We don’t do a lot of talking on “spiritual disciplines.” And one spiritual discipline that doesn’t get much attention is fasting.
The purpose of a dedicated period of prayer and fasting is to humble ourselves before God, seek His will, and ask Him to empower us to do His will. Jesus expected his disciples to fast. In Matthew 6:16 Jesus said, “when you fast” indicating an expectation that his followers would fast. So, as requested by a reader, here are a few of my thought on fasting.
BIBLICAL REASONS FOR FASTING
- To bring the body under control (1 Corinthians 9:27).
- To receive understanding and insight (Daniel 9; 10:2-3; Luke 2:37).
- To sorrow over sin. (Daniel 9; Acts 9:9; 1 Samuel 7:6).
- To begin a new work for God (Matthew 4:2ff; Exodus 34:27-28; Acts 12:2-3).
- To empower us (Esther 4:15-16; Matthew 9:15-17).
- To seek the will of God (Acts 13:2).
- To humble ourselves before God (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).
- To be heard by God (Esra 8:53; Jonah 3).
- To change God’s mind (Jonah 3:5,10; 1 Kings 21:27-29).
HOW TO FAST (Warnings: Do not fast if you are….)
- Taking certain medications with food.
- Receiving treatment for an eating disorder.
- Fasting for the praise of men (Matthew 6:16-18).
EXAMPLES OF HOW LONG TO FAST
- One day (Leviticus23:27, 1 Samuel 14:24; Nehemiah 9:1).
- Three days (1 Samuel 30:12, Acts 9:9).
- Seven days (1 Samuel 31:11-13).
- Fourteen days (Daniel 10:2-3).
- Three weeks (Daniel 10:2-3).
- Forty days (Exodus 34:28; Matthew 4:1-2).
- Fast from television or other entertainment (Daniel 6:18).
- Fast from certain food groups, including bread, sweets, fast foods, cokes or meat (Daniel 1).
- Abstain from sex with your spouse, by agreement only (1 Corinthians 7).
PRACTICAL FASTING TIPS
- Usual meal time should be replaced by Bible study and prayer.
- If you have never fasted before, begin with a short fast.
- Fasts longer than one day should include water and/or unsweetened fruit juices.
- Avoid vigorous exercise during your fast.
- Longer fasts are best accomplished with an accountability partner.
- Expects some light-headedness, bad breath, and irritability, particularly with longer fasts.
- When fasting longer than three days, seek medical advice.