There are a lot of reasons to fast and pray. What is needed most is to remember to add in “AND PRAY.” We don’t fast to “diet.”
Sometimes it is necessary to fast to specifically ask something of God. Those are not always successful. We have expectations of what should “come out” of the process, and when it doesn’t we are disappointed.
We fast to obey. We fast to hear better. We fast to know God and his voice more clearly. We understand what controls us after fasting.
A friend many years ago said fasting was like the rudder on a ship. Fasting turns our direction, but we don’t always notice. But a few weeks later we notice we’re heading in a different direction. Rudders turn ships but the turn isn’t always perceptible. We can fast and think, “Nothing happened.” But weeks later we discover God has us in a new place.
I think fasting should be entered into deliberately. We don’t jump into a 40 day fast. We test our bodies for 24 hours, then 36 hours, then 48 hours. Regularly. Get the body used to missing food. Get the body used to understanding IT is no longer in control.
Extended fasts come at the leading of the Spirit. The more physical knowledge I have about an extended fast, the more I am freed to know what is happening spiritually. Forty day fasts are rare, but they are joyous. There are joyous moments in those longer fasts.
Richard Foster has a chapter in his classic Celebration of Discipline that gives details of the “how to.” There are a few more recently that give physical details. I’ve heard they’re good as well.
Fasting is needed to clear out the noise of this world. It is a joyous discipline I have let slip farther back into my spiritual toolbox. This year is a challenge to use it more.