Have you ever wondered about fasting for an extended period of time? Jesus, after all, fasted for 40 days in the Judean wilderness. I wrote a short introduction to what the Bible teaches about fasting a few years ago for those new to fasting, since I have found fasting to be a helpful discipline at various times in my life. But since I have no experience with prolonged fasting, I reached out to my friend, Bill MacLeod, to ask him questions about it. Bill was the pastor of International Outreach at a church that helped send Trudi and me overseas many years ago. He has also served with the Luis Palau Association, and is founder and director of MissionConnexion, which has been powerfully used of the Lord over the past couple decades to mobilize God’s people for world missions.

1. What were the circumstances surrounding your decision to undertake an extended fast?

I was on a church pastoral staff and was deeply burdened about our church. Our church leadership was forced to make a very difficult and highly sensitive decision that most people in our church knew nothing about. This decision would soon be shared with the whole church and had the potential of producing negative repercussions for years to come.

  • Our pastor asked that we get away as a staff for a day of prayer and fasting to seek the Lord together.
  • At the time I was reading a book on fasting and decided to take it with me. We broke the day up into sections where we would pray together, then alone, and come back to share what we had heard the Lord say.
  • I had begun a fast over this situation that I was planning to end after the congregational meeting scheduled for the following week.
  • During our personal prayer time, as I prayed and read from the book I had brought, I sensed a clear directive from the Lord to not stop after one week but to continue the fast for a total of 40 days.

2. What experiences had you had with fasting prior to undertaking an ‘extended fast’?

During my years at seminary, I had regularly set aside a day each week to pray and fast and just seek the Lord for my life. I had also utilized the discipline at various times in ministry. Once, while working for the Luis Palau Association, as we were preparing for an outreach with all the churches of Portland, I had committed to pray and do a water-fast for ten days leading up to the event. When the event arrived, I was so lightheaded I thought I would pass out.

3. Were there any people or tools that helped guide you in this fasting experience?

On a short-term mission trip to Almaty, Kazakhstan, I spent time with our host, a Korean pastor who, at the time, was leading the largest church in Kazakhstan, and possibly all Central Asia. They were seeing tremendous spiritual breakthroughs, and prayer was a primary focus of the whole church. I was intrigued by Pastor Kim Sam-Seong’s testimony of praying and fasting for 40 days while at Prayer Mountain in Seoul, South Korea. However, I was not in a position to leave my job and travel to Korea to fast for 40 days, but I wondered if it could be attempted while keeping my regular work schedule.

A friend who worked with CRU had just returned from an all-staff conference in which founder Bill Bright shared his experience of fasting for 40 days. He was very burdened with the state of the country at the time and became motivated to seek the Lord on its behalf through this dedicated period. He also wrote a book about his experience entitled, “The Coming Revival: America’s Call to Fast, Pray, and “Seek God’s Face”. This book became my guide.

4. Were there any forces pushing back against your entering into this experience?

  • From a human standpoint, I wondered if I would do harm to my body out of ignorance, so I had some reservations that I was trying to balance with my desire to be obedient. I was a marathon runner, so in fairly good physical shape, and used to listening to my body. But I still didn’t know how I would fare.
  • I knew my wife would not be enthusiastic about it because it would be disruptive to our family routine with young children, meal preparation, etc., not to mention my resulting low blood sugar which might make me more impatient and reactive.
  • I also wondered how I could keep a normal ministry schedule involving meetings which often involved meals.
  • I realized how overly concerned I was over what people would think of me. That was an area of my life I had to face head-on every time I fasted. An older gentleman in our church whom I really respected took me aside once and said “Bill, I am very concerned about you!” His look made me feel like he was appealing to a friend he had learned was a drug addict! At times like these, I felt completely stripped of any veneer in my life and had to cry out to the Lord for help. But ultimately it was incredibly freeing.
  • There is a whole chapter in Bright’s book dedicated to medical and health precautions related to extended fasting which I found helpful. In the end, I assured my wife that I would be following a juice-fast regimen to maintain daily caloric intake. I stayed away from milk products, and found that V-8 replenishes the salt in the body necessary for thinking and reasoning, so I could continue to work. (Those with health issues may wish to consult their doctor before attempting an extended fast or begin with shorter one-day fasts.)
  • I gave myself permission to rest more, like one recovering from an illness, and found that the daily routine was not a burden at all. In fact, hunger and food craving disappeared after two or three days, after which prayer, Bible reading, and sensing the Lord’s direction became much clearer and unencumbered. I marveled at the clarity I experienced and often felt like I was walking underwater without oxygen, in a state of wonder!

5. What has been your experience, positive and negative, in undertaking extended fasting both in the first and in subsequent times?

  • During the first two weeks in that first 40-day fast, I had a strong sense that I should just quit. I thought, “What am I accomplishing here? There is no purpose in continuing this!” On the very day I thought about quitting, something was shared with me that it was a test, that there are no “coincidences.” So I decided not to quit. With renewed expectation, I pressed on and continued.
  • In that first fast, on day 20, I felt an overwhelming sense of fatigue and reacted: “Maybe I have gone too far! I need to stop!” However, I simply increased my fruit juice, and with the increased caloric intake, I got energized, and all returned to “normal”.

6. What results have you seen as a result of extended fasting?

  • Similar to the long runs I used to prepare for marathons, extended fasting helped me focus on the Lord, see ‘solutions’ to problems I had not seen before, and watch the Lord solve issues I was facing without any effort on my part.
  • I have witnessed health issues disappear as I have fasted.
  • The Lord ended up calling me to continue this practice of extended fasting every year for over two decades. He used it to help me birth the ministry I now lead—with all the turmoil that I can imagine a woman bringing a child into the world endures, especially as we have seen the ministry grow and expand.
  • Often when I fasted, I had a specific burden (or many) on my heart, though not always. I can say that every time I accepted the Lord’s invitation to do an extended fast (40 days—and it was never “easy”), not once did I ever see the Lord not “show up.” Every single time, I saw God accomplish things in my life and in the situations around me.

7. Would you recommend the discipline of fasting?


This post and other resources are available at Kindle Afresh: The Blog and Website of Kenneth Berding.