We see fasting throughout the entire Bible. The Old Testament law required fasting on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29-30, 23:27-31, Numbers 29:7), also known as the day of fasting (Jeremiah 36:6). Moses fasted for 40 days and nights (Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 9:9). Elijah fasted 40 days (1 Kings 19:8). After a terrible defeat (because they disobeyed God, the Israelites fasted (Judges 20:26). The prophet Samuel called for a fast during the Philistine wards (1 Samuel 7:6). The King of Nineveh (when confronted by the Prophet Jonah) called for a nationwide fast (Jonah 3:5). King Jehoshaphat called for a fast in all Israel when they were surrounded by the Ammonites and Moabites (2 Chronicles 20:3). Esther and the Jews fasted, David fasted, Nehemiah fasted.
The Prophetess Anna fasted (Luke 2:37). John the Baptist and his disciples fasted (Mark 2:18. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2). Saul (who became Paul) fasted for three days after his encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:9). The gentile, Cornelius was fasting when the angel visited him (Acts 10:3, 30). Before sending Paul and Barnabas off on their first journey, the church at Antioch fasted.
Jesus taught about fasting in Matthew 6:16-18, “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “if you fast”, He said, “when you fast”. Obviously Jesus expected His disciples to fast and not make a public spectacle of it.
Why Should You Fast?
Clearly, fasting is something that is biblical, but why do we fast? First, because it appears that God not only expects it, but responds to it (you will see this in most of the Old Testament scriptures above). Second, because it’s a way to tell our flesh who is in control. Third, because we grow closer to the Lord when we fast, which enables us to more easily hear His voice. Fourth, fasting, gives us more time to devote to Bible meditation and prayer. Fifth, it is a way to show humility before God (Psalm 35:13).
A couple of cautions. First, don’t fast to lose weight, it’s not a diet. Second, don’t fast to manipulate God. He can’t be manipulated. Fast, because you love God and want to humble yourself before Him and more easily hear His direction.
How Do You Fast?
There are no hard and fast rules of fasting. In the Bible we see 40, 21, 3, and 1 day fasts. The time frame is not as important as the heart or reason why you are fasting. Also, what you fast isn’t important, although the fasts referenced in the Bible were all food related. Food is one of the most powerful draws to the physical world. By fasting food, you disconnect from the natural world and have more opportunity to connect supernaturally. Besides food, you could fast television, social media, internet, secular music or books, and anything else that connects you with the natural world.
A few thoughts about fasting food. Although we see Moses fasting food and water for 40 days, this is not recommended unless you are in the presence of the Lord during the entire 40 days. You can however fast solid food for 40 days and do what is called a liquid fast. If you still need to work and maintain both your mental sharpness and energy, drink protein drinks and natural juices, plus lots of water. You can also do a Daniel fast (Daniel 10:2-3), where you fast meats, alcoholic beverages (including wine), and good tasting foods. You can eat fruits, vegetables, and nuts, and grain.
Also, start slow. Don’t jump right in to a 40 day fast. Start by fasting a day, then 3, then 10, then 21, and finally 40. Fast with a group of people, so you have support and can compare notes with others about what God is saying during the fast.
An important part of fasting is prayer. As you proceed through the fast, you will become more sensitive to the Lord. During the time you would normally prepare food and eat, study the Bible and pray. This is particularly important if you are trying to make a big decision.
Jesus expected His true disciples to fast and pray, because He knew there was vast power in these disciplines. If you’d like to learn more about fasting, there are two great books: The Hidden Power of Prayer and Fasting by Mahesh Chavda and Fasting by Jentezen, both of which you can find on Amazon.
Clearly there is power in prayer and fasting, so when are you going to start?