may be distracting you from God, and to remove those things so that you can replace them with activities that are beneficial to your relationship with God, such as prayer or scripture study.
What else should I do while I fast?
Study Scripture: Our church has produced a Lenten Prayer and Devotional Guide that has daily scripture readings in it. Take time during each mealtime you miss and read the assigned scripture for the day, or find your own scripture reading schedule and follow that.
Journal: Periods of fasting are excellent times to keep a prayer journal. What is God revealing to you? What are you struggling with? What are you praying for? How are you growing?
Read: What book could you read that would help you grow in your faith? Perhaps your small group could study a book together?
Pray: Fasting cannot be separated from prayer. Have a plan for how you can focus on prayer while you fast. When you feel hungry is a great time to be reminded to pray.
Be Thankful: It is important to be mindful when we fast, that we are abstaining from food by choice. There are many who are poor and impoverished in this world who are not eating because they have no choice. Be in prayer for them and be thankful for the blessings you have.