What Is Fasting
Many people fast for lots of different reasons. The man started fasting since he got to know the benefits of it. It has huge importance for our body, soul, and spirit. While we fast, our body gets to rest from its daily activities. This rest helps our body organs to work smoothly as it gets some energy.
People usually fast for many different reasons. But all the reasons give them some positive sides which allow them to make a practice of fasting. To have good health and youthful appearance as well as to get an energetic mood people to do fast.
Apart from these physical benefits fasting has some spiritual significance. We are too fast as Jesus has asked his disciples to practice in order to feel God’s presence in their midst.
In the Bible, we can notice many incidents where God’s people fasted for spiritual purposes. Those fastings were accompanied by prayers and repentance. We must consider fasting and prayer as a whole as we can find much evidence in the Bible.
What Does fasting Mean To God
Our fasting with a dedicated heart approaches God. In fasting, we completely surrender ourselves to the hands of God. The Lord starts his work for us while we submit our wills to him and ask him to lead us according to his intention.
Through our fasting, we come closer to our maker. Thus he also comes nearer to us. Fasting allows God to forgive his people’s sins. During the fasting believers give their entire attention to God and get many blessings. God looks at our hearts and he gives rewards to every one according to their work.
Prayer There was a prophetess, Anna who was the daughter of Phanuel who served God with prayers and fasting. She was eighty-four years old and she dedicated herself to the hands of God. God likes to hear our prayer while we submit ourselves with fasting (Luke 2:37).
Confession The children of Israel assembled together and fasted for the sins that their fathers had committed. They sought God’s forgiveness and grace by their fasting (Nehemiah 9:1-2).
Mourning God demanded his children to fast, weep and mourn in order to show them his grace and mercy. God loves his chosen people very much but their sin made God angry upon them (Joel 2:12).
Humiliation In the Old Testament, God asked his people to fast so they may understand the sin which they committed against Him. This fasting was required from them to make them ashamed of their sinful acts (Nehemiah 9:1).
What Are Reasons To Fast
We need to fast for various reasons as we belong to God. Our God demands holiness from us but our sin always tries to separate us from the Lord. As long as we are living in this fleshly body we tend to commit sin.
We all are sinners and often we violate the will of God. to form a fellowship with our creator we must fast. Apart from this, we should fast to get rid of public disaster, our own evil emotions, grief, anxiety, danger and show repentance to God.
Public Disasters Saul was the first king over Israel. In a battle Philistines chased Saul and his three sons where his three sons were killed, Saul gave up his life on the sword of his armor-bearer. The death news came to Israel and they fasted to the Lord for their great loss (1 Samuel 31:11-13).
Private Emotions Samuel’s mother Hannah was barren and she used to cry to God and fast. She desired a child from the Lord. She spent her days fasting while she used to come to the Lord’s house (1 Samuel 1:7).
Grief Due to the sin of David God was angry with him. But the Lord was So kind upon David that he did not take his life. According to the prophecy, Nathan David’s son died. David tried his best to save his son by fasting seven days so he may find grace in the eyes of God. His repentant heart made him fast for his son (2 Samuel 12:16).
Anxiety Daniel found favor in the sight of the Lord. but his enemies tried to kill him with their wicked plan. They influenced King Darius to fulfill their desire by putting Daniel into the lion’s den. Though Darius signed the decree, he went into his room and fasted for the deliverance of Daniel. This incident teaches us we should fast when we are helpless and do not know what to do (Daniel 6:18-20).
Approaching Danger Once upon a time the Jews who lived in Persia faced great trouble. Their lives were in great danger as the king signed the decree to slay all the Jews. Mordecai asked Esther to seek help from the king to save their lives.
But it was not legal for her to meet the king as he did not call her. Esther fasted with her maidservant and she also asked Mordecai to pray along with them for three days (Esther 4:16).
National repentance When the children of Israel went against the Lord and worshipped the foreign gods, God’s wrath came upon them. They were attacked by the Philistines and all the Jews gathered at Mizpah and Samuel instructed them to fast so they may find grace in the sight of God (1 Samuel 7:5-).
Sad News Nehemiah fasted for many days when he heard the news of Jerusalem’s destruction where its wall was broken. Jerusalem gates were burned with fire (Nehemiah 1:4).
Sacred Ordination When the apostles were seeking to move ahead with God’s work they fasted and sought God’s guidance (Acts 13:3).
What Are Biblical Reasons To fast
- We need to honor God through our fast (Zechariah 7:5, Luke 2:37; Acts 13:2).
- Due to sin nature, we are proud, to make us humble in the sight of God, we should fast (Ezra 8:21, Psalm 69:10; Isaiah 58:3).
- We are weak and we need the grace from the Lord to overcome our weaknesses (1 Peter 5:5)
- We are so busy with our surrounding things so often we forget God. we should fast to draw closer to him to feel his presence (Isaiah 57:15; 58:6-9).
- Fasting helps us to ask forgiveness for our sins and mistakes (1 Samuel 7:6; Nehemiah 9:1-2)
- Before beginning a new task and for the approval fasting is essential (Matthew 4:2)
- To seek God by drawing near to Him and prevailing in prayer against opposing spiritual forces (Judges 20:26, Ezra 8:21,23,31; Jeremiah 29-12-14; Joel 2:12; Luke 18:3; Acts 9:10-19)
- To show repentance and to make a way for God to change His declared intentions of judgement ( 2 Samuel 12:1622; 1 Kings 21:27-29; Jeremiah 18:7-8; Joel 2:12-14; Jonah 3:5,10)
- To save our souls from everlasting death, we need to seek God’s face in fasting (Isaiah 58-6; Matthew 17:14-21; Luke 4:18)
- To receive God’s revelation, plans, and wisdom fasting is needed (Isaiah 58:5-6, 11; Daniel 9:3,21-22; Acts 13:2-3)
- To open the way for the outpouring of the Spirit and Christ’s return to earth for His people (Matthew 9:15)
What About Spiritual Benefits
There are always MANY benefits to drawing closer to God – they are actually innumerable. Anytime we get “self out of the way” and get “God” as our main focus, we will truly begin to know Him in His power and glory. From the PBS lesson “Fasting Facts,” we learn some of the ways we benefit spiritually:
Fasting is a vital spiritual discipline for ALL believers. Jesus did not say, “IF you fast.” but He said, “When you fast…”.
The Apostle Paul knew fasting helped to control his flesh. Paul fasted often because he wrote, “In fastings often” (2 Corinthians 11:27). In 1 Corinthians 9:27, he said it best: “But I keep my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
Fasting keeps us humble before God (Isaiah 58:5; Psalm 69:10).
Fasting will bring spiritual determination and understanding as we ask God to give us help and direction in our problems (Joel 2:12).
Fasting is our way of telling God how hungry we are for the things of the Spirit rather than just the things of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17; Job 23:12; Matthew 4:4).
What To Do While Fasting
Before beginning our fasting for the upliftment of our spirituality we must know some basic facts about which we should do and what we should avoid. Let us see the facts below which will help us to do the fasting according to the intention of God.
Avoid Display Jesus teaches his disciples not to show fasting before men. When one fasts to the Lord he must live as he lives and he needs to show his fasting only to the Lord. He will get rewards from the Lord if he keeps his fasting secret (Matthew 6:16-18).
Remember God God spoke to the children of Israel to remember him while they fast. Obedience is better than fasting to the Lord. they usually fast but they did not keep the words of God. So the Lord required them to obey him while they fast and pray to seek his face (Zech. 7:5-7).
Chasten the soul David cried and fasted to the Lord so he might find grace in God’s sight. He chastened his soul by fasting and came nearer to the Lord (Psalms 69:10).
Humble the soul When David was hopeless and lost hope in his life due to his sins, he humbled himself before the Lord by fasting and prayers. He knew that God looks our hearts so he surrendered himself and asked forgiveness from the Lord (Psalms 35:13)
Consider the True meaning God asked his children not to fast without knowing its real meaning and purpose. People who fast must change their behavior in order to win the favor in God’s sight. They should quit all kinds of iniquities. They should show kindness to the poor. God loves to see his people faithful and compassionate towards others (Isaiah 58:1-14).
Three Main Types Of Fasting Are Mentioned In The Bible
The normal fast Abstaining from all kinds of Food which is solid and liquid. But water can be taken during that fasting (Matthew 4:2- we see that Jesus was hungry as he fasted for forty days and the Bible did not mention his thirst).
The absolute fast In this fasting both food and water should abstain (Esther 4:16, Acts 9:9- this absolute fasting should be practiced for a maximum of three days and after which the body needs water to survive its various organs.) Moses and Elijah practiced the absolute fast for longer than three days, but only under supernatural conditions (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9,18; 1 Kings 19:8).
The partial fast This fast allows the person to take a little food instead of staying on an empty stomach (Daniel 10:3).
Examples Of Fasting In The Old Testament
Moses Moses spent forty days and nights fasting to the Lord in mount Sinai where he received the laws from God. When he came down from the mountain his face was shining as he talked to God (Exodus 34:27-28).
Israelites When the tribe of Benjamin rose against the children of Israel and killed eighteen thousand Israel children, then all the Israel children came to the house of God and fasted to the Lord and wept till the evening (Judges 20:26).
Samuel God was against the children of Israel as they worshipped foreign gods. The ark of God was taken away from them. At that time Samuel asked all of them to gather at Mizpah and ordered them to repent for their sins. The children of Israel listen to him and threw all the foreign gods whom they received and they fasted for that day and sought God’s forgiveness for their sin (1 Samuel 7:5-6).
David The prophet Nathan warned David that the child that Uriah’s wife bore to him would die because of his sin. David sought God’s mercy by engaging himself in prayer and fasting to the Lord. but on the seventh day his son died as the Lord foretold him (2 Samuel 12:16).
Ninevites The word of God came to Ninevites by Jonah and they repented for their sins. They proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth. Thus they were saved from the wrath of God as they returned from their evil works (Jonah 3:5-8).
Nehemiah Nehemiah loved God and he was distressed when he heard the news of Jerusalem’s destruction. He found himself helpless so he sought God’s guidance by dedicating himself to fasting and prayer (Nehemiah 1:4).
Darius Darius fasted to the Lord for the life of Daniel while he was put in the den of lions. He didn’t sleep for the entire night and he spent the whole night in prayer and fasting to ask God’s mighty hand to deliver Daniel from the mouth of lions (Daniel 6:9,18).
Daniel Daniel also used to fast in his life while he didn’t understand what to do and what God wanted to speak to him. To know the heart and plan of God he sought God’s guidance by fasting and prayer (Daniel 9:3).
Examples Of Fasting In The New Testament
Anna We can find a prophetess who was nearly eighty-four years old. She took shelter in the temple and she served God with fasting and prayers in her days (Luke 2:36,37).
Jesus Jesus left an example of his fasting before he began his earthly ministry. He fasted for forty days to get the heavenly strength to start his ministry (Matthew 4:1,2).
John’s Disciples and the Pharisees We can see other instances where the disciples of John and the Pharisees used to pray in their times (Mark 2:18).
Early Christians Early church members used to fast to get the heavenly direction for the ministry. They spend their days fasting and praying in order to know the will of God so they can make the right decision (Acts 13:2).
Apostles The apostles of Jesus realized the importance of evangelism. They gave their best part to extend the kingdom of God. They experienced troubles and tortures but worked hard by fasting and prayer to bring people into the light of Christ (2 Corinthians 6:4,5).
Paul Paul played a vital role to extend the kingdom of God throughout the world. He spent many sleepless nights working for the Lord. He fasted for the spiritual guidance in his life to do the will of God in his life ( 2 Corinthians 11:27).
What Did Jesus Say About Fasting
Jesus has addressed his disciples about the importance of fasting in several places. In his famous sermon “ sermon on the mount”, he said to fast in the right manner. Fasting helps believers to catch the eyes of the Lord.
Jesus warned his disciples not to show their fasting before others. They must keep it hidden and the heavenly father will reward them.
Jesus left an example of fasting while he began his ministry. He showed that fasting is very essential to begin our ministry as well. We get wisdom, strength, and direction from the above.
Everything in this world is affected by sin so what we see and do is under the control of sin. We need the spirit of God which can be obtained through fasting. Jesus says fasting with prayers links us with God.
Once Jesus healed a boy who was under the control of a mute spirit. Before that, his disciples tried to cast out the evil spirit from the boy. They were failed to make the boy free from the spirit.
Jesus easily healed the boy by casting the spirit out of him. Then his disciples secretly asked him the reason for their failure to do what he did. Jesus told them they need to practice prayer and fasting in order to do such work (Mark 9:14-29).
Are Christians Supposed To Fast
There are many examples of fastings we can notice in the bible and those fasts were practiced along with the prayers. Fasting and prayer should be observed together and this becomes powerful which allows God to answer the prayer.
Every Christian should practice this in order to build an intimate relationship with the Lord. Christians should believe in God with all their hearts and they will be given what they pray for if they truly put their faith in God when they ask anything to Him.
While the Scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus the reason for not fasting his disciple, he told them that one day the time will come when he will not be with them physically at that time they will fast. It is mandatory for us to get the presence of Jesus in our life. We need to pray. Though we did not see Jesus, yet he will be with us while we fast and pray (Luke 5:30-39).
What Does The Bible Say About Fasting In Secret
The Bible tells us not to fast before the men. We need to fast to please God and he will reward us. Fasting has a spiritual meaning by which we come closer to God. Jesus says to clean our face, apply oil on the head, and not show gloomy face before men.
Fasting should be hidden from the knowledge of surrounding people. As our main goal for fasting is to communicate with the Lord so we must be careful. We will be rewarded by the Lord if we do not show it before the men.
What happens if we tell others when we fast? We get the reward from men. We show ourselves righteous in men’s sight, so we do not get any blessings from the Lord (Matthew 6:16-18).
Should We Fast Today
In the bible, we find many instances where people of God fasted for several reasons. Fasting was one of the ways for them to come closer to God. Whenever God asked them to fast, they did not make any query but they obeyed what the Lord told them to do.
The nation Israel obeyed God by practicing their annual feast, the Day of Atonement. God told Moses to obey that day by afflicting the souls. Here, afflicting the souls refers to fasting. The children of God have deprived themselves of their appetites so they can give their souls and minds toward the Lord.
On that day, the entire nation was supposed to deny themselves by forsaking their comforts and food distractions. They used to come together before the Lord with a sorrowful heart and expressed their sins to God by fasting and weeping. They all became one mind and their aim was to serve the Lord.
This fasting gave them spiritual food which made them realize that God is with us and he will protect us from all dangers. In the new testament, we see that Jesus also fasted to begin his ministry where he got the power from his fasting.
Fasting does not lead us toward death; rather it brings a huge change in our thoughts and we walk in the newness of our life. Fasting with the right motives and correct ways gives us good health.
We all are very busy with our daily routine and we don’t usually give our entire mind and soul to God. When we fast we completely surrender ourselves to God and we focus only on God. This helps us to know the spiritual matters which God has planned for us.
To see the plan of God we need to build our relationship with him. In fasting, we deliberately turn our attention to food and worldly things and meditate upon God.
HOW DO WE BEGIN FASTING
There are tremendous benefits that we gain when we practice fasting in our spiritual life. It’s not easy to deny ourselves but we can take some steps by which we will be able to overcome the fear to begin fasting.
Steps To Begin Fasting
- Before doing anything else one must pray to Jesus to help him in order to receive spiritual strength from above.
- Then decide a day where you will be free from any kinds of disturbances and set the time to pray during the fasting.
- Avoid the first meal of the day and look toward Jesus and seek his presence.
- Drink little water when you feel thirsty.
- Give time to pray and meditate upon his words.
- You can divide your fast into two parts. You can begin your fast even after taking a second meal.
- Though it seems a few hours, it will help you to start a new habit.
- Repeat this practice after two weeks.
- After one month you will not find any difficult to skip the whole day’s meal.
- During the fasting, give much time in prayer and bible study.
- After the end of the day, take a light meal to finish your fasting.
Have A Plan For Fasting
- Prior to your fasting, set a goal. You must ask yourself what is the reason you are fasting for.
- Ask forgiveness to the Lord for your sins. Deny your fleshly desires while you fast.
- Start with a small fast and focus on it.
- Make yourself free while you fast. Don’t put yourself busy with other activities.
- Make a prayer schedule and points on which you will pray. Without prayer, your mind will be distracted by the surrounding things.
- Prepare the bible portion that you will read during the fast. Try to read many words of God which will help you to draw closer to God.