How can fasting benefit your marriage?
The dictionary defines fasting as “abstaining from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance.”
A lot of the questions that stream to my inbox are heavy. A few times while e-chatting with wives, I have proposed fasting as a way to wrestle through dilemmas of a difficult marriage.
Today I want to dive into details of fasting for your marriage, so I have a spot on the blog to send wives to.
Plus some of us might be unfamiliar with fasting, and I hope to encourage you to incorporate it into your marriage. And of course, we can all use fresh encouragement in this area.
The fasting we are going to talk about today is Biblical fasting. Not fasting for medical or health purposes.
In Biblical fasting, you deny your body something and use that time to focus on prayer instead. So prayer is vital. (My pastor used to say fasting without prayer is simply going on a hunger walk!)
I believe that there’s depth to our relationship with God, and consequently, our relationship with our husbands, we won’t get to but by regular seasons of prayer and fasting.
I know that’s a huge statement. But prayer and fasting do connect us to a jurisdiction and power beyond the natural.
I also believe anyone who is willing can fast. If you cannot go on a food fast for medical reasons, you can fast something else, like entertainment or social media. There’s always a way when you put your heart to it.
I believe couples would have more victory over sin, addiction, and hounding habits if they took time to quieten their flesh through fasting and prayer.
Those pesky things that wreck havoc would be defeated if we made the practice of depriving our body (so our spirit can grow) more constant.
Indeed, God wants us to enjoy His freedom and blessing.
But the depths of it is not found somewhere on the surface. Some of the answers we seek, the clarity and strength we need is located in the depths a vibrant yet rest-filled, sweet, glorious-bursted-through-the-seams bond with God.
That’s why we trim our earthly its appetites, why we need our spiritual person to be empowered. It’s so God can become more and we can become less.
Examples of Fasting in the Bible
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.” Matthew 4: 1- 2
Jesus fasted from food before he began his public ministry on earth.
When this vision came to me, I, Daniel, had been in mourning for three whole weeks. All that time I had eaten no rich food. No meat or wine crossed my lips, and I used no fragrant lotions until those three weeks had passed. Daniel 10: 1-3
Daniel fasted for three weeks after receiving a disturbing vision of the future. Verse 12 gives us specifics as to why Daniel fasted; “to pray for understanding and to humble himself before your God.”
New Testament instruction
“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. Matthew 6:16
The verse infers believers fast.
It reads when you fast, not if you fast.
So why fast?
– It’s a discipline supported by the Bible.
– Depriving the body of its natural appetites and using that time to focus on the spiritual side of our lives increases our spiritual sensitivity. Thus we are in a better condition to hear God and carry out His instructions.
– Fasting reminds us about eternity.
That there’s more than food, toys, media and entertainment, news, sports, sex, happiness and all these things which occupy our lives and feel so urgent.
Stripping yourself of these things and focusing on the spiritual reminds you “this is not all there is to life.”
– There’s a spiritual dimension to our lives which we aren’t always aware of.
We are not always conscious of the spiritual battle raging in the spirit on our behalf. Through prayer and fasting, we can “press in” until we receive answers to our prayers.
When the angel of God came to Daniel on the twenty-first day, he said “Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven” Daniel 10: 12
5 Things We Should Know About Prayer and Fasting.
1. Fasting is difficult.
A few people I know can go without food, seemingly at the drop of a hat, and be all fine and dandy. Not me. I like food.
Over time I have come to accept that fasting will never feel natural and that is okay. I am not less “spiritual” because I don’t feel like fasting or struggle my way through it. Actually, my body will always hate to be denied.
And so as you consider fasting for your marriage, remember just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible, or only a few people are called to it. Expect the push and pull of the flesh. It’s normal.
2. Fasting does not change God.
God is the same yesterday today forever. Fasting is not a means to twist His arm so we can have our way.
In fact, when we fast for our marriages or life in general, we are taking the posture of humility, asking God to have His way. And His answers often rest in the category of “Yes, No or Wait.”
3. God hears our prayers before we fast
In Daniel 10, we learn that God heard Daniel’s prayer the first day he prayed.
“Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven.”
God hears our prayers already. Fasting is like hurling gas into the already blazing fire of prayer: humbling yourself, quietening your overactive mind and heart so you can hear God more clearly.
4. The act of fasting won’t change your husband.
Just as we can’t arm-twist God to change his will when we fast, we don’t change our husbands through the act of fasting.
God is the only one with the access and ability to change your spouse’s heart and intention. Yes, fasting is powerful and can adjust the trajectory of marriage, but often it’s because of #5..
5. Fasting changes you.
While the act of fasting doesn’t automatically change your husband, it certainly changes you, (as you allow God to work in you.)
Sometimes your change is what God uses to inspire his change. Other times God will perform an independent work.
But either way, fasting is about you. To pound, develop, strengthen the muscles of your spirit. To give you the fortitude to make difficult decisions. To help you stay on a difficult, perhaps unpopular path. To give you clarity in unclear times. To position you for supernatural interventions.
How to Fast for Your Marriage
1. Start with a reason.
Why do you want to fast? Specific prayers yield precise results.
While it’s possible (and I highly encourage it) to fast as a regular discipline and for continued clarity, it’s important to attach a goal to your season of prayer and fasting.
Be specific. Because the more specific your goal, the more specific your prayer focus. And the more likely you’ll know when/how God moves.
2. Consider what to fast.
And be honest about its importance in your life! Biblical fasting involves doing away with something you love.
If you don’t care for it/enjoy it/crave it, slicing it out isn’t going to make that much of a difference. So consider going without something you love dearly.
Most humans love food, and so fasting food is popular and powerful. You can add entertainment and social media to that category. Whatever you love, set your sights on it as a likely candidate when fasting.
Ps. You cannot “fast” your spouse, of course! So, no “I can’t hang out/laugh/be with you because I am fasting.” The Bible instructs to act normal during our fast. (Matthew 6:16 – 18) When it comes to abstaining from sex during your fast, it must be a mutual decision. (1 Corinthians 7:5)
3. Take it slow.
If fasting is not a regular habit, plan to ease into it. You might want to shoot for skipping one meal, for example.(Unless the Lord leads you otherwise, of course!)
Fasting is hard on the flesh either way, but you increase the likelihood of success (and sanity) when you ease into it.
Biblical fasting involves prayer: you are replacing your favorite thing with more time with God.
Go out of your way to curve out un-rushed times of prayer. If you have to wake up earlier than usual, then do it. Instead of chatting with colleagues over lunch hour, find a quiet place to pray, read the Word and spend time with God.
Bottom line, if you took the time to sacrifice something, you might as well make it count.
The temptation, when fasting is to find a replacement for what went through the door.
For example, if your fast involves social media, you will be tempted to veg out in front of the TV. So when you fast, ask God to help your focus, so you don’t fill up your time with other unhelpful things.
6. Consider the type of fast.
There are different types of fasts.
- A complete or water-only fast.
- Fluid only, where you drink fluids only, e.g., soups, juices, and smoothies.
- Meals, where you fast one or two meals a day.
- You can also fast from your favorite things like social media and entertainment.
- Types of food. Here you abstain from certain foods, like the Daniels fast, where you eat vegetables only.
Whatever food fast you undertake, it’s important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to flush toxins out of your body.
7. Length of the fast
A fast can be as long or as short as you/God decide – a day, three days, seven days, twenty one days, forty days.
It’s a good idea to determine the length of the fast before you start. It will help you stay focused (and encourage you not to fall off the wagon.)
8. Consider involving your husband but..
It’s wonderful to go on a joint fast, definitely makes it easier. (Matthew 18:19)
But sometimes a joint fast is not possible. Perhaps he’s traveling for work, or he has a big project that’s sucking all his attention. Don’t feel like your husband has to be part of the fast.
Many of the women I converse with, who I encourage to consider fasting, are typically in stressful situations with their husbands. Proposing a joint fast is not feasible.
Remember, spiritual disciplines are between you and the Lord. It’s like salvation; it’s a personal thing. You don’t (shouldn’t) quit or cool off on your relationship with the Lord because your husband is absent.
9. Expect your body to react.
When you deprive your body of food (or anything else it’s used to), you’ll go through a season of “withdrawal.” All coffee drinkers say, aye?
When you go on a food fast your body will determine it’s dying. Seriously. (Though when you think about it, it is dying but it’s a positive kind of death).
You’ll feel feelings you haven’t felt before. You’ll likely be more impatient and irritable than normal. You might have less energy, and your immunity might drop.
There are things you can do to smooth out the effects, like rearranging your days and routines, so you don’t have to expend too much energy. Or drinking homemade natural juices to boost your immunity.
Overall, expect some push back from your body and mind. It’s normal.
Please note: “Normal” is relative. You know your body, you have the Holy Spirit and his blessed common sense; the goal of the fast is not to literally die, so please listen to your body and the Spirit, especially if you have an underlying medical condition but decided to fast anyway, after prayer.
Otherwise, “push-backs” from your body are normal, especially if its a long fast. Stay hydrated and drink natural juices/soups to alleviate the symptoms.
10. Remember God wants to help you fast
I once believed fasting gets easier with time. That the more you do you, the easier it gets over the years. And perhaps it does get easier for some people. But not for many and certainly not for me.
The one thing that will make a difference when this discipline feels impossible is to remember God wants to help you. So instead of fighting this battle alone, ask Him to help you. He’ll be very faithful to help.
11. Fasting doesn’t make God love you more.
Recently, God reminded me fasting doesn’t make us more lovable. Our fasting is simply a way to join His cause and see His purposes fulfilled on earth.
So if I stray from fasting or do a less-than-stellar job of the process, I am still loved. Also, God is very interested in our hearts, more than our actions.
I truly believe in the power of fasting as a key to a more healthy, vibrant relationship with God and husband.
I think if more couples were given to prayer and fasting, we’d see more victory in our lives and marriages: it’s the natural result of continually tapping into God’s power and keeping a finger on His pulse for our marriage.
I wanted to create to light practical post for anyone who wants to try fasting for her marriage. But I realize there is nothing light or fun about fasting. It’s a discipline, for the most part.
I pray my thoughts don’t turn you off rather they pique your interest and encourage you take a walk and discover a new depth and hope for your marriage and life.
A quick note for the new bride: I found it hard to go back to fasting as a new bride. I don’t know why but it was hard! If you are wrestling with “cooled embers”, don’t be overly rumpled. Keep talking to God and in time, He will help you.
Your turn – What other benefits have you seen from fasting? What tips can you add?
Are you an imperfect girl married to an imperfect guy? Wondering how to draw closer to God and your husband? My book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After in the Early Years might help. Learn how to positively influence your marriage and create the marriage of your dreams, one intentional choice at a time. Start your journey to bliss here