Good Friday Fast
April 1, 2017
WHY ARE WE DOING THIS? WHAT’S THE GOAL?
1“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven…. 16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. – Mt 6:1, 16-18
“Throughout Scripture, fasting refers to abstaining from food for spiritual purposes” (Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 48). Fasting is an ancient spiritual discipline, practiced by Christians since the founding of the Church. As you can see in the quote above, Jesus assumes his followers will fast because he twice says, “when you fast”. He doesn’t say, “if you fast” or, “should you fast” but, “when you fast”. So the first reason for fasting is that our Lord, Jesus, expects us to do so.
The second reason for fasting is to enable us to focus on God. “Fasting must forever center on God. It must be God-initiated and God-ordained…. Every other purpose [for fasting] must be subservient to God…. If our fasting is not unto God, we have failed…. John Wesley declares, ‘First, let it [fasting] be done unto the Lord with our eye singly fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven…'” (Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 54-55).
Another reason for fasting is that fasting reveals hidden truths about ourselves to us. “More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface” (Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 55).
Part of why we are fasting on Good Friday is to prepare us for Easter Sunday. By fasting, we share in some small way in Christ’s suffering on the cross. By sacrificing, we share in His sacrifice for us. When we give our meal time to God, we allow ourselves to experience more deeply the power of Good Friday. How much more precious then will be Easter morning!
HOW TO FAST – Some Fasting Recommendations
- Plan ahead. Do something to connect with God during the time you would usually be eating. Give God your meal times. Pray, read Scripture, attend worship. Don’t just skip a meal; that’s dieting, not fasting.
- Recognize true hunger. “You will probably feel some hunger pangs or discomfort before the time is up. That is not real hunger; your stomach has been trained through years of conditioning to give signals of hunger at certain hours. In many ways, the stomach is like a spoiled child, and a spoiled child does not need indulgence, but needs discipline…. You must not give in to this ‘grumbling.’ Ignore the signals, or even tell your spoiled child to calm down, and in a brief time the hunger pangs will pass. If not, sip another glass of water and the stomach will be satisfied. You are to be the master of your stomach, not its slave” (Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 57).
- Beware of hangry. Many people feel angry when they get hungry. Hangry is the popular term for this. The best way to counteract feeling hangry is to pay attention. Look for it. Name it. Recognize your feelings. Remind yourself that you control your emotions; they don’t have to control you. It may be that you are using food to cover up anger. God might use fasting to draw this to your attention.
- Drink lots of water. You take in more water than you realize from food, so you need to replace that water intake by drinking extra water.
- Limit your caffeine intake. If you can go without caffeine for the duration of your fast, then do so. If not, then limit your caffeine intake by substituting water or fruit juice for your typical beverage.
- Do not exercise. When you exercise, you burn calories. If you burn too many calories without taking in any additional calories from food, your body skips the hunger stage and goes straight to starvation mode. This may leave you feeling dizzy, lightheaded, and nauseous. This is not fun, and makes it almost impossible to maintain a fast. You will have a much better chance of completing your fast if you skip the exercise for the duration of your fast.
- Consult your doctor. If you have any sort of ongoing medical condition, health concern or illness, then you ABSOLUTELY MUST CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR before taking on a fast. Don’t assume you can’t fast. But also don’t assume you should. Check with your doctor and follow his/her advice.
- Food with medicine. If you regularly take medicine that needs to be taken with food or after eating, THEN CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE FASTING. Figure out what you can and/or should eat in order to take your medicine. Don’t assume you can skip your medication for a day. Don’t assume that it is safe or useful to take your medication without following the instructions.
SEVERAL TYPES OF FASTS – Choose one that works for you
Fast for Children
As we discussed the idea of our day of prayer & fasting, the staff at Grace wanted to find a way to include our younger children. We don’t want to make parents’ jobs any harder than they already are. Nor do we want to create any food issues for the kids. This is what we came up with:
- Fast from sweets and desserts – Let your kids know that no one in the family will eat any sweets or dessert on Good Friday. No cookies, candy, cake, cupcakes, ice cream, etc.. Make sure they know you are doing this with them. Move any sweets out of children’s sight. Explain to them why your family is doing this.
Fast for Teenagers
Teenagers deserve special consideration for our Good Friday Challenge. Their bodies are already burning a ton of calories just growing. And many of them participate in athletics or other activities that require their bodies to burn even more calories. So we thought of a special fast that accounts for their unique requirements.
- Fast from meat and fish – This allows teenagers to still take in the necessary calories from carbohydrates. It also allows them to take in protein from eggs, beans and rice. Yet it requires them to give up something significant that is a normal part of their meals. They (and their parents) will need to plan ahead for meals that exclude meat and fish.
Fasts for Adults
- 6 hour fast
- 10:00 am through 4:00 pm
- Miss 1 meal – lunch
- Break your fast with dinner on Friday, 4/14
- 13 hour fast
- Sunrise @ 7:09 am through sunset @ 8:01 pm
- Miss 2 meals – breakfast and lunch
- Break your fast with dinner after 8:01 pm on 4/14
- 24 hour sunset fast
- Sunset on 4/13 @ 8:00 pm through sunset on 4/14 @ 8:01 pm
- Miss 2 meals – breakfast and lunch
- Eat dinner before 8:00 pm on Thursday, 4/13
- Break your fast with dinner after 8:01 pm on Friday, 4/14
- 24 hour sunrise fast
- Sunrise on 4/14 @ 7:09 pm through sunrise on 4/15 @ 7:08 am
- Miss 3 meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Break your fast with breakfast after 7:08 am on 4/15
- Juice fast
- Apply to any of the above time frames
- Replace eating meals with “juicing” vegetables and/or fruit or drinking smoothies
- Break your fast with meal appropriate to the time frame you have chosen
If medical concerns prohibit you from fasting from food. Or if the fasts listed above just seem like too much. Then rather than ignoring the idea of fasting all together, consider an alternative fast. These alternative fasts can also be done in conjunction with any of the above fasts.
- Phone Fast – Turn off your cell phone for 12 or 24 hours. Don’t put it on silent. Turn it off and leave it alone.
- Social Media Fast – Ignore all of your social media for 24 hours. Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Linked In. Blogs. And whatever else is out there. Pretend it simply doesn’t exist.
- Deodorant Fast – Go without deodorant for 24 hours. See if your family and friends still hug you. KIDDING! THAT’S A JOKE, PEOPLE. Please don’t do this. Your loved ones will thank you.
- Screen Fast – No screen time for 24 hours. This means no phone, tablet, computer, TV or movies. Don’t look at any screens for a whole day.
- News Fast – Are you a news junkie? Consider taking a day off from all of your news sources. Go 24 hours without taking in any news.
- Negative Fast – Could you go 24 hours without complaining? Can you cut out sarcasm, put-downs, and negativity from your vocabulary? Go 24 hours without saying anything negative.
- Sports Fast – No Spurs. No baseball. No ESPN. No blogs. Go 24 hours without watching, listening, reading or doing anything that connects to sports.
DON’T BE A PHARISEE
Remember our tag line: relationship, not religion. This is between you and God. Challenge yourself. Push yourself. Don’t be afraid to make yourself uncomfortable. But remember Grace. There is room for mercy here. So be gentle with yourself, especially if this is the first time you have fasted. This is not a test of your self-discipline. It’s not a measure of willpower or the practice of goal-setting. This is about connecting with God in a new and powerful way. Stay focused on Jesus. Allow fasting to be another tool you use to strengthen the foundation of your Faith.
- Foster, Richard. “Celebration of Discipline.” Harper Collins, San Francisco. 1978.