How do you determine the length of a fast?
In my experience, there are two ways to select a fasting course. I call them Open Fasting and Obedience Fasting.
In an “Open Fast,” I enter the fast with no clear timeline. I might set out with a three-day goal, then evaluate along the way and extend it to five. Or I might set a five-day course and then break it at three. An “open” fast is a form of “freedom” fast, where I sense the freedom to set the pace and seek the Lord each day.
An “Obedience Fast” is when God puts a specific fast calendar or duration on my heart. In that situation, my choice is to obey and not mess with the schedule.
Pros and cons of an “Open Fast”
– Great way to start a fast. Low pressure. You control the pace, get into a groove and evaluate along the way.
– Easy to step off the fast and avoid feelings of guilt or disappointment (neither of which are from God, but rather from our own inner self)
– Freedom to extend the fast as you gain confidence or momentum
– Because it’s easy to step off the fast, you may do so prematurely and miss an opportunity to go deeper.
– Because of the freedom involved, the fast often does end prematurely and can result in personal disappointment
Pros and cons of an “Obedience Fast”
– Congratulations, you’ve heard from God. Now simply obey.
– The parameters are set. God gives you a fast assignment or duration, so you go with it. Removes the guessing or daily assessing of how long it will last.
– You’re more likely to complete the fast as desired by being accountable to being obedience.
– Often (but not always) comes with a very clear fasting purpose, helping to stay focused.
– You are committed. Be prepared for surprises or inconveniences that pop up in your schedule (i.e. an unexpected meal invitation or celebration).