I’d like to look at a new kind of fast. The Bible has lots to say about fasting—giving something up for a period of time as an act of reverence and honor to God. Typically fasting is associated with food—giving up food for a time to focus more on the Lord—and certainly there can be great benefit in that kind of fasting. Jesus warned us, however, not to fast in order to impress people and, if we fast, to make it something between us and God.

I’m going to suggest five fasts we all can do and should do—not just once in a while, but continually. I don’t recommend that you announce your fasts to anyone. Rather, make them a matter of daily prayer and commitment on your part, and see how these fasts make a difference.

Here’s my first suggestion: Determine to fast from any kind of hurting words; say only words that are kind and encouraging.

Imagine how powerful this would be if you prayed every morning that God would make you aware of any unkind words you are ready to speak that day, and to stop them before they come out of your mouth.

Psalm 141:3 is the verse to pray if you want to fast from hurting words: Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips!” It’s so much easier to prevent unkind words from leaving your lips than it is to clean up the mess later. Imagine two tall guards, one standing on either side of your mouth, to prevent those unkind words from coming out of the door of your lips.

Of course, there are times when you have to say words that others may not want to hear. However, when that is necessary, you want those words to be coated in kindness and love. Those are words you say to benefit another person—even if they are hard to hear—not to ventilate your own frustrations. Words have the power of life and death, and followers of Jesus Christ should speak words of life.

My friend was a public school teacher and she told how one of her students was such a problem in her class, causing her many headaches. Knowing his home situation, she realized he rarely, if ever, received any kindness or encouragement. She made it her goal to speak to him in kind ways instead of always reprimanding him. She told me there was an overnight change in his behavior! Her kind words touched a hurting place in him and brought some healing, and they became friends.

Words have power. Let’s fast from hurting words and, instead, determine to use words for life, not death.