How Long Do Christians Fast
Even though the Bible didnt tell us explicitly that he did, we deduced that David fasted every night for seven nights, because he never got up from the ground until the child died.
He only rose once, on the seventh day, .
The Bible imposes no restrictions on the length of a Christian fast. Similarly, neither Jesus nor his twelve apostles gave any directives concerning the duration of a fast.
So, how long do Christians fast relates to how often they fast.
Similarly, the nation of Israel fasted for an evening after the death of Saul and his son Jonathan to mourn their passing.
mourned and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the Lord, and for the house of Israel because they were fallen by the sword, .
Health Reasons To Fast
God created man and God knows what is good for us in all ways, including our physical health. With the vast amount of physical benefits that fasting offers us, it is no wonder why the Lord commanded His people to fast. It is actually extremely healthy to abstain from food. However, we cannot overlook the sensitivity to preexisting physical and health conditions, such as low blood sugar and eating disorders. Please do what is right for you given your preexisting health conditions.
For most, fasting is a great health benefit. From brain enhancement to stronger immune systems, and even higher metabolisms with a slower aging process. And we cant forget that it actually detoxes the body. This is all done when we fast.
Isaiah 5: 36 The New Revised Standard Version
3 Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.
4 Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
5 Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
6 Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
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Fasting Isnt For The Spiritually Elite Its For The Hurting
Fasting is the kale of the spiritual disciplines. We know its good for us, but we dont seek it out on the menu.
A few years ago, I tried the Nike approach to fasting: just do it. I fasted one day a week for three months. Im not telling you this to brag its more of a confession. My aim was to focus on Gods character, to draw near to him through prayer in a dedicated time of sacrifice. But after three months, I didnt feel itd accomplished anything. I wasnt glowing like Moses coming down the mountain I was the worst version of myself, and everyone knew it.
I read one book that said to use hunger pains as a reminder to talk to God. So every time my stomach growled, I prayed that God would make me less miserable. I didnt receive unique, supernatural clarity on the direction of my life, which numbers to play in the lottery, or anything else. If I kept muscling through and built it into a rhythm of discipline, I figured, then it would take root and bear fruit. It didnt.
Outside of knowing I should fast, I realized I couldnt articulate the concept in a tangible way. So, I decided that I needed to start from the drawing board and write a definition. And I determined I first needed to answer when to fast and why to fast.
We Fast To Confess Our Sin And Brokenness
This is most appropriate during the season of Lent, as we practice turning back to God and away from our sinful or selfish desires. Repentance gets short shrift in our proclamation of the Gospel today, but it was integral to the proclamation of Christ and the Apostles . To again quote Richard Foster, More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. Fasting reveals the attachments we have to the world and demonstrates our desire to be attached only to Christ. To fast without an element of soul-searching and relinquishment of ones own will is self-defeating.
All these are valid reasons to practice fasting. Maybe now youre asking, But how? Where do I begin?
We explore these questions in our next post: How do Christians fast?
The Rev. Christopher Brown was the first coordinator of the Church Planting Initiative at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He previously served as the organizing co-pastor of The Upper Room Presbyterian Church, a church plant of the PC in Pittsburghs Squirrel Hill neighborhood. A graduate of Pittsburgh Seminary, Chris regularly blogs at tweets at , and now lives with his family in Colorado where we serves a church.
Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth p. 56 St. John Cassian, On the Eight Vices, in The Philokalia vol. 1 trans. G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, & Kallistos Ware. p. 74 Foster, p. 55
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Mourning The Four Fasts Over The Destruction Of Judah
The only public, calendrical fast days referenced in the Bible as such are the four days of mourning for the Temple in Zechariah:
Zech 8:19 Thus said YHWH of Hosts: The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth month, the fast of the seventh month, and the fast of the tenth month shall become occasions for joy and gladness, happy festivals for the House of Judah
The verse seems to imply an inversion, where in the future these days will be a happy festival, implying that in the prophets time they were days of mourning.
Fast For Protection From Evil
Other times we are faced with situations that are purely evil. When there is something oppressive that you cant shake, a time of fasting can bring peace and healing.
- The disciples were upset that they could not cast out a demon Jesus answered that This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting Matthew 17:21
- Again we see a fast with a prayer for protection in Ezra 8:21-23.
- Not only can we fast for personal protection, but we can also intercede for others as in Ester 4:16.
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Christian Fasting Is Unique
In fasting, we confess we are not home yet, and remember we are not homeless.
Christians have one final and essential piece to add: the depth and clarity and surety we now have in Christ. As we express to God our special needs for him whether in repentance, or in grief, or for his favor we do so with granite under our feet. When our painful sense of lack tempts us to focus on what we do not have, fasting now reminds us of what we do. Already God has come for us. Already Christ has died and risen. Already we are his by faith. Already we have his Spirit in us, through us, and for us. Already our future is secure. Already we have a true home.
In fasting, we confess we are not home yet, and remember that we are not homeless. In fasting, we cry out to our Groom, and remember that we have his covenant promises. In fasting, we confess our lack, and remember that the one with every resource has pledged his help in his perfect timing.
Christian fasting is unique among all the fasting in the world, says John Piper. It is unique in that it expresses more than longing for Christ or hunger for Christs presence. It is a hunger that is rooted in, based on, an already present, experienced reality of Christ in history and in our hearts.
In Christ, fasting is not just a Godward expression of our need. It is not just an admission that we are not full. Fasting is a statement in the very midst of our need that we are not empty.
Isaiah 5: 36 1890 Darby Bible
3 Wherefore have we fasted, and thou seest not have afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find what pleaseth you, and exact all your labours. 4 Behold, ye have fasted for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness ye do not at present fast, to cause your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is such the fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul, that he should bow down his head as a bulrush, and spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and a day acceptable to Jehovah? 6 Is not this the fast which I have chosen: to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, and to send forth free the crushed, and that ye break every yoke?
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Why Should You Fast
According to Dr. Bill Bright, who produced a guide to fasting for cru.org, there are a number of reasons why the practice of fasting can be spiritually beneficial.
- Fasting is biblical. We see examples of biblical fasting in the lives of figures like Moses, Jesus, and King David.
- Fasting and prayer can restore or strengthen your intimacy with God. Many longtime Christians find that fasting helps them rediscover their first love for God again.
- Fasting is a way to humble yourself in the sight of God . King David said, I humbled my soul with fasting . You may find yourself relying on God more fully for strength when you fast.
- Fasting and prayer can help us hear God more clearly. To listen to God as you fast, consider combining a time of fasting with a practice of listening prayer. Together, fasting and prayer can transform your prayer life into a richer and more personal experience of God.
- Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition. When you see your own brokenness more clearly, youre able to move toward repentance.
- When you experience revival in your own life through fasting, the grace and love of God can shine through you into the lives of others.
What Is The Fast That God Desires
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:to loose the chains of injusticeand untie the cords of the yoketo 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
When we think of Jewish fast days, many of us think of sadness. This is not surprising considering that four out of our six communal fast days recall tragic events, such as the siege of Jerusalem during Temple times, the day that the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and of course, the destruction of Gods Holy Temples. These, and other events that took place on these same days, are the darkest days in Jewish history.
However, the most prominent of all Jewish fast days, Yom Kippur, is somber, yet celebratory. On this day we focus on repentance, but we also celebrate Gods mercy and forgiveness. In fact, the Jewish sages taught that Yom Kippur is one of the two most joyful days of the year on the Jewish calendar.
Similarly, the Fast of Esther, which recalls the miracle of the Purim story recorded in the Book of Esther, is ultimately a happy day and considered the most joyous holiday. While we acknowledge the terrible decree that hung over the heads of the Jews in Persia thousands of years ago, we know that with prayer, repentance, and fasting, the story ultimately resulted in the salvation and preservation of the Jewish people.
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Why Do We Fast
The Bible gives examples of God’s people occasionally combining fasting with their prayers so as to stir up their zeal and renew their dedication and commitment to Him. King David wrote that he “humbled self with fasting” . Fasting is a means of getting our minds back on the reality that we are not self-sufficient. Fasting helps us realize just how fragile we are and how much we depend on things beyond ourselves.
The Bible records that great men of faith such as Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Paul and Jesus Himself fasted so that they might draw closer to God . Jesus knew that His true disciples, once He was no longer there in the flesh with them, at times would need to fast to regain and renew their zeal to serve Him .
James tells us, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” . Constant prayer and occasional fasting help us to do this.
Lent In The New Testament
Today, Lent is connected with the 40-day fast that Jesus undergoes . Mark tells us that Jesus was tempted by Satan, but it is in Matthew and Luke that the details of the temptation are fleshed out. All three accounts say that Jesus went without food for the 40 days.
Christians, like adherents to many other religions, have long fasted. But it was only after Christians began to fast specifically prior to Easter, about 300 years after Jesuss death, that anyone looked to the Bible to find a source for the practice. Before then, surprisingly, the two hadnt been connected. So how did it happen?
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Here Is Our Collection Of Other Advice And Tips For The Christian Take A Look:
I am fasting to ask God for help in a trial I am going through. I am a NYC Corrections officer and have been for almost 10 years. I was recently placed on modified duty due to allegations made against me. I also helped people out whereas the Dept is saying I went against the rules. I am not perfect and have been a sinner up until this point but life is showing me I cant make it without God. I am trying to reconnect with my Savior and ask him for his help in this time where my faith will be as strong as ever and I can show God my heart and he can guide me and take me through this storm to victory in his name!!!! Amen!!!!
- JamesMay 19, 2018 at 6:55 pm
For me, fasting is a training exercise conducted to instill strength and discipline in my life, not so different from any training exercise an Olympic athlete would use to prepare him/herself for the Olympic games. I get this idea from The Apostle Paul, who urges his apprentice Timothy to train for godliness the same way athletes train for competition, regularly and vigorously, in order to become a high-level spiritual athlete in the game of life. So as a boxer hits the heavy bag and a soccer player does sprints and as a gymnast stretches all for the sake of conditioning, so I fast to condition not my body but my spirit. I beat my body into submission for the sole purpose of becoming spiritually stronger, because if I cant overcome a donut how can I possibly hope to overcome a demon?
Isaiah 5: 34 English Standard Version
3 Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.
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How To Begin Fasting
Fasting is hard. It sounds much easier in concept than it proves to be in practice. First, you must start small. Dont go from no fasting to attempting a weeklong. Start with one meal maybe fast one meal a week for several weeks.
Next, plan what youll do instead of eating. Fasting isnt merely an act of self-deprivation, but a spiritual discipline for seeking more of Gods richness. This means we should have a plan for what positive activities to do during the time it normally takes to eat. You will want to also consider how fasting will affect others in your life. Fasting is no license to be unloving. While you might at times feel grumpy or flustered, you can’t take it out on those around you. Lastly, figure out which type of fasting you will do, and if it will be from food or another vice of yours.
Fasting can turn you more towards God, and help you realign your focus on Him. While our bodies are being deprived for the purpose of drawing near to God, He has promised in return to draw near to us.
Megan Bailey is the Social Media Specialist and Content Producer for Beliefnet. She attended James Madison University where she received a degree in psychology.
Your Personal Reasons For Pursuing A Fast
If youre on the cusp of a major life change, are grieving the loss of a certain individual or period in your life, or are seeking answers from God for an upcoming decision, the reasons you choose to fast are unique to you. Consulting with others about their experiences can be instructive, but your choice to fast and the reasons for your fast are unique to your situation.
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