MANY BOOKS HAVE BEEN WRITTEN ON "HEALTH" FASTING. MANY
HEALTH BOOKS CONTAIN CHAPTERS ON "FASTING." BUT FOR THE
CHRISTIAN, WHAT DOES THE BIBLE HAVE TO SAY ON "SPIRITUAL"
FASTING? SHOULD WE FAST AT ALL? IF SO, WHEN, WHY, AND
WHAT FOR? THESE QUESTIONS AND OTHERS WILL ALL BE
ANSWERED IN THIS ARTICLE ON BIBLICAL FASTING.
SHOULD CHRISTIANS FAST?
Do God and Christ expect us to fast? Should fasting be a part of
a Christian's life?
We are to live by every word of God. (Mt 4:4) What does God say
to us on this topic?
Christ said, "Moreover, when you fast ......" (Mt 6:16).
Notice! He did not say IF you fast, but WHEN. Christ expected
His disciples to fast.
The disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus on one occasion
and asked Him why His (Christ's) followers did not fast. His
answer to them was not that they should NEVER fast but that there
was no need to fast while He was with them.
".....Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the
bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the
bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then
shall they fast" (Mt 9:15). After Christ was no longer on this
earth His followers were to fast - "Then shall they fast."
Christ fasted (Mt 4:2).
He set us an example that we should follow in his steps (I Pet.
Paul was inspired to write, "Defraud you not one the other (do
not withhold sexual relations from each other, v.2-4) except it
be with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves TO
FASTING and prayer ......" (I Cor 7:5).
Paul wrote that ministers should prove themselves ".....in much
patience.....in labours.....in fastings....." (II Cor. 6:4-5).
Paul fasted (2 Cor 11:27). He said we are to follow him as he
followed Christ (I Cor. 11:1).
Christians, then, are to FAST!
WHAT IS BIBLICAL FASTING?
The Hebrew word for 'fast' is 'tsoom' - which means 'to cover
over.' The Greek word is 'nace tyoo-o' - which means 'to
abstain.' See Strong's Concordance of the Bible.
The Hebrew and Greek words alone would strongly indicate that to
fast in a biblical way is to COVER OVER the mouth and ABSTAIN
from anything entering the mouth into the stomach, or - abstain
from FOOD and DRINK.
But God does not leave us in any doubt about what HE says is
biblical SPIRITUAL fasting.
God interprets His own meaning as to the word 'fast'.
"Go, gather together all the Jews who are present in Shushan, AND
FAST you for me, and NEITHER EAT NOR DRINK three days, night or
day ....." (Esth 4:16).
"In those days I Daniel was mourning (fasting - comp. with Ps
35:13; Isa 5::l-5; II Sam 1:12) three full weeks. I ATE NO
PLEASANT BREAD, NEITHER CAME FLESH NOR WINE [alcohol, juice,
drink] in my mouth .. ..." (Dan 10:2,3).
There we have the 'thus saith the Lord' as to the meaning of
'fast.' It may not be what men or women want to say fasting is,
but that is what God says to His followers it is. To fast in a
biblical way - to fast spiritual - is to ABSTAIN, to COVER OVER
the mouth from both FOOD and DRINK.
FASTING IS AFFLICTION!
Some will say, then, that to go without food and drink will
surely be hard - it will be painful and it will be affliction.
And God would not want me to be afflicted, would he?
David, a man after God's own heart, said - "But as for me I
afflicted (see mrg. ref.) my soul with fasting ....." (Ps 35:13).
In Psalm 69 David again said : "When I wept, and chastened my
soul with fasting, that was to my reproach" (v.10).
David knew that to fast - take no food or drink - was not a bed
of roses; it hurt sometimes.
The word of God does not say it will be a PHYSICAL joy. It may
well not be.
God says through Isaiah the prophet - "Wherefore have we fasted,
say they, and thou seest not? Wherefore have we AFFLICTED our
soul, and thou takest no knowledge?" God did not recognize their
fasting because, "Behold, in the day of your fast you find
PLEASURE and exact all YOUR LABOURS" (Isa 58:3).
Fasting is not for pleasure or labour. Fasting spiritually -
biblical fasting - is to afflict our souls.
God gave Israel (the church in the wilderness - Act 7:37, 38) one
specific day they were to fast on - The Day of Atonement (Lev.
23:26-32). This day not only reminds us of Christ's atoning
sacrifice for us, but also the coming time when this whole world
will be at one with God - when Satan will be chained, no longer
to deceive the world, when all sins will be placed on the one who
started it all - Satan. Mankind will then be at-one - atoned to
God (Comp. Lev. 16:20-34 with Heb. 13:11; Rev. 20:1-3).
The DAY OF ATONEMENT (10th day of 7th month) was to be
celebrated with AFFLICTION, see Lev.23.
"For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that
same day, he shall be cut off from among his people (Lev 23:29).
God interprets through David that to AFFLICT ourselves is to FAST
WHEN SHOULD WE FAST?
Ecept for the one specific Day of Atonement given to us in Lev.
23, on what other days should Christians FAST?
The church at Rome in Paul's day were all mixed up over this
question. Some were saying that you should 'fast' on this
specific day of the week, while others said no, it should be
'this' day or 'that' day. Paul had to straighten them out on
this, as they were to the point of condemning each other over
when to fast; when to eat or when not to eat.
"Who art you that judgest (Gr. kree-no, to distinguish, decide,
condemn) another man's servant? To his own master he standeth or
falleth ..... God is able to make him stand. ONE MAN esteemeth
one day above another; ANOTHER esteemeth every day alike. Let
every man be fully persuaded in his OWN mind. He that regardeth
the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not
the day, to the Lord he does not regard it. He that eateth,
eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth
not [fasting], to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks
..... But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you set
at nought your brother? For we shall all stand before the
judgment seat of Christ" (Rom. 14:4-10).
Paul told the Christians at Rome, and he also tells us likewise,
that to eat on a certain day, or NOT TO EAT on that day - to
'fast' on one day or NOT TO FAST on that day, is an INDIVIDUAL
The word of God does not tell us on what day or days of the week
to fast. Except for the Day of Atonement, God has not instructed
us as to WHEN to fast. All God is concerned about is that His
servants DO fast. The day or days, He has left up to us. And
Paul says that God will accept our choice of day because we are
doing it to God - in honor of God, to serve God. We are not to
condemn each other for choosing this day as opposed to another
That is what the Christians at Rome were doing,condemning each
other over the matter.
The day we, as an individual, choose to 'fast' on is left to us
to decide upon. God will accept it.
HOW LONG SHOULD WE FAST?
DANIEL fasted for THREE full weeks at one point during his and
Judah's captivity (Dan 10:2-3).
MOSES, when receiving the commandments of God on Sinai, fasted
FORTY days (Ex 24:18).
ELIJAH also went without food and drink for FORTY days at a very
crucial point in his life (I Kings 19:8).
CHRIST fasted for forty days and nights, just prior to the start
of His ministry (Mt 4:2).
The above examples are of long 'fasts' - under very special times
and events. The prophets and men of God were very strong
physically back then. We have degenerated a great deal
since that time. Few people today could go without food and
drink for 21 days - let alone 40.
The AVERAGE Christian would not be able to 'fast' much longer
than TWO to FOUR days; and that only after being able to go for
24 hours with no food or drink with comparative ease on other
occasions during the year.
My advice to those who have never fasted in the biblical way (no
food or drink) is to go slow at first. Start your fast from the
mid-afternoon and end it with a light breakfast the next day.
After two or three times like this, you then miss out lunch and
go from say 12 noon to breakfast. The next step is then a
complete 24 hour fast.
How many times a year should one fast?
There is no command of the Lord. So I give my judgment as one
guided by the Spirit of God. One day per month would not be too
often. There may be times when we will need to fast more than a
day a month. The main point is that we fast more than on the Day
WHY SHOULD WE FAST?
The basic reason why God wants us to fast is to draw close to Him
and to change our life (Ezra 8:22, 23).
"Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn you even to me with all
your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with
mourning: and REND YOUR HEART, and not your garments, and TURN
unto the Lord your God (Joel 2:12,13).
"Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of
wickedness, to undo the heavy burden, and to let the oppressed go
free ..... To deal thy bread to the hungry ..... when thou
seest the naked, that thou cover him ..... Then shall thy light
break forth as the morning ..... Thy righteousness shall go
before thee. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer.
Thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am ....."(Isa 58:6-9).
WHAT TO DO WHEN FASTING
God tells us to PRAY while we fast, "And I set my face unto the
Lord God, to seek by PRAYER and supplications, with FASTING
....." (Dan 9:3).
It is a good time to CONFESS our SINS, "..... The children of
Israel were assembled with fasting .... and the seed of Israel
separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed
their sins ....." (Neh 9:1-2).
We should READ the WORD OF GOD, "Therefore go thou, and read in
the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the
Lord in the ears of the people in the Lord's house upon the FAST
DAY ....." (Jer 36:6).
A FAST DAY should not be spent doing 'our own thing' (Isa 58:3).
It is not a day for housework, gardening, car repairing, sports,
etc. It should be a day of prayer, bible study and meditation.
OTHER REASONS FOR FASTING!
Fasting was done on occasions of PUBLIC CALAMITIES (2 Sam 1:12).
When approaching DANGER (Esth 4:16).
In times of BEREAVEMENT (I Sam 31:13; 2 Sam 1:12; 12:16,21-23).
God's minister fasted when ORDAINING MEN TO THE MINISTRY
(Act 13:3; 14:23).
HOW SHOULD CHRISTIANS FAST?
Should we today 'rent our clothes,' put on 'sackcloth and
ashes,' and go about our fasting with painful-looking faces and
Christ told us how His followers are to fast:
"Moreover, when you fast, be NOT as the hypocrites - of a SAD
COUNTENANCE: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear
unto men to fast ..... BUT YOU, when thou fastest, ANOINT THINE
HEAD, and WASH THY FACE; that thou APPEAR NOT unto men TO
FAST, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father,
which seeth in secret, shall reward you openly." (Mt 6:16-18).
EXAMPLES OF FASTING!
God's word is full of examples of fasting. Here are some for you
When the Israelites went to Mizpeth for the Ark (I Sam 7:6).
David, at the death of Saul (2 Sam 1:12).
Ahab, when Elijah prophesied the destruction of himself (I Kings
Jehoshaphat, at the invasion of the Canaanites and Syrians (2 Chr
Ezra, on account of the idolatrous marriages of the Jews (Ezra
The Ninevites, when Jonah preached to them (Jonah 3:5-10).
Jesus, before He began His Gospel preaching and ministry (Mat.4).
By Paul, at the time of his conversion (Acts 9:9).
Written in 1980