“Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your
heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
What is fasting? It is another means by which we can suffer for the Lord, through the voluntary abstinence from eating. Biblical fasting is not for physical purposes but rather for spiritual. It is used to gain a deeper fellowship with God. It is something that is good, profitable, and beneficial. The focus of fasting should not be on the lack of food but rather to take your eyes off of the things of this world and focus completely on God. The physical benefits such as detox and weight loss, are just an added blessing.
Fasting and prayer are often done together as seen in Luke 2:37. Through fasting, answers to prayers are easier to decipher and the voice of the Lord is easily heard. Our flesh is suppressed and our spiritual sensitivity is heightened so that we can gain new knowledge and we could even decipher visions and dreams like Daniel did. Before making important decisions, the disciples and prophets would fast so that they would know the will of God for them.
“While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting the Holy
Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for
the work to which I have called them.”
Fasting cannot be done for the wrong reasons or for personal gain. God often ordered fasting upon His people so that they may repent for wrongdoings that they did. We should do the same in our lives.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords
of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?”
If we have selfish motives, then our fast will not be accepted by the Lord. We can see that our motives for fasting should be pure. We should not boast about it so that we seem spiritually stronger but we are to not draw attention on ourselves. We cannot fast and have evil, unrepented sin or selfishness in our lives and expect God to answer our cries. We must seek our hearts and discover what our real motives are.
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all
your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and
strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot
fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.”
Today, many modern Christians feel that fasting is outdated but looking at the Word, we can see that the principle of fasting was never made obsolete or done away with by God. Matthew 6:16-18 says that when we fast we are to do it unto the Lord. He doesn’t say if we fast.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they
disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.
I tell you the truth, they have received their rewards in
full. But when you fast, put oil
on your head and wash your face, so that it
will not be obvious to men 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.”
Two reasons for fasting are to receive spiritual cleansing and to obtain victory over the devil. When Jesus was led into temptation during his encounter with Satan, he was able to overcome him because his fasting had given him spiritual strength. We can receive more of the Lord’s spirit and gain new understandings, as well as break addictive habits that are not healthy for our spirits. Fasting is not meant to move the hand of God, but is meant to make Satan lose a hold of us.
By afflicting our soul (Isaiah 58:3), we are saying to our flesh, “You are demanding to eat but Christ is stronger than the desires of my flesh. My spirit shall rule and my flesh shall not have dominion over me.” Fasting is not a way to move the hand of God and receive what we want but it is to see what GOD wants for us.
There are different types of fasts: Regular fast, partial fast, absolute fast, Daniel fast, corporate fast. Jesus fasted and set an example for us.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil. After fasting
forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter
came to him and said, 'If you are the Son of God,
tell these stones to become bread.’
Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but
on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Deuteronomy chapter 8 is proof of this. The Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years but survived on the manna given by God and his Word. They went through an absolute fast. In Act 9:9 Saul immediately went a three day absolute fast upon his conversion. The body can go a number of days without food, but cannot go for long periods without water. Therefore, there are few absolute fasts that last longer than three days. One of these accounts was when Moses spent forty days and night on Mount Sinai without food or water. He had a supernatural encounter with God that sustained him during that time.
“And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did
neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words
of the covenant, the ten commandments.”
Partial fasts can be done for one meal, one day, one month, or however you feel lead by God. Shorter fasts are easier to endure until we have built our spiritual muscles and our faith increases. A three day fast is beneficial as a spiritual cleansing as seen in Acts 9:17-18. Paul was thrust into it upon his conversion so that he would be cleansed and receive the Holy Spirit. A partial fast can also include giving up fleshly desires like watching TV, playing video games, or having intercourse with your spouse (1 Corinthians 7:5).
During a Daniel fast, we abstain from eating pleasant foods, meat, and wine and restrict ourselves to fruits, vegetables, and water. Why is this called a Daniel fast? Because in Daniel 10:2-3 we see that for three weeks Daniel partook in this fast.
“In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks.
I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor
wine in my mouth, neither did
I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”
We also see that in Daniel 1:8-17, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah ate only fruits and vegetables and drank only water. They looked healthier than all of the other young men so the king ordered all of them to give up choice foods and wine.
A corporate fast is a fast done by a group of people at the same time. God calls His people to set up a sacred and holy fast in the Old Testament. He did this because they needed to repent and give up fleshly desires so that they may draw close to God.
“Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly.”
Fasting and mourning are often closely associated in the Bible. Two examples are in Ezra and Nehemiah. Both men in Ezra 10:6 and Nehemiah 1:4 fast and mourn for the repentance of God’s people.
Fasting is also a way we can minister unto the Lord. We read in Acts 13:2 that they ministered unto the Lord and fasted. It is a way we can offer the time we generally spend in eating as unto the Lord in prayer. As we spend this time with Him, it causes things to happen in the Spirit. We do not understand this principle any more than other mysteries in the Bible, but we find that by applying it we get results. There are many things I don't understand with my natural mind, but I receive them by faith because the Word of God says they are true. If God's Word says it, that settles it. In our fasting, the Lord wants to use us to bless others as well. Isaiah 58:7 tells us that during a time of fasting we can give spiritual bread and food to those in need as well as cloth and shelter them.
Fasting often comes spontaneously like when we are mourning or sick. It is our subconscious way of dealing with a situation and receiving healing. Others are so busy seeking God’s guidance that they forget to eat. Others are in parts of the world where there is little food so they can spend time seeking God and He will bless them as He would a voluntary fast.
By taking our eyes off the things of this world, we can more successfully turn our attention to Christ. Fasting is not a way to get God to do what we want. Fasting changes us, not God. Fasting is not a way to appear more spiritual than others. Fasting is to be done in a spirit of humility and a joyful attitude.