Hebrew Words For Fasting
When thinking of fasting, most Jewish people today will automatically think of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This is the first vague reference to fasting in the Bible. I say vague, because it doesnt actually say fast. The Law required the people of Israel to afflict themselves as they sought a clean slate for a new year . One easy way to obey that command is to go without food and water for a while, and so that is what happens each year to this day. God is close to the broken and lowly in spirit and fasting demonstrates a humble heart of repentance and submission to God.But the first time that the actual word for fast appears is in the book of Judges 20:19-28 in a time of severe crisis. The mess begins in chapter 17, when a man lies and steals from his mother, who then blesses him instead of correcting him. Things rapidly go from bad to worse, and sin wildly spins out of control, escalating into the most awful story of gang rape in the Bible. These events led to bitter fighting between the tribes, and an entire tribe is almost wiped out as a result. It is in this context that the people of Israel added fasting to their supplications, sensing that a major upgrade in prayer power was needed. It worked.
Reasons Christians Should Fast
If youre reading this, then you are probably wondering why Christians fast, or why you should fast personally. This blog will answer both questions. Christians fast for a number of reasons and it is important for you to know that the reasons for fasting vary from person to person.
What are the Christian reasons for fasting? While there is a number of reasons for Christian fasting, the three primary categories fall under Biblical mandates, spiritual disciplines, and health benefits. Reasons for Christian fasting include nearness to God, spiritual freedom, guidance, waiting for Jesus return and of course, a healthy body.
Let us explore in-depth the real reasons why Christian fast.
Seeking The Holy Spirits Guidance
So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
It would seem that the church here fasted for guidance from the Holy Spirit. They didnt know what to do next, but they ached for Gods direction.
And this particular instance of fasting happened after Christs coming.
This fasting was not about legalism.
This was a deep hunger in these people searching for guidance of the churchs next steps.
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Prayer For Healthy Holy Fasting
Father, your Word is full of wisdom and knowledge. I pray that we, as children of God, trust you Lord and humble ourselves before you… seeking you God like never before. I pray for everyone fasting and beginning to fast.
I pray that they are led by you, Father, and not the world. I pray the distractions and temptations will not overcome them during this time. Thank you, Father, for loving us enough to send your Son to die for us. We will be forever grateful. In Jesus name, Amen
New Wine Into New Wineskins
Then Johns disciples came and asked him, How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?Jesus answered, How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them then they will fast.No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.
The entire purpose of the disciples and the Pharisees fasting was to show a longing for the day God would show up and show favor to Israel again.
But Jesus was right there with them! There was no need for fasting at that moment.
But immediately afterward, Jesus said, the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them then they will fast.
He wasnt putting an end to all fasting.
He specifically said the time to fast would be coming again!
But now, our fasting isnt filled with mourning as it was for the Pharisees. Instead, its filled with longing because we know Jesus came and will come again!
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Embracing Your Role As A Spouse
As a spouse, you have three roles to playa friend, a partner, and a lover. On this one-day Focus on the Family broadcast, Pastor Kevin A. Thompson explores those different roles and challenges you to live them out by investing emotionally, physically, and mentally in your relationship. As friends, he suggests we learn to play and laugh together. As partners, he equips us with solid ways to handle conflict and communication. As lovers, he offers some thoughts on how to bring back the sizzle. He shares five keys to saving your marriage: humility, respect, mercy, communication, and resilience. Youll be encouraged to intentionally invest in your marriage.
Spiritual Fasting Causes Us To Rely On God
Food is one of the basic needs of life. Physical hunger is not a pleasant experience. It can actually be a difficult trial to endure, but Gods grace rises up in our lives during hard times.
When we fast, it forces us to seek God and lean into Him for help and comfort. God meets us powerfully during times we are desperate for Him. Fasting shows God that our hunger for Him surpassed our hunger for anything else.
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water .
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well .
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Spiritual Fasting Gives Power To Our Prayers
Jesus said there are some breakthroughs that are only gotten through prayer and fasting. If we have been facing the same unanswered prayer for a long time, it may be time to fast.
The prayer that is powered by both faith and fasting can be the very thing that unleashes Gods promises in our lives.
There are some spirits, like the spirit of lack and the spirit of chaos, waging war on our promises, and we have to fast for added power to defeat them.
Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, Why couldnt we cast out that evil spirit? Jesus replied, This kind can be cast out only by prayer .
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.
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Recommended Books On Biblical Fasting
Prayer and Fasting – A Definition Prayer and fasting is defined as voluntarily going without food in order to focus on prayer and fellowship with God. Prayer and fasting often go hand in hand, but this is not always the case. You can pray without fasting, and fast without prayer. It is when these two activities are combined and dedicated to God’s glory that they reach their full effectiveness. Having a dedicated time of prayer and fasting is not a way of manipulating God into doing what you desire.
Fasting is a means of getting our minds back on the reality that we are not self-sufficient. 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 Exodus Exodus And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote on the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. 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 Mark Mark 18 And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say to him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples fast not? Cleanse your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, you double minded.
Your Own Personal Health
While individuals in the Bible fasted for extended periods of time , before you fast for any period longer than twenty-four hours, please consult your doctor. Fasting for a longer period of time can lead to dehydration and have other detrimental health effects, especially if you suffer from conditions such as diabetes that may require you to eat at certain times and monitor your bodys sugar levels. If during the course of your fast you start to feel ill, stop fasting and ease back into eating.
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Why Is It Called Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday derives its name from the placing of repentance ashes on the foreheads of participants to either the words Repent, and believe in the Gospel or the dictum Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. The ashes are prepared by burning palm leaves from the previous years Palm Sunday
Why Do People Fast And Pray
“Fasting and prayer? Didn’t those go out of style decades ago?” The woman who said this to me was a godly woman, a woman who had been in the church all her life, and a woman intent on obeying the Lord. She knew her Bible. She was very serious in her questions.
Yet for some reason, she had concluded — at least subconsciously — that fasting and prayer were no longer intended for believers in today’s world.
The truth is, fasting and prayer are for today! In fact, now more than ever!
The combination of fasting and praying is not a fad or a novelty approach to spiritual discipline. Fasting and praying are not part of a human-engineered method or plan. They are not the means to manipulate a situation or to create a circumstance. Fasting and praying are Bible-based disciplines that are appropriate for all believers of all ages throughout all centuries in all parts of the world.
Through the years, I have learned that many people in the church have never been taught about fasting and prayer, and many have therefore never fasted and prayed. As a result, they don’t know why fasting and praying are important, what the Bible teaches about fasting, or how to fast. To many, fasting sounds like drudgery — or a form of religious works. To others, fasting sounds extremely difficult. People tend to stand in awe at reports of those who have fasted for several weeks. When I hear about such fasts, I no doubt think what they think: If I fasted that long, I’d die! I couldn’t possibly do that!
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How To Do A Biblical Fast
There are two types of fasts commonly practiced by Christians today:
1. A partial fast. This is described in the book of Daniel. For three weeks, Daniel, who was a prophet during a time when Israel lived in exile, abstained only from delicacies like meat and wine .
2. A complete fast. A complete fast means drinking only water or sometimes juice when fasting for an extended period. Juice fasts will provide you with more energy than water-only fasts and still lead you into the humbling experience of denying your desire for solid, chewable food.
If you are new to fasting, start slow. Progressive steps help your body become accustomed to the drop in food intake. You can start by fasting for one meal a day, one day a week or one week a month.
Fasting And Medical Safety
According to The Foods and Nutrition Encyclopedia, For healthy individuals, no harm results from short-term fasting. The average healthy person can go without food between 21 and 40 or more days before the body begins to eliminate vital tissue . Consult your physician before beginning any fast lasting longer than three days.
If you have underlying health conditions such as pregnancy, anemia, behavioral disorders or other chronic health problems, you should never fast without consulting a physician first.
What Is Spiritual Fasting
Spiritual fasting is to deny your body its physical needs so that moves your focus from the physical to the spiritual .
In simple terms, it is fasting for spiritual growth because it helps you to grow closer to God and is often a regular part of prayer life.
All throughout history, there were seasons of feast and famine. The body and soul naturally went through times of hard work and lack and times of ease and abundance.
However, today in western culture, we have 365 days of abundance. Our diet is not dependent on weather, season or location.
We can eat all kinds of foods anytime we want. We can have Chinese food at midnight if we so desire.
However, with all this abundance of foods comes a greater need for self-control. We must decide on the kinds and amounts of food that are appropriate for a healthy lifestyle.
But even with a healthy standard for eating, we most likely wont experience famine without choosing it. Our bodies were designed to experience both feast and famine. We feast to celebrate. We fast to transform.
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The Principles Of Biblical Fasting
There are two main overriding principles related to prayer and fasting in the Bible.
First, biblical fasting is going without food. The noun translated “fast” or “a fasting” is tsom in the Hebrew and nesteia in the Greek language. It means the voluntary abstinence from food. The literal Hebrew translation would be “not to eat.” The literal Greek means “no food.”
I know people who say they go without television or movies, and they call these “fasting” times. I’m not opposed to that definition of fasting-fasting does imply that we are giving up one thing in order to replace it with something else, and in the Bible sense, specifically to replace it with prayer. But in the main, I believe fasting has to do with our abstaining from food. Second, biblical fasting is linked with serious seasons of prayer. The more seriously we approach prayer and fasting, the more serious the results we will experience.
I sometimes hear people say, “I’m giving up chocolate” and they regard this as a type of fasting. I think this is a rather frivolous approach. The first and foremost purpose of a biblical or spiritual fast is to get a breakthrough on a particular matter that one lifts up to the Lord in prayer. A spiritual fast involves our hearts and the way in which we relate to and trust God. It relates to discerning and receiving strength to follow through on what God might reveal to us about circumstances in our lives or a direction we are to take.
What Is Fasting In The Bible
We can conclude that by command of God and by scriptural example, biblical fasting is a tool that a Christian may use to seek a closer relationship with his or her Creator and petition God for help, guidance and a humble heart that is yielded to His will.
While fasting is an excellent tool for spiritual growth, those with diabetes or similar serious health conditions would be wise to seek professional advice before attempting to fast.
Fasting is related to prayer, Bible study and meditation, so you might find it helpful to read our related articles on these subjects. Study more about the spiritual benefits of fasting in our article The Fast That I Have Chosen.
About the Author
Tom Clark married his lovely wife, Mary, in 1985. They have three grown children and four grandchildren. Tom was ordained a minister in 1989 and has served congregations in Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota and North Dakota. He currently pastors the Bentonville, Van Buren and Mena, Arkansas, congregations of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.
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