What is fasting?
Abstaining from something, usually food, for spiritual purposes.
What does the Bible say?
Biblical examples: Moses (Exodus 34:28; Deut. 9:9,18), David (2 Samuel 12:16), Elijah (1 Kings 19:8), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1:4); Esther (Esther 4:16), Daniel (Daniel 1:12), Anna (Luke 2:37), Paul (Acts 14:23), Jesus (Matthew 4:1-2), the early church (13:2).
- Jesus placed fasting on the same level as financial giving and prayer (Matthew 6:1-18).
- Jesus said that there is a time for fasting (Matthew 9:15).
- Paul says we should give ourselves at times to prayer and fasting (1 Corinthians 7:5).
What is the purpose of fasting?
The primary purpose of fasting is to focus on God and to center our attention on Him. In doing so, we glorify God (Zechariah 7:5).
Outer fasting is to lead to inner prayer, worship, and devotion. We “fast on food so we can feast on God.”
Fasting is not for personal glory or any other selfish motives (Matthew 6:16-18).
Secondary purposes of fasting:
fasting can reveal non-essential things that control us and take precedence in our lives (1 Corinthians 6:12); fasting can increase the effectiveness of prayer (2 Samuel 12:16); fasting can bring guidance from God in decisions (Acts 14:23); fasting can bring revelations (Acts 13:2); fasting can help our physical wellbeing (Daniel 1:12); fasting can aid in concentration; fasting can help bring deliverance for those who are in bondage.
But these benefits come only when fasting is our attempt to diligently seek God.
What are the different types of fasting?
- absolute fast: no food or water for a period of time (Exodus 34:28; Esther 4:16)
- normal fast: only water, but no food or other drink (Nehemiah 1:4)
- partial fast: usually only water, juices, and sometimes fruit (Daniel 1:12)
- Lent fast: giving up something specific for the duration of Lent (Ash Wednesday – Easter Sunday)
- other things to fast from: people, media, telephone, certain activities/habits, etc.
Resources for more study:
Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, has written several great articles on fasting. Check out CRU’s website here with some great tools!
Elmer Towns, co-founder of Liberty University, has written several great books on fasting as well. Click the links below to download the eBooks.