The previous post outlined some of the benefits of fasting. Fasting has been shown to slow the aging process and renew the immune cells of the body. Fasting helps you to lose weight if done properly if you do not go back to your old eating habits.
Fasting as described in the Bible has been practiced by many for spiritual reasons; to repent of their sins and the sins of their nation; to seek the direction of God; to seek the favor and blessings of God, and to discipline the body.
Benjamin Franklin said:
“The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.”
Hudson Taylor, missionary to China said:
“In Shansi I found Chinese Christians who were accustomed to spending time in fasting and prayer. They recognized that this fasting, which so many dislikes, which requires faith in God, since it makes one feel weak and poorly, is a Divinely appointed means of grace. Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our imagined strength; and in fasting, we learn what poor, weak creatures we are dependent on a meal of meat for the little strength which we are so apt to lean upon.”
Jesus taught that certain demonic powers could not be driven out without fasting and prayer. (Matthew 17:21) He also taught that fasting with wrong motives displeases God and that we should fast and pray not for show. (Matthew 6:6,16)
Types of Fasts in the Bible:
Full Fast-no food and drink only water for a set number of days.
David fasted seven days without food. (II Samuel 12:15-18)
Elijah fasted 40 days without food. (I Kings 19:8)
Jesus fasted 40 days without food but drank water. (Matthew 4:2)
Absolute Fasts-no food and no water, usually no longer than three days, except for Moses who fasted supernaturally twice for 40 days and nights without food or water to receive the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:38, Deuteronomy 9:9, 18)
3-Day Fast-no food and no water for three days.
Esther fasted for three days without food or water. (Esther 4:16)
Saul fasted for three days without food or water. (Acts 9:9)
Daniel’s 21 Day Fast-21 days with eating no pleasant foods; no meat, no sweets, no bread; drinking only water or fruit juice and eating only fruits and vegetables.
Daniel fasted to seek God about the promise to restore Israel as a nation. (Daniel 10:23)
14 Day Fast-Paul when facing shipwreck fasted 14 days without food. (Acts 27:33)
Partial Fast-from 6 am to 6 pm or fast one or two meals daily.
Israel fasted until evening when losing a war. (Judges 20:26)
Sexual Fast-Paul advises married couples to abstain from intimate relations while fasting unto the Lord. (I Corinthians 7:15)
Corporate Fast-called for by the church or a group of concerned people for a specific purpose.
The church and the Apostles fasted when sending out apostles and missionaries, and for ordaining elders. (Acts 13:1-4 & 14:21-23)
Fasting in the Bible was for seeking God for His mercy, forgiveness, intervention in a crisis, for direction, to mourn the loss of loved ones, and to drive out demonic powers.
Fasting was done for various lengths of time, and with water or without, or just eating certain foods.
Fasting was always accompanied with rending the garments, wearing sackcloth, and putting ashes on the head as signs of mourning for sin and seeking God’s mercy.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for turning the fast into a ritual. They fasted twice weekly but with the wrong motives. (Matthew 6:5) Motive is important if fasting for spiritual purposes.
Joel 2:12-13 informs us that God requires our hearts to be broken, instead of just our garments; seeking Him with all of our hearts.