What is fasting?
Many people long to have a closer relationship to God but are unsure of where to start to get it. God sees the heart and taking your physical hungers and desires and offering it as a sacrifice to Him is a great way to express love and worship. Fasting is a form of worship and a physical declaration of importance. It stimulates intimacy because it heightens our awareness of dependance and reliance on God.
1. What is the purpose of a fast?
Fasting is the deliberate restraint of food or other pleasures for a specific period of time. It was meant to draw a person closer to the Lord. It is important not to get overwhelmed by legalism when you fast. God sees the heart. Closeness with God should be the main emphasis, not food or the restraint of it. Fasting is just a means to the end result of an experience of depending on God completely.
2. What does the Bible say about fasting?
It weakens our flesh, and strengthens our spirit. Read Isiah 58.
3. When is a good time to fast?
- When you are searching for an answer to prayer.
- When you want to hear more clearly from the Lord.
- When you want to rededicate a commitment to God.
- When you want to refresh spiritually.
- When you want to honor God and show Him you put Him first.
4. How do you prepare for a fast?
- Ask the Lord if this is what He wants from you.
- Get permission from your physician. If you are not healthy enough to do a traditional food/water fast, just keep in mind that God respects your heart and sees your commitment. Ask Him if there is another luxury or pleasure that He would like you to abstain from instead.
- Get right in your heart.
- Forgive those who have offended you and ask for forgiveness from those whom you may have offended. (“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25; “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” Luke 11:4, “Take heed to yourselves; if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.” 17:3-4)
- Clearly mark your goals.
- What is the reason for your fast?
- What is the type of fast/or the things I am fasting from?
- What is the length of my fast?
5. What if I am advised by my physician not to perform a traditional fast?
There are many things you can fast from mentally.
- You can commit to not watching television/radio/internet.
- You can fast from negative gossip/slander.
6. What are the different types of traditional fasts?
- Full fast. Only liquids are consumed. Water and clear vegetable broth is the main source of food for a certain number of days or nights. This fast is only for one who is in prime physical condition. You must receive a doctor’s approval before you embark on this.
- Partial Fast. In this fast, you give up some food, but not all food. The most popular partial fast in the Bible was the Daniel fast. “In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks, I ate no pleasant food, not meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” Daniel 10:2-3
- An example of a partial fast would be:
- To give up one food you really love. (I suggest optional luxuries like soda pop, chocolate or cream in your coffee.) Giving up anything that has a hold on you would be giving God honor and control.
- Corporate Fast: In this fast, it is a joint commitment of Believers for a specific time and purpose. Although the fast involves other people, it is still a personal experience with God.
- Some examples of corporate fasts in the Bible would be:
- Protection from the enemy. “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat not drink three days, night or day; I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16
- Revival for a nation. “And the men of Kir-jath-jearim came, and fetched up the ark of the Lord, and brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill, and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord.” 1 Sam. 7
1. How do I begin?
Pray about it. Write down your plan. Talk to your doctor about your plan. Make a verbal commitment to God.
2. Can children fast?
It is powerful to teach children by example. Simply giving up desert to honor God and asking if they want to do the same would be a good way to lead your children into the discipline of fasting. Children can also fast by giving up their favorite television programs and giving that time to the Lord. You can read them stories from the Bible as a God honoring substitute.
3. What if I start and cannot finish?
Seeking God and committing to Him is never gone unnoticed by Him. Don’t get discouraged. Ask the Lord to lead you into the type of fast that you are able to finish. He will.
3. How do I deal with hunger pains?
- Drinking more water with a supplement (only if approved by your doctor) like Benefiber may help.
- Ask the Lord to be your strength. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” Phil 4:13 Depend on God.
4. Do I continue to exercise while fasting?
Moderate activity is always good for the body. Consult your doctor about the type of fast you are planning on doing and the type of activity you wish to do as well. Wisdom is listening to your doctor and your body. Fasting is not about martyrdom. It is to get closer to God. If a person is addicted to physical exercise, it may even be a good idea to “fast” and give up physical activity. This will be a great way to honor God by giving Him first place in their heart.
5. What if I have a manual labor job?
In this case, it would be wise to consider a partial fast. God does not want you to kill yourself! Seek medical approval from your doctor before you do anything.
6. How do I break a fast?
- If you are on a partial fast:
Continue eating plenty of fruits, vegetables and water. Gradually work small portions of meat, sweets and starchy food into your system. If you have discomfort, reduce your intake of the new foods until you feel better. Slowly reintroduce heavier foods.
- If you are on a full fast:
Your body is in a state of rest. Your digestive organ is quiet and your stomach has shrunk. Eating solid foods too quickly after a full fast is shocking to the body and could be harmful to your system.
Most experts recommend that breaking this type of fast by eating:
- Steamed tomatoes the first day.
- Steamed and raw vegetables for the remainder of the first week
- Gradually introducing fruits into your diet, beginning with one meal a day.
- Slowly, in small portions, start including meats, dairy products and starches into your meals.
Verses on Fasting in The Bible:
Blessings of Fasting:
“And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them: And thou shalt not go aside from any of the worlds which I command thee this day, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.” Deut. 28:13-14
“And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God.” Deut. 28:2
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 1 Chron. 7:14
“Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward.” Is. 58:8
“And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the Lord. And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the Lord, and fasted on that day, and said there. We have sinned against the Lord. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh.”1Sam. 7:5-6
“Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the Lord their God.” Nehemiah 9:1-3
“Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly; Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts; et the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.” Joel 2: 15-16
“So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing; let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God; yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that He had said that He would do unto them and He did it not.” Jonah 3:5-10
“And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, this day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. Wherefore I pray you to take some meat; for this is for your health; for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you. And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all; and when he had broken it, he began to eat. Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat. And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls.” Acts 27:33-37
“In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, nether came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” Daniel 10:2-3
“Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day; I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” Esther 4:16
Fasting Do’s and Don’ts:
“Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face: That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” Matt 6:16-18
“And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others; Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto the heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, god be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
Scriptures that go with fasting:
“And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” Luke 2:37
“And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fated, and prayed before the god of heaven.” Neh. 1:4
“And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb. And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat. Then said Elkanh her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? And why eatest thou not? And why is thy heart grieved? Am I not better to thee than ten sons?”1 Sam. 1: 6-8
“At the beginning of they supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to shew thee; for thou art greatly beloved; therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.” Daniel 9:3
“Therefore also now, saith the Lord turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.” Joel 2:12
“And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting unto this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing.” Acts 10:30
“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work where unto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them. They sent them away.” Acts 13:2-3
“Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”1 Cor. 7:5“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” John 6:28-35
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Cor 10:13
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Other wise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matt 6:1
“I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.” Job 23:12
“Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily.” Is 58:8
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.” Matt 5:6
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Matt 4:4
“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God and approved of men.” Rom 14:17-18
“Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you; for him hath God the Father sealed.” John 6:27
Preparing for a fast:
“And ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25
“And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” Luke 11:4
“I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Romans 12:1-2
When/Why to fast:
“Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not. And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bride chamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.” Matt. 9:14-15
“I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Rom. 12:1
“Take therefore o thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Matt. 6:33
“And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29
“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” Is. 58:6
“And Samuel sake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve Him only, and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 1 Sam. 7:3
“And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the spirit into the wilderness, being forty days tempted of the devil, and in those days He did eat nothing; and when they were ended, He afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. And the devil, taking Him up into an high mountain, shewed unto Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, And the devil said unto Him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. And Jesus answered and said unto Him, Get thee behind me, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thy serve. And he brought Him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto Him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: For it is written, He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee.” Luke 4:1-13
A special thank you to Jentezen Franklin for your inspiration and information on fasting!