Welcome back to our fourth post in The Building A Firm Foundation series! I can’t believe that we’re almost done.
Today we will be covering the spiritual discipline of fasting.
Fasting, in general, is when a person decides that they are not going to eat certain kinds of food and/or drink for a certain period of time.
Fasting has actually become quite popular in the health and fitness industry as a way for people to lose weight.
However, today we will be focusing on Biblical fasting: What it is and isn’t, the different types of biblical fasting, modern fasting, and why Christians should fast.
What is Biblical Fasting?
Biblical fasting occurs when a person decides they are not going to eat or drink for spiritual or religious reasons.
Unlike fasting, for weight loss, biblical fasting is often accompanied by an increase in the spiritual disciplines of prayer, bible study, and praise and worship to God.
When Jesus’ disciples asked him why the couldn’t cast out the demon from the boy he said to them:
… This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29,italics mine).Mark 9:29, Italics mine
Fasting that is not accompanied by these things is not biblical fasting. It’s just dieting.
Types of Biblical Fasts
In the Bible we find 2 types of fasting depicted:
During a total fast one does not eat any food and drinks only water for a certain period of time.
- Jesus’ 40 day fast in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2,Luke 4:2, Mark 1:12-13)
- Moses 40 day fast on the mountain (Exodus 34:28)
- Prophet Elijah 40 day fast (1 Kings 19:8)
In the account of Moses and Elijah’s 40 days fast it says that they didn’t eat food or drink water.
These types of fast can be dangerous and should only be done for very short periods of time 1-2 days.
Unless you are prompted by the Holy Spirit, like these men were, a 40 day total fast without water should not be undertaken.
Partial fasts are more common and require the participant to give up certain types of food and drinks for a period of time.
The most common type of partial fast is the Daniel Fast, which is based on Daniel 1:12 and Daniel 10:2-3.
Fasting can also be done as part of a group also known as a corporate fast or it can be done individually.
Group fasts tend to be more common in the Old Testament where whole communities were called to a time of fasting and prayer. (2 Chronicles 20: 3, Esther 4:16, Jonah 3:5)
How Long Should You Fast?
There are no set rules for when you should fast and how long you should fast unless you are fasting as part of a group.
Many churches choose to do a corporate (group) fast at the beginning of the new year.
Lent is also another popular time of the year when people fast.
If you are doing a solitary fast, then it’s up to you to decide when and how long you will fast.
The most common fasting lengths found in the bible are 3, 7, 21, and 40-day fasts with the 21 day Daniel fast being the most popular type of fast.
While these lengths are common you don’t have to limit yourself to these specific numbers.
You can choose to fast for 1 meal, 1 day, or for 40 days. (I wouldn’t recommend going without food longer than 40 days.)
If you have never fasted before it is recommended that you start with a partial day fast and then gradually work your way up to a longer period of fasting.
During biblical times things like social media, television, and cell phones did not exist.
The world was a lot simpler and had fewer technological distractions.
Modern fasting is usually fasting from certain things like:
- Fasting from social media
- Not using your cell phone during certain times of the day
- Not using electronic devices
- No TV or certain TV shows.
While I believe that people should “unplug” I do not consider this type of fasting to be biblical fasting.
I do believe that these activities should be part of your biblical fast to help you focus on connecting with God.
But maybe you can’t fast from food for medical reasons, then fasting from these kinds of activities would be an excellent alternative.
If you do decide to fast from these things, just like biblical fasting there should be an increase of prayer, praise and bible study during those times.
If not then your just doing what I call a social media/electron device detox.
Why & When Christians Should Fast
There are many reasons why people choose to go on a fast, but some of the most common are:
1. We Are Expected to Fast
Jesus did not command us to fast, but he did expect us to fast. In Matthew 6:17 Jesus says,” But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face…:”
The keyword here is, when. He didn’t say if you fast, but when you fast.
So Jesus expects his disciples to fast and pray.
This doesn’t mean that if you don’t fast that you’re less of a Christian than anyone else, but fasting does have benefits many spiritual benefits.
2. When We Need Guidance and Direction
In 2 Chronicles 20, we find out that the people of Judah are going to be attacked by 3 armies.
In his distress, King Jehosaphat calls the people of Judah together to fast and pray so that they can get direction from the Lord.
In verse 14 God responds to their prayer and fasting by giving instructions through the prophet Jahaziel.
Fast forward to the end of the story the people of Judah follow the Lord’s instructions and are delivered from their enemies.
3.When We Need Spiritual Strength
Every believer needs to be strengthened spiritually to continue along the path God has called us to.
When Jesus had finished fasting for 40 days he was empowered (strengthened) by the Holy Spirit to begin His earthly ministry.
Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.Luke 4:14
Fasting causes our physical bodies to become weak and allows our spirit to be strengthened.
4.When we Need Repentance & Deliverance
For some people when they come to Christ they are immediately delivered from old habits that don’t bring God glory.
And then there are those of us that despite our best efforts and no matter how much we pray we just can’t seem to shake free of certain sins and temptations.
This is the time where prayer must be coupled with fasting to help free us from sin.
We must do as the scripture says,” if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14,emphasis mine).”
True Godly repentance leads to salvation and leads us away from sin (2 Corinthians 7:10).
5. When We Need To Draw Closer to God
I think almost every believer has come to a point in their walk where they felt that God was far away.
If I can be honest when I feel this way it’s not because God has moved, but because I have drifted away from him or because I am harboring some kind of sin in my life that separates me from him.
As I mentioned earlier when we fast our bodies or our “flesh” becomes weaker.
This causes us to focus on God instead of ourselves and our own desires.
As we seek Gods face through prayer and reading His word we become more sensitive to the voice of God and his presence.
These are just a few of the reasons why you would want to go on a fast.
Unlike the other spiritual disciplines, we have covered during this series fasting is not something that you do daily.
But it is necessary to build a firm foundation in the life of a believer.
Fasting allows us to:
- humble ourselves before God so that we can get direction,
- be strengthened,
- delivered from sin,
- and draw closer to Him.
Biblical fasting is an important part of every believer’s life and should be practiced more than just once a year.
The type and length of fast are completely up to you.
Whether you decide to do a biblical fast, modern fast or a combination of the two as long as you do it for the glory of the Lord that’s all that truly matters.
*Special note: If you have a medical condition it is always best to seek the advice of a medical professional before you go on any type of fast.
What are your thoughts on biblical fasting?Is it still a relevant practice for modern Christians? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Maybe you missed part of the series you can find the other post here.
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Join me next Monday for the final post in the series on Solitude.
Until Next Time,