I was asked recently by a dear friend, “Why do you fast?”. Fasting for me is sanctification and therefore my experience with God is more deeply intimate. I close out everything when I fast electronics (except for praise/worship music), food and people (as much as possible); tending to like an isolated space occupied by God and myself.
I shared with my friend this article on the subject: “What is Fasting”. It is my sincere hope and pray that it will be a blessing as I share it here with you.
What is fasting?
WHY does God want us to occasionally Fast?Written by: John Eastman
In Matt. 9:14-15, the disciples of John the Baptist came and asked Christ, “Why is it that we and the Pharisees observe the fast, but your disciples do not?” Christ answered them, “..the day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, they will certainly fast then” ” (Phillips Translation).
Another Bible translation reads, “ ..and then they will fast. “ (Revised Standard Vision).
These verses tell us that fasting is a command from God. Christ said, “ It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. “ (Matt 4:4). If you have a righteous love and fear for God, then you will want to be obedient and will heed His command to fast. What instructions does the
Does Bible give us about how to fast?
First, the Bible explains that fasting means to go without food or water. In Esther 4:15-16, “Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for 3 days, night or day…” ”
Generally, fasting is from sunset to sunset (Lev. 23:32). Secondly, Christ instructed his disciples not to boast when they fasted: ” More over, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father, who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly ” (Matt. 6:16-18).
It is clear that God expects fasting to be a private matter between you and your Father in Heaven. Most importantly, God Himself defines how to fast in the Book of Isaiah. God says: ” Is this not the fast I have chosen; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor that are cast out; when you see the naked that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily; and your righteousness shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. ” (Isa. 58:6-8)
In the days of Isaiah, when the nation of Israel fasted, they were fasting for their own personal deliverance, but they were not concerned for other people around them that were starving, naked, and homeless. God wanted them to have a heart, to fast about other people’s spiritual needs as well as their own, and to bring forth good works of helping the needy. God is telling us that fasting brings us closer to God’s will, and His will is to have humility, love, and concern for others. With this type of attitude in fasting and good works, God promises,“Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer. You shall cry, and He will say, Here I am…” (Isa. 58:9) This is the most important principle of fasting, to draw closer to God and to seek His righteousness and His will in our lives.
Fasting should be a regular part of a Christian’s life, not just on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:32), but several times in a year. The Bible says that Paul fasted often (2Cor. 11:27, Acts 9:9). The Apostle Paul knew that fasting would be a way of life for Christians (1Cor. 7:5)
Christ fasted for 40 days and nights to prepare Himself for the time that He would come face to face with Satan because He knew He would need His Father’s strength. You may think you don’t need to fast, but after you have fasted and felt the closeness of God and His strength in you, then and only then will you see the true gauge that shows you how weak and how far away from God you really are. Fasting is a tool that God has given us to use to become spiritually stronger so that we can go on our spiritual journey with strength and power from God, instead of having very little spiritual strength.
Fasting because of evil
One reason Christians fast is that the world we live in is saturated with evil. Like in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, we can be overtaken by the evil that surrounds us. As Peter said in 2 Peter 2:7-8, “Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked. For that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day hearing and seeing their lawless deeds.“
Christians not only need to study and pray, but also need to fast to fortify and maintain a close relationship with God. Fasting helps Christians to seek God’s righteousness, His wisdom, His will, and His strength in a world that is overcome with evil. If you feel you are not very close to God and things are not going right for you physically or spiritually, that your prayers are not going higher than the ceiling, then fast!
BEFORE the Fast
Before you fast, it is best to ask God to help you to have an effective, fervent, and heartfelt fast. I believe the best method to conduct your fast is to alternate between prayer, studying, and a period of meditation throughout the fast. Praying is when we talk to God, and studying His word is like God talking to us. Fasting is like receiving a spiritual vitamin shot that gives you more spiritual strength to grow in God’s righteousness. Sometimes you can’t see the forest when standing too close to the trees. Likewise, we can’t see what this evil world is doing to us and how weak it makes us. Fasting removes the blinders of deception that Satan has put over our spiritual eyes.
Believers fast to have a true godly repentance of sin.
David fasted because of the sin he committed with Bathsheba (2Sam. 12:15-16, 22). God accepted David’s fast and forgave him. In the Old Testament (Jonah 3:5-8,10), Nineveh, a gentile nation, was guilty of sin and God had intended to destroy their city. Incredibly, the King commanded every person and beast to fast to beseech God’s mercy and to forgive them. “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil ways, and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.”
Other reasons to Fast
Not all examples of fasting in the Bible are for repentance. The whole church in the New Testament fasted for the ministry of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2-3). Fasting was part of appointing the elders of the church (Acts 14:23). Daniel fasted that God would deliver Israel from slavery (Dan. 9:3). A gentile king even fasted for Daniel when he was thrown into a lion’s den (Dan. 6:18). Moses fasted 40 days and nights to draw close to God (Ex. 34:27-28). King David fasted for his sick friends (Ps 35:13). Christ said the only way to cast out difficult demons was through prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29). Anna the Prophetess (Luke 2:3) fasted and prayed night and day (she was 84 years old!). Clearly, all Christians should fast. I believe that if someone has a sickness where fasting would harm their health, they can still fast with some nourishment during the fast. In some health conditions (diabetics, etc.), one may want to consult a doctor for medical advice before fasting.
In the days of the Apostles, fasting was connected in one way or another to great signs and wonders, miracles, mighty works, and doors being opened for the Gospel. Likewise, I do not believe that God’s church today (the body of Christ) will go forth in power to do the Work of God unless it also becomes a fasting and praying church. Yes, God commands Christians to fast, and true Christians will desire to fast for God’s righteousness in their lives.