Here are some thoughts about BIBLICAL FASTING
adapted from Prayer and Fasting and Biblical Fasting
God considers fasting important.
His Word, in fact, contains 92 passages mentioning it. Many of our heroes of the faith, including Moses, Elijah, Esther, Nehemiah, Daniel and Paul, fasted at crucial points.
Jesus both taught and modeled fasting. After being anointed by the Holy Spirit, He was led into the wilderness to fast and pray for 40 days (Matthew 4:2). During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave specific instructions on how to fast (Matthew 6:16-18). Jesus knew the followers He addressed would fast.
Biblical fasting can be defined as abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. Simply going without food because it is not available or because of medical reasons is not biblical fasting. There must be a spiritual motivation to qualify a fast as Scriptural.
Reasons to fast:
1. SHOWING HUMILITY AND REPENTANCE
One reason we fast is to demonstrate humility before the sovereign Creator of the universe. God responds when we diligently and wholeheartedly seek Him (2 Chronicles 7:14). Sometimes this involves confession and repentance from sin. This was the case of the Ninevites when Jonah reluctantly told them God was going to bring judgment upon them (Jonah 3:5,10), 50 they called a fast and repented of their sin. Fasting demonstrates humility by acknowledging our dependence on God. In Psalm 35, David laments his enemies’ harsh treatment of him in contrast to how he cared for them when they were ill. He humbled his soul by fasting and praying for their recovery (Psalm 35:13).
2. SEEKING GOD’S FACE MORE FULLYA second reason we fast is to respond to God’s love toward us. It is as if we are saying to God, “Because You are righteous and holy, and loved me enough to send Jesus to die for my sins, I want to get to know You more intimately.” Jeremiah 29:13 says we will find God when we seek Him with all our hearts. We may want to take extra time to seek and praise God by missing a meal or abstaining from food for a day or more. When we deliberately set aside time for fasting, we are showing we want to seek God.
3. ASKING FOR SOMETHING YOU DESIRESometimes we fast to demonstrate our sincerity to God concerning something we truly desire. Ezra proclaimed a fast to ask God to protect His people as they journeyed to Jerusalem from exile. God responded by leading them safely to Jerusalem, delivering them from their enemies and ambushes along the way (Ezra 8:21 31). Although fasting may show our sincerity, it does not guarantee we will receive what we desire. Maybe our request is not within God’s will, or we may be asking with the wrong motives. David fasted for seven days when God struck with illness the child Bathsheba conceived by David. David repented of his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. He humbled himself, fasted and prayed, but the child still died (2 Samuel 12:15-18). Through fasting we can determine the sincerity and correctness of our requests.
4. FASTING TO KNOW GOD’S WILLSeeking God’s will or direction is different from petitioning Him for something we desire. When the Israelites were in conflict with the tribe of Benjamin, they sought God’s will through fasting. The entire army fasted until evening, and “the men of Israel asked the Lord, ‘Shall we go out again and fight against our brother Benjamin, or shall we stop?”’ (Judges 20:26-28). Acts 13:1-3 implies that church leaders were seeking God’s direction for their ministry through prayer and fasting. The Holy Spirit responded by saying, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul forthe work to which I have called them.” In both instances, people fasted and prayed to determine God’s will.
Wrong Motivations in Fasting
Right Motivations for Fasting
Types of Fasts
There are three types of fasts commonly practiced by Christians:
Before the Fast:
Those planning for an extended fast (more than 14 days) should prepare mentally and physically by cutting down on food intake one week before the actual fast and take on a vegetarian diet to control cravings for food. You should reduce strong beverages like coffee, tea or coke as well. Drink plenty of water.
During the Fast:
Spend the time that you would normally use for meals to pray and seek the Lord. Keep a journal on what the Lord has been showing and speaking to you.
Continue to drink plenty of water. Apple or watermelon juices are great morale boosters. Sleep early--the first few days of the fast are usually the most challenging. Persevere through this period. Consult your doctor if you are unsure of any headaches or body reactions.
Ending the Fast:
Breaking extended fasts should not be done abruptly. Start by taking small portions of food or liquids. Pace yourselves to return slowly to your normal diet in about a week.
Do not have a big celebration feast when breaking a fast! Your body may not be used to the sudden increased intake and break down. Be cautious, and always consult your doctor if you are unsure of your physical condition.