Do Christians Need To Fast
Fasting might sound sensational today. But in Jesus culture, it was weird for a religious person not to fast.
The disciples of John the Baptist, an important prophet who prepared the way for Jesus ministry, often fasted. So did the Pharisees, a group of religious leaders who opposed Jesus teachings and conspired to kill Him!
During Jesus earthly ministry, His followers didnt fast. But Jesus assumed they would fast after he returned to the Father . In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives His followers instructions on how to fast, specifically telling them not to make a show of fasting like others in their culture .
Jesus may not have commanded his followers to fast, but He expected them to.
Things To Avoid When Fasting
There are two things that you can avoid when fasting to help you focus more on God.
The reason behind avoiding media is that fasting is a time to be praying and worshipping God, not filling your mind with the things of the world.
Avoiding tell everyone you know that you are fasting is to help ensure you are fasting with the right intentions. This does not mean you cannot tell anyone, but the purpose of fasting is not to focus on yourself. You are making a sacrifice. You are showing God that you are willing to fast to spend more time in His presence.
How Should We Fast
The first imperative in deciding to fast is that we do so out of a sincere desire to seek Gods guidance and direction. Fasting for the sake of making a show in front of others, or fasting to ask God for things that are clearly outside of his will, is an exercise in futility. More on that in a minute.
First, lets look at the physical aspects of fasting. Fasting comes in different forms and is done in different ways. The most important factors to consider in starting a fasting regimen include the following:
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Prayer And Fasting In The Bible
Fasting is mentioned throughout the Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament . However, when Christians discuss fasting, two key passages often come up: one from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah and one from Jesus himself. But neither of these passages gives us specifics on how to abstain from food. Rather, both focus on the heart of the person fasting.
In Isaiah 58, God sees the nation of Israel abstaining from food for a day in order to seek help from God: justice for Israel and judgment on those who have oppressed Israel. However, the help does not come, and the people complain.
God turns the tables on Israel, pointing out how the Israelites are oppressing their own people. Employers withhold pay from the workers, and the people act violently toward each other. Through Isaiah, God tells the people that He doesnt want them to go a day without food; He wants them to abstain from the ways theyve oppressed one another.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,with the pointing finger and malicious talk,and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungryand satisfy the needs of the oppressed,then your light will rise in the darkness,and your night will become like the noonday.
The Israelites were merely putting on a show of fasting for God without truly following Him.
Likewise, when Jesus instructs His followers on how to fast, he tells them not to do so for show.
The Bible is full of examples of people who have abstained from food to seek God:
Fasting As A Worldview
Finally, lets explore the prophet Isaiahs words regarding the practice of fasting, of pursuing answers from God or showing ones remorse over a certain life situation. In this, Isaiah clarifies what God wants to see in our lives when we fastnamely, a sincere devotion to himself and others without self-imposed blinders for the situations around us.
Individuals who fast to seek answers to their questions cant ignore the other dictates of the Bible or the situations around them where they are called to become the hands and feet of God in their circle of influence. In short, fasting is futile if were asking questions for which the answers lie outside the will of God.
In the following passages, Isaiah calls out the people for their refusal to act in ways that would truly reflect their personal devotion to God and his purposes in the world :
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:to loose the chains of injusticeand untie the cords of the yoke,to set the oppressed freeand break every yoke?Is it not to share your food with the hungryand to provide the poor wanderer with shelterwhen you see the naked, to clothe them,and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?Isaiah 58:67
But the chastising we read in Isaiah 58 does not come without hope and a promisea promise that was as true for its initial hearers as it is for us today.
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Ezra Fasted While Mourning Over Sin Ezra : 6
The Jews began to return to Israel after the Babylonian captivity. Yet they had disobeyed Gods laws during their captivity. Ezra gathered the people together to confront them for their sins.
Ezra 10:6 does not say specifically how long his fast was . The Bible does tell us that he did not eat any bread and only drank water during this fast. He fasted because he was mourning the sins of those who had been carried away from Israel but had finally returned.
Fast For Intimacy With God Not Praise From Man
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,;1so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
As Christians, our intentions matter. Our faith takes life to a level unseen. It is possible to do everything right on the outside, but without the proper heart, it doesnt serve its purpose.
Fasting is one of those things.
If you are fasting to be seen by others as a good Christian,youre doing it wrong.
If youre fasting with a heart that can only focus on the things you lack and not a hunger that drives you into the arms of your Savior to satisfy your needs, youre doing it wrong.
Dont fast for attention, recognition, or the sake of not-so-silent suffering through the 40 days of Lent.
Fast to draw nearer to God and rely on Him on deeper levels than you have before.
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Moses Fasted Before Receiving The Commandments Deuteronomy : 9
Moses fasted for 40 days when he went up to the mountain to receive the commandments of God written on stone tablets. This was an unusual and miraculous fast if we take it at face value. Moses says that he did not eat food nor drink water during the 40 days . Lets assume that means he did not drink anything else either. A human body cannot survive extended periods of time without water unless God works some kind of miracle.
After he came down from the mountain of God and saw the people transgressing the commandments that were just given, Moses angrily breaks the tablets of stone. After a time he ascends the mountain once again and proceeds to fast another 40 days without food and water before receiving the law once more .
Why Should I Fast 7 Examples Of Fasting In The Bible
Although the Bible doesnt give a direct command on this issue, examples of fasting appear in both the Old and the New Testaments. One of the most telling passages in which fasting is mentioned is Matthew 6:16, where Jesus is teaching His disciples basic principles of godly living. When speaking on fasting, He begins with, When you fast, not If you fast.
Jesus words imply that fasting will be a regular practice in His followers lives.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, said, Jesus takes it for granted that His disciples will observe the pious custom of fasting. Strict exercise of self-control is an essential feature of the Christian life. Such customs have only one purpose to make the disciples more ready and cheerful to accomplish those things which God would have done.
Fasting prepares you for the works God has ordained for you to do.
Wesley Duewel, a twentieth-century writer, said, You and I have no more right to omit fasting because we feel no special emotional prompting than we have a right to omit prayer, Bible reading, or assembling with Gods children for lack of some special emotional prompting. Fasting is just as biblical and normal a part of a spiritual walk of obedience with God as are these others.
People fast for a number of reasons. Following are seven circumstances in the Bible in which believers sought God through this discipline.
Fasting is a much-needed discipline in the life of a believer.
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Biblical Purposes For Fasting
;;Throughout the Bible we most often find Gods people turn to fasting as the natural, inevitable response to a grievous sacred moment in life, such as death, sin and tragedy. But other times a fast is not a spontaneous reaction and we have time to prepare to respond both physically and spiritually.
Fasting is not an end unto itself, but a means of focusing our minds and bodies for a spiritual reason. Whenever you fast, do so for a reason that is mentioned or modeled in the Bible. Here are ten primary purposes for fasting mentioned in Scripture:¹
Ways To Fast According To The Bible
What the Bible says about the history and purpose of fasting.
by Alikay WoodPosted in How to Pray
Fasting is enjoying a renaissance. From churches starting the year with a Daniel Fast, to the trendiness of intermittent fasting as a diet plan and the growing popularity of Lent, fasting has entered the mainstream.
But what is the purpose of fasting? And where did it come from?
Fasting is an ancient practice, and almost every major religion features fasting in some way. In the Bible alone, fasting is mentioned upwards of 70 times, as a way to pray, petition God or express grief. Its important to note that you should consult with a medical doctor before fasting to ensure you do so in a healthy way.
Here are a few examples of fasting in the Bible:
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Moses Receives Gods Instructions
Moses also did a 40 day fast. God instructed him to chisel two stone tablets and come to the top of Mount Sinai. Exodus 34:28 says, , Moses was there with the;Lord;forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. It was during this time that God instructed Moses to record the ten commandments.
Under What Circumstances Did Some In The Bible Fast
When seeking help and guidance from God. The people journeying to Jerusalem fasted to show their sincerity in asking for Gods help. Paul and Barnabas at times chose to fast when appointing congregation elders.Acts 14:23.
When focusing on Gods purpose. After his baptism, Jesus fasted for 40 days to prepare himself to do Gods will during his coming ministry.Luke 4:1,;2.
When demonstrating repentance over past sins. Through the prophet Joel, God told unfaithful Israelites: Return to me with all your hearts, with fasting and weeping and wailing.Joel 2:12-15.
When observing the Day of Atonement. The Law that God gave to the nation of Israel included a command to fast on the annual Day of Atonement.;* Fasting was appropriate on this occasion because it reminded the Israelites that they were imperfect and needed Gods forgiveness.
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Why Do Christians Fast What Does Biblical Fasting Accomplish
Biblical fasting is not a hunger strike between you and God. It can be easy to think of fasting as a way to add an extra oomph to your prayers. But biblical fasting isnt so much about how God responds to your prayers: its more about how you bring your prayers to Him.
God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble . Fasting is a means of humbling ourselves before God. In the Old Testament, fasting was often accompanied by other signs of humility and brokenness, such as weeping, mourning, and lamenting, as well as wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes.
Bill Bright, Crus co-founder, made it his practice to fast and pray. He believed it played a vital role in what God did through him and through Cru as a ministry. He listed several benefits he gained from fasting:
- Fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God. King David said, I humbled myself with fasting .
- Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance and a transformed life.
- Your confidence and faith in God will be strengthened. You will feel mentally, spiritually and physically refreshed.
Its important to understand that fasting is not a way to get a better response to prayer. Rather, true fasting is a means of fostering a better approach to prayer.
Grow In Spiritual Strength
After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Jesus fasted for forty days.
Its hard for me to fathom what His body would have felt like during that time.
Im imagining His human form felt quite weak.
Yet, He stood strong against the relentless temptation Satan kept shoving in His face.
He wasnt relying on a protein-filled breakfast or a good night of sleep for his mental sharpness to stand up to the devil.
He relied completely on Gods strength during His fast.
Fasting can strengthen us spiritually when we choose to stand on Gods Word in our own human frailty.
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What Is Biblical Fasting And How Does It Work
For thousands of years, biblical fasting has been the practice of abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. If youre used to a routine of three square meals a day, going without food as a spiritual practice may sound strange. But fasting was a very common religious practice when the Bible was written.
In his book Hunger for God, John Piper writes: Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God. Christian fasting is not only the spontaneous effect of superior satisfaction in God, it is also a chosen weapon against every force in the world that would take that satisfaction away.
But how does biblical fasting work and how can someone do it today? In this guide, were going to cover what every Christian should know about fasting: what it is and how it works.
If you want to jump ahead, heres what were going to look at:
Some Christians use the word fast when abstaining from pleasures besides food, like TV, internet or, for married couples, sex. You might know people who have gone on a social media fast or a screen fast for spiritual reasons. For the purposes of this article, were going to focus on traditional Christian fasting: abstaining from food.
Before You Fast: What Does The Bible Say About It
Before you start fasting, do you know what the Bible really says about it? Here’s what I’ve learned about the subject.
Our churches, small groups, and faith communities are gathered to position our hearts towards God. As we put together our fasting meal plans, schedules, and social media sabbaticals, here are some useful tips to get us started and keep us grounded on our journey.
What Does the Bible Say About Fasting?
This is important. Before starting a fast, we need to understand the biblical foundation for it and what purpose it serves. For me, this was as simple as typing what does the Bible say about fasting? into Google. From there, I was able to find a host of scriptures that not only displayed instances of Gods people fasting but explicitly revealed Gods view on what fasting should be. I was particularly astounded by what I found in Isaiah 58. In this passage of Scripture, the people of Israel were up in arms. They complained to God that even after rigorous fasting and being hard on themselves, God had not taken notice of them. Take note of how God responds:
What We Can Learn
After meditating on this verse for a few days, I felt prepared to begin my fast. I believe that through the same meditation on Scripture, you too will be able to find purpose and clarity in your upcoming, current, or future fast. Here is what Ive learned from studying this scripture and others related to fasting:
1. Fasting is Not About Our Agenda
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Fasting In The Bible: 10 Examples To Learn From
There are many different reasons to fast and many examples in the Bible about fasting. Even within the examples we see in the Bible, there were variations on what the fast entailed. I trust that these examples will give you further instruction on how to conduct a fast and why you might want to consider fasting.
These are presented in the order they are found in traditional English Bibles. However, chronologically some of these examples of fasting would be switched up a bit.