Also see: Review of Clouds of Witnesses by M. Noll and C. Nystrom &
Academic Wordiness: Humility Meets Clarity
Fasting means abstaining from something, typically food, for a certain time to place special attention on God concerning any number of issues. The New Testament assumes believers will fast (Matthew 6:16‑18; Mark 2:18‑20).
When fasting, try to keep it a secret, unless someone asks specifically, or needs to be informed not to cook for you. Otherwise you'll be tempted to impress people. The Bible warns those impressing others that they will only gain the applause of humans and indicates that God frowns at these vain efforts (Matthew 6:16-18). So, if possible, keep your fasting to yourself.
Always consult your doctor before fasting. You may fast for a few hours, days, or weeks, but beginners should start reasonably with just a few hours. When concluding a fast of 12 or more hours, eat a small portion for your initial meal because your stomach might not be ready for much.
Your first few times will be a struggle, but hang in there. Ask God for perseverance during the hard times of fasting. Allow your pangs to remind you to pray more about the focus of your fast. If you fail and break your fast early, keep trying. Perhaps fasting with a friend would make it a little easier.
Set the duration before you start fasting. The Bible doesn't mandate time limits for fasting, so be flexible. The situation you're fasting about could change before your set time to stop fasting, and that could effect how long you fast. King David stopped fasting when his baby died (2 Samuel 12:16‑22).
Clarify specifically why you want to fast. Maybe write down beforehand what you want God to accomplish.
Know what you are abstaining from. Perhaps you want to fast from food, television, the Internet or a combination of things. Be creative! Fasting shouldn't be a burdensome duty, and it certainly isn't a magic wand. By itself, fasting will not make you a better Christian. People of other religions fast, but they aren't right with God. A relationship with Christ makes us right with God, not fasting.
We fast because, if done with the right attitude, it can draw us closer to God. When we abstain from necessary things like food or permissible things like television, such discipline can draw us closer to God. (Note: "can" not "will.") Fasting isn't our goal-worshipping our great God is. Fasting is merely a way to fellowship with him.
This article ("Why Do Christians Fast?") is excerpted and modified from Kevin L. Howard's book, Growing Up in Christ, published here at NeedNotFret.com. Please do not print this article or any part of it without this disclaimer and credit.
Also see Jonathan Cavett's site.