As we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, many people will use this time to fast and pray as a way to draw closer to Jesus. Fasting is a powerful way to eliminate distractions so we can gain clear guidance from God for our work any time of the year. We hope that this blog helps you understand the point of fasting and ways you can get the most out of this important spiritual practice for your work as well as your life.
We’ve asked Dr. Umesiri, assistant professor at John Brown University, Christian author and speaker, to share with us his thoughts from his latest book, Fasting for Life: Medical Proof Fasting Reduces Risk of Heart Disease, Cancer, and Diabetes.
Catherine Gates: How would you guide people regarding when to fast?
Dr. Umesiri: The purpose of fasting is to give God the gift of time, and focus our attention on Him in prayer and listening faith. So, any time is a good time to fast – to give up food and worldly distractions in order to seek God. Here are some excellent opportunities to fast:
- When you feel the prompting of the Spirit to draw closer to God. When you sense a yearning for more of God coming from your soul, don’t silence it – respond to it in prayer and fasting.
- When trials and difficulties hit. Fasting says to God, “I am in desperate need of your grace, right now!” For example, when your company is going through a turbulent economic time, pray and fast. That’s not a quick fix, but you will have time to fellowship with and listen to Almighty God about your situation.
- When you have a major decision to make. God delights to guide and lead us through life’s tough decisions, whether at the individual or corporate level, or at the private or business level. But worldly distractions can make it difficult to hear from God. When we fast, we surrender at His feet, listen, wait and worship. Fasting helps us to stay unhurried before him and engaged in His presence.
CG: I’ve often seen people assume fasting means not eating – period. What options do we have for fasting and what factors need to go into choosing the type of fast to do?
DU: There are different kinds of fasting. Scientifically speaking, ‘fasting’ can be caloric restriction, intermittent fasting, or dietary restriction. Caloric restriction is simply cutting down your energy intake by 20 to 40 percent. Intermittent fasting involves forgoing food completely for a period of time, say morning till evening, and then eating normal meals the next day or so. Dietary restriction is limiting or eliminating a particular macronutrient from one’s meal, say proteins or carbohydrates, for a season.
From a Christian perspective, there are many options. One may go on only fruits and vegetables for a day or more. One may do a complete fast, involving only water and no food for a specific period of time. One may skip breakfast intentionally to pray and focus on God, and then eat lunch. Caloric restriction, especially when one is not doing complete food fast, offers the opportunity to live what some have described as a “fasted life.” The key is to choose a plan that works for you at that time and to start small. In all cases, the important thing is to intentionally focus on God in prayer.
CG: What guidance would you give people for gaining the most from their time of fasting?
DU: When you choose to fast, make time to pray. Fasting is not an end in itself. During seasons of fasting, listen, listen, and listen. Having taken yourself away from worldly distractions, it is easier to hear God, to receive His corrections, His gentle rebuke, and His re-direction. Studying the Bible will help in this process.
CG: What benefits have you seen people experience through fasting?
DU: The biggest benefit of fasting is disciplining us to focus on God long enough to be changed by Him. I have seen brothers and sisters who, after spending much time in God’s presence through prayer and fasting, have been significantly empowered to carry out God’s call on their lives. From a medical perspective, there are a significant number of credible studies showing that fasting substantially reduces the risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. I reviewed scientific literature on the health benefits of fasting going back up to 70 years, and what I found is that fasting improves our health span if it is done consistently and intermittently as a lifestyle.
Drawing near to Him, facing trials and difficulties, making major decisions – these are just three reasons God may be calling you to fast. Perhaps you’re specifically experiencing these challenges at work. If so, feel free to also read more about workplace scripture and prayer as you fast.
Dr. Umesiri is an Assistant Professor at John Brown University. He is a Christian author and speaker. His latest book is Fasting for Life: Medical Proof Fasting Reduces Risk of Heart Disease, Cancer, and Diabetes. He may be reached through www.francisumesiri.com. He is married to Toyin Umesiri, a Walmart associate. They have three beautiful children.