Fasting is one of the spiritual practices that John Wesley said we would often do, yet most Methodists and Christians don't participate in regularly. Some may choose to give something up during Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter), but overall, Protestants don't fast.
What kinds of fasts are there?
In scripture, there are three types of fasts found. The most common fast is when a person abstains from all food, but not from water. This was probably the fast that Jesus participated in when he went into the desert for 40 days in Matthew 4:1-2 (cf. Luke 4:1-2).
There was also a partial fast, which meant a person had restricted diet, but still ate some food. This was common during periods of mourning. For example, Daniel ate no meat and drank no wine, he also applied no lotion to his body (Daniel 10:3).
The third type of fast was the absolute fast. This meant a person had no food or water, but it also couldn't be done for a very long time. It was often used for critical periods of prayer. For example, Esther didn't eat or drink for three days as she prepared for the national crisis (Esther 4:16). Paul also abstained from food and drink for three days with his dramatic conversion (Acts 9:9).
All three types of fasts can be done privately and corporately. Normally, fasting is done as a private prayer practice, but there have been times where the community has come together for a public fast. In Jewish culture, everyone was required to fast once every year during a public fast on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-34, 23:37). They also fasted together in times of national emergency (2 Chronicles 20:1-4) and to seek God's guidance (Ezra 8:21-23).
For Us Today
As Christians today, we can take up the practice of fasting in many different ways We can choose an absolute fast from sun down on Saturday until lunch on Sunday, which is the Catholic tradition of preparing for communion. We can also decide to do a partial fast during the special times of the church year, like Lent (6 weeks before Easter), Advent (4 weeks before Christmas), and before special Sundays, like Pentecost Sunday.
Or, you could decide to add a single day of partial fasting every 4-6 weeks as a way of focusing on God. The purpose of fasting is to remind ourselves that we rely on God, not on anything of this earth. We spend more time in prayer and carve out space just for God in our busy schedules.
Where could you make space for God?
Source: NIV Application Commentary: New Testament, Volume on Matthew, p. 281.