That is an excellent question. I can tell you that if you have never fasted before and you are just learning about it, do not jump up and say, 'Bless God, I’m going on a forty day fast.' You won't last one day! When it comes to fasting, I have a very simple piece of advice: fast according to your capacity and level.
Once you are accustomed to fasting, you can then stretch and build on it. Nobody knows your body more than you do and you certainly should not be looking at the length, intensity and capacity of others when it comes to deciding 'how long should I fast?' Everybody has their level and intensity. If you have a medical condition or are on certain medication it is certainly advisable that you follow your doctor’s advice. There are different facets of fasting. So you should not limit yourself to a single, preconceived idea of fasting. For some people the only thing they know about fasting is total abstinence from food and water. While this is noble there are different types of fasting and different intensities.
When Daniel was on his 21-day fast, he abstained from meat and desirable things but partook of vegetables and water. Why did he do so? You must realize when he was doing his 21-day fast he was an old man and very busy in a prominent political position. He needed a clear head and sufficient strength to function. You need to make sure that the fast that you choose to engage is the fast that will allow you to do what you need to do while at the same time engage God for your request.
How long should I fast?
When it comes to fasting you have to know yourself and your capacity. In the Bible you will find people who fasted with different types of fast and different lengths of time. Let’s have a brief look at the different types of fast.
1-day: normal fast
There are numerous accounts of God’s people fasting for one day on many occasions in the Scriptures.
1-night: normal fast
King Darius spent the night in a fast on behalf of Daniel who was thrown in the lion’s den.
3-days: absolute fast
Esther, Mordecai and the Jewish people employed the absolute fast when Israel was threatened with extinction. Ezra the scribe and priest also went without food and water for three days and Paul went on a three-day absolute fast after his Damascus’ road experience.
4-days: normal fast
Cornelius fasted for four days before Peter came to his house and presented the Gospel to the gentile world.
7-days: normal fast
Israel did so after the death of Saul and Jonathan. David also did so when he had a sick baby.
10-days: partial fast
Daniel and his three friends fasted not to defile themselves with the king’s meat.
14-days: normal fast
Paul, Luke and the boat crew during the shipwreck.
21-days: partial fast
Daniel, for revelation and breaking the delay of his desired answer.
40-days: absolute fast
Moses fasted for forty days twice, supernaturally, without food and water and Elijah also fasted for forty days. Please understand this is not the norm.
40-days: normal fast
Jesus fasted for forty days with liquid consumption.
4-months: normal and partial fast
Nehemiah did so as he looked at the plight of the walls of Jerusalem.
120-days: miraculous fast
Only Moses ever did this miraculous fast and he was with God in the Holy Mount.
3-years: partial fast
Daniel and his three friends before standing before King Nebuchadnezzar.
Fasted lifestyle: partial fast
This is epitomized by the life of Samson and John the Baptist.
Here is a little guide of how I started my life of fasting:
- 9am – 12pm: no food but plenty of liquid.
- 9am – 3pm: no food, but plenty of fluid or no food and no liquid.
- 9am – 6pm: no food, but plenty of fluid or no food and no liquid.
- 12am – 3pm: no food, but plenty of fluid.
- 6am – 6pm: no food, but plenty of fluid or no food no fluid.
- 6am – 6am: no food, but plenty of liquid.
- 6pm – 6pm: no food but plenty of liquid.
From there I grew to 3-days, 7-days, 21-days and 40-days. I failed many times in fasting. You need to realize this: when it comes to fasting you will fail. Don’t condemn yourself but get up and go again. Answering the question, 'How long should I fast?', fast according to your capacity!
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