What Is Biblical Fasting?
Biblical fasting can be defined as abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. Simply going without food because it is not available or for medical reasons is not biblical fasting. There must be a spiritual motivation to qualify a fast as biblical.
In his book “A Hunger for God,” John Piper writes, “Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God. Christian fasting is not only the spontaneous effect of superior satisfaction in God, it is also a chosen weapon against every force in the world that would take that satisfaction away.”
Some Biblical Examples and Purposes of Fasting
- Jesus fasted to acknowledge His dependence and to gain spiritual strength through reliance on the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. He did this before He began His public ministry (Luke 4:1-2).
- Nehemiah fasted for confession, repentance and favor in the sight of the king to get permission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:4).
- David humbled himself, asking God to intervene because of injustice (Psalm 35:13). In 2 Samuel 12:17-23, he fasted for healing and miraculous intervention.
- Mordecai and the Jews fasted upon hearing the news of Haman’s wicked plot for their extermination (Esther 4:3).
- The early church fasted while worshiping and committing their ministry to the Lord. They also sought the Lord through fasting for guidance and confirmation during the appointment of elders (Acts 13:2, 14:23).
- Jesus expected His disciples to fast, but He did not command it (Matthew 6:16).
Wrong Motivations for Fasting
- To be seen by others (Matthew 6:18). Piper writes, “The critical issue is not whether people know you are fasting but whether you want them to know so that you can bask in their admiration.”
- To be justified by God (Luke 18:9-14). In a parable to people “confident of their own righteousness” (New International Version), Jesus spoke of two men. One said, “I fast twice a week.” The other said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Only one “went home justified before God.”
- To be commended to God (1 Corinthians 8:8). Food will not commend us to God; we are neither worse if we do not eat nor the better if we do. Fasting does not cause us to “earn” something from God, but it helps us to be more receptive to what He wants to do in and through us.
Right Motivations for Fasting
- For spiritual strength against an enemy attack.
- To awaken a spiritual hunger for God that may be dulled because of “desires for other things” (Mark 4:19, NIV).
- To test and see what desires control us.
- To forfeit good things for the better and best.
- To express our ache for His return. Jesus said, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (John 4:32, NIV).
- To demonstrate our love and desire for God above all things (even above His gifts).
- To divide our bread with the poor. “To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6-7, NIV).
Preparing for a Water-Only or Juice Fast
Beginners in fasting should start slow. Progressive steps help our bodies adjust to the drop in food intake. You can start by fasting for one meal or for one day.
Before the Fast
Those planning for an extended fast (more than 14 days) should always consult a doctor beforehand. Prepare mentally and physically by cutting down on food intake one week before the actual fast and taking on a vegetarian diet to control cravings for food. Reduce intake of strong beverages like coffee, tea or soft drinks as well. Drink plenty of water.
During the Fast
Spend the time that you would normally use for meals to pray and seek the Lord. Keep a journal on what the Lord has been showing you and teaching you.
Continue to drink plenty of water. Apple or watermelon juice are great morale boosters. Sleep early — the first few days of the fast are usually the most challenging. Persevere through this period. Consult your doctor about any severe headaches or bodily reactions.
Ending the Fast
Do not break extended fasts abruptly. Start by taking small portions of fruits, vegetables and liquids. Pace yourself to return slowly to your normal diet in about a week.
Do not have a big celebration feast when breaking a fast! Your body may not be used to the sudden increased intake. Be cautious, and always consult your doctor if you are unsure of your physical condition.
The Prayer Journey is Key Goal of Fasting.
The ultimate goal for fasting to focus your full attention on God as you sacrifice your own wants, desires and needs before God – looking to Him and Him alone for your provision and comfort during your time of self-sacrifice. When you pray and fast – you are declaring to God that He is the only thing you need. Desiring to hear His voice above everything else. And begging Him to answer the cries of your hearts and change your heart to reflect Him to others. Prayer & Fasting is a sacred discipline that has eternal and immeasurable impacts on the life of a believer.
However you chose to fast – (whichever method you decide) – make sure that God led you to do it. Not Man. Your goal in fasting is not to please man, but to connect with God. Ask God in advance how and if He wants you to enter into a season of Prayer & Fasting. Ask Him how long and what method to use. You may find that He will ask you to fast for 3 days during this 21 day journey, but He wants you to wake up every day for 21 days at 5am and spend 1 uninterrupted hour each morning