What Is Fasting?
Fasting is the religious practice which involves the denial of self as you purposefully seek after God. It calls for the abstinence of food, focus on God, and prayer.
In the Bible, fasting is also referred to as “afflicting yourself”, as well as to humble yourself before God [Ref: Ezra 8:21 – 23/ 1 Kings 21:27-29].
The main reason for holding a fast lies in the fact that there are certain spiritual things that can only be accomplished by prayer and fasting ~ Matt. 17:21.
Lengths Of Fasts
For some persons, the length of their fast extends for the duration of a missed meal, such as fasting during their one-hour lunchtime; and they may do this weekly, monthly, or every day for a specified number of days.
These are the following lengths of fasts mentioned in the Bible:
- Fasting until a certain hour ~ Acts 10:30
- Fasting from morning til evening ~ 2 Sam 1:12
- The 1-day fast.
- Fasting [from sunrise to sunset, or for a specific period of time] on certain days ~ Neh 1:4
- The 3-day fast ~ Esth. 4
- The 7-day fast ~ 1 Sam. 31
- The 21-day fast ~ Dan. 10:2 – 3
- The 40-day fast [Ref: Exodus 34:28/ Matt 4:1 – 2]
The Purpose Of Fasting
The fundamental purpose of fasting is to loose the bands [bonds, chains] of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every [enslaving] yoke ~ Isa. 58:6.
The Reasons Why Persons In The Bible Fasted
In the Bible you will find that there were fasts held by just one person, by a group of people, and by an entire nation. Persons fasted:
- To ask help of the Lord ~ 2 Chron. 20:3
- To avert the judgment of God [Ref: Joel 2:11 – 17/ Jonah 3:4 -10/ 1 Kings 21:20 – 29/ 2 Kings 22:18 – 20/ 2 Chron. 12:5 – 12]
- Before and during certain religious duties [Ref: Acts 13:2 – 3/ Acts 14:23]
- Before the start of ministry ~ Matt 4:1 – 2
- Cleansing after spiritual defilement ~1 Sam. 31
- To get a deeper understanding of, or the interpretation of dreams, visions, and revelations. ~ Dan 9
- For deliverance from affliction ~2 Chron. 33:10 -13
- For God’s divine intervention [Ref: Esth. 4/ Joel 1]
- For God’s mercy [Ref: 2 Sam 1:12/Deut. 9:25 – 29
- For guidance, wisdom, and counsel from the Lord when facing a difficult decision ~ Judges 20:23 – 28
- For preparation for a spiritual assignment ~ Deut 9:9 -10
- To repent of sinful practices [Ref: Neh 9:1 -3/ 1 Sam. 7:6]
- For the restoration of yourself and others ~ Neh 1
- To seek the right way ~ Ezra 8:21 – 23
- For strengthened faith to deal with certain spiritual matters [Ref: Matt 17:14-21/Mark 9:17-29]
- For understanding and strength to accomplish what God revealed to you ~ Dan 10:1
The Requirements Of A Fast
For most fasts, there ought to be brokenness or remorse [with tears], as well as repentance ~ Joel 2:12 – 13. Also, the purpose of your personal fast should be kept private ~ Matt. 6:16 – 18.
The remaining requirements of a fast are listed below (you do not have to select all of them).
- Abstinence from eating food [Ref: Luke 4:2/ 2 Sam. 11:16 – 17]
- No food or drink [Ref: Esth. 4:16/Jonah 3:6 – 8/ Deut. 9:18 – 19]
- No “pleasant bread” – a term used for all the kinds of food that you like and yearn [covert] after.
- No wine and/or no meat ~ Dan. 10:3
- Ceasing from pursuing certain pleasures/entertainment [Ref. Dan. 6:18/ Isa. 58:3]
- No sexual intercourse (with consent from your spouse) ~ 1 Cor. 7:5
Most importantly, you should focus on the reason why you are holding a fast, and not spend the time debating with others ~ Isa. 58:4. Also, while on a fast, make it your priority to cease from wrongdoing, and instead perform good deeds. ~ Isa. 58:3 & 7
The Results Of Fasting
The following results of fasting are:
- There is forgiveness of sins and healing/restoration of your land ~ 2 Chron. 7:14
- Your light [and happiness] shall break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee [conducting you to peace and prosperity]; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward (God’s presence will follow you and protect [defend] you on every side). Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. ~ Isa. 58:8 & 9a
There Are Also Conditional Results Of Fasting:
- IF thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger pointed in scorn, and speaking vanity [false accusation, slander, and malicious speaking]. And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul;
THEN . . .
shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. ~ Isa. 58:9b – 12
- IF thou turn away thy foot from [unnecessary travel on] the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words [i.e. conducting business as usual,]:
THEN . . .
shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage [promised for you] of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. ~ Isa 58:13 – 14
Making The Decision To Fast
When you fast, you are drawn closer to God; you get answers, help, wisdom, and strength to endure. Fasting either moves the hand of God to show mercy and favour; or stops his hand of judgment.
If you need to fast because of the degradation of society or a relationship; because you want to know the mind of God about a certain matter; or because you desire your healing, deliverance, and breakthrough . . . then, do not let anything, or anyone stop you from doing it.
- Make up your mind to do a fast – whether privately or with others.
- Express the purpose of your fast to God and ask him to help you.
- Decide on the length of the fast and the kinds of things you will abstain from (food, drink, etc.) during the fast.
- Select specific songs to sing, scripture to read, and a special place where you will meet with God during the fast.
- Be disciplined to complete the period of fasting; if you forgot to keep the fast for some reason or the other, confess your fault and resume the fast.
At The End Of The Fast:
- Thank God for his answer and decision.
- Recognize that being closer to God was the greatest benefit gained from fasting.
- Drink something warm (tea, soup etc.) before resuming your normal eating routine.
If all believers knew the exceptional benefits of doing a religious fast; they would fast more often, and about many things . . . even for an hour each week.