10 Tips for Successful Fasting

Three years ago, a friend challenged me to begin fasting and praying one day a month for my adult children. 

When she suggested it, I had mixed feelings. I love my children, and I want God’s best for them. I also love food. I have a high metabolism that requires me to eat often. My kids call me “the toddler,” because I eat every few hours to avoid headaches, lightheadedness, and weakness. I keep food stashed in my purse, desk drawer, and car in case I have a sinking spell. So I thought long and hard when my friend suggested a prayer plan that involved doing without food for extended periods.

As I weighed the benefits against the losses (no pun intended), I realized that I want God to release his power in my family’s life way more than I want a comfortable stomach and a headache-free life. For the last three years then, I’ve set aside one day a month to fast and pray for my adult children. 

I shared many of the biblical reasons for fasting in a post called, “I Don't Like Fasting.” I suggest you click on the link and read this brief post before continuing. Because people sometimes ask what my fasting day looks like, today I decided to crack open the door to my prayer closet and share what works for me. Your prayer strategy might be very different, and that’s OK. The most important thing is not how we pray, but that we pray. 

Here’s my approach to a day of fasting for my adult children: 

1. Fast from dinner to dinner. I used to fast by skipping breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I almost always failed. Now I fast for 24 hours from after dinner one evening to just before dinnertime the next. It’s still a full day, but I skip two meals instead of three. 

2. Consider an alternate fast. Some people can’t skip multiple meals because of medical conditions. An alternative to a 24-hour fast is a single meal fast, a liquid only (juices, teas, broths) fast, or a fast from TV, internet, sweets, coffee, or a favorite activity for a longer period of time. One of my friends gave up her once-a-day Coke for 40 days to pray for an unsaved loved one. 

3. Drink water constantly. One of the hardest physical ailments that accompanied fasting for me was a terrible headache. I did some research and discovered that lack of food isn’t what causes headaches; it’s lack of water. Staying well hydrated can prevent that brain-stabbing headache that can quickly derail a fast day. 

4. Drink herbal tea with a little sweetener if you really start to feel crummy. 

5. Set a timer. Because life goes on, even during a fasting day, I sometimes get so busy with a task that I forget to pray. This defeats the purpose of fasting to intercede for my adult children. At the same time, I can’t pray nonstop. To make sure I pray often during the day, I set the timer on my phone for one hour. When the timer goes off, I stop and pray for five minutes for some aspect of my children’s lives.

 6. Use a prayer guide for focus and direction. You can develop a journal where you list different things you want to pray for your children, like physical health, spiritual growth, work success. Or you can compile a list of Scripture verses to claim on their behalf. My favorite guide, Stormie OMartian’s The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children, combines both.

At the end of every chapter is a sample prayer. Every hour I pray a different chapter’s prayer. This allows me to ask God to help my adult children develop a heart for God; grow in wisdom; find freedom, restoration and wholeness; understand God’s purpose for their lives; work successfully and enjoy financial freedom; avoid sexual pollution and temptation; and many other requests. 

7. Choose a day when you’re likely to have more “mental space.” I try to schedule my fasts on days that aren’t crammed so full I don’t even have time to think. Because prayer requires mental concentration and dialogue with the Lord, choosing a day that doesn’t allow for mental pauses means your day of fasting and prayer might deteriorate into just a day of fasting. 

8. Be open to prayer “tangents.” During a fast, God often brings to mind other people and prayer needs. While my primary goal is to pray for my children, whenever a different need comes to mind, I pray for it, trusting that the Holy Spirit is directing my prayer energy where it needs to go most. 

9. Use your hunger or cravings as prompts to pray. Whenever your tummy grumbles or you desire what you’re fasting from, pray instead. Instead of trying to ignore your cravings, use them as prayer prompts. 

10. Expect spiritual and physical opposition. I wish I could say I look forward to my monthly fast. I don’t. Every month my flesh tries to talk me out of fasting. This isn’t a good day; you have too much to do. Why not skip it this time? You can pick it back up next month? Are you really going to fast when there’s leftover lasagna and chocolate cake in the refrigerator? 

Inevitably a friend will invite me out to lunch that day, or I'll have to attend a dinner for a co-worker who's moving away. My husband will bring home a special food treat or a women's ministry leader will schedule a planning meeting over lunch.

What helps me stay faithful to my commitment to fast month after month is an overwhelming desire to see God release his power into my children’s lives. This is infinitely more precious to me than chocolate cake and lasagna. 

Second Corinthians 4:17-18 comforts and encourages me: 

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 

Do you fast regularly? What tips or suggestions for success can you share? Please tell us about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below. If you’re reading by email, click here to visit Hungry for God online and scroll down and leave a comment at the end of the post.

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  1. Lori, I haven't fasted in a number of years (I did it for a short time during the latter part of 2008). When I was fasting, my fast lasted from sun-down to sun-down (that worked because it was in the fall/winter). My pastor has counseled me to not fast for any more than 24 hours at a time, because as he says, "there's hardly anything to you." Perhaps some day the Lord will lead me to fast again.


    1. One definitely has to prepare carefully for longer fasts, as well as check with his/her doctor before undertaking one. And, as I mentioned in my post, there are other ways to deny ourselves for the purpose of seeking the Lord in extended prayer. Those with health issues might have to be a little more creative, but the Lord looks on the heart motive, not the specifics. Thanks for sharing your experience, Kim.


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