160. BIBLICAL FASTING – WHAT IS IT AND IS IT IMPORTANT?

(The Information & Edification Series – Batch 3)

Today, there is much talk about fasting, which people do for various reasons, including those associated with their physical health and weight loss, like intermittent fasting.

However, the Bible speaks of a biblical fast which is unlike the fast touted by the world. Such a fast is spiritual, can only be done by genuine believers in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and although I admit I don’t do it often enough, I firmly believe that it is something that Christians are expected to engage in.

Some people will say that they can’t fast. If they think they can’t, then they can’t, as fasting requires faith that Jesus has the power to sustain you through the period of fasting. And he does. After all, he is the Creator of food and therefore greater than it. His Word says that we are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10) and therefore, he is well able to keep any of his children who decide to biblically fast spiritually (even if they have medical issues), in faith, for a period of time.

That is the beauty of a biblical fast. You deny the demands of your flesh and in faith, you trust the Lord to keep you spiritually. If your faith is weak in this area, then I would not advise you to do it. For, “…without faith it is impossible to please God: for he that cometh to God must believe that he IS, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6).

Having done up to five (5) days at one point with only water, I can attest that he does keep you. After day three (3), all desire for food and hunger went and I felt quite energetic.

Indeed, we don’t need food. We need Jesus. As Jesus declared in John 6:35 ” I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”

Given that fasting according to the scriptures is important, how ever long a believer decides to do it, we need to get it right. We need to understand firstly the reasons for a biblical fast and then we need to understand how to go about it, as not all fasting that Christians engage in is pleasing and acceptable to God.

REASONS FOR BIBLICAL FASTING

Based on scriptures in the Bible, the Christian may engage in a complete biblical fast (no food, maybe only water) coupled with prayer, for one or more of the following reasons:

1. As part of our duty of service to God

In Luke 2:36-37, after Jesus had been born, it reads:

  • “And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but SERVED GOD with fastings and prayers night and day.”

In Matthew 6:16, it is important to note that Jesus, in providing insight to his disciples concerning fasting, told them:“…when you fast…”, not “if”. The scripture reads:

  • “Moreover WHEN ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, WHEN thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”

It tells us therefore, that Jesus expected his disciples to engage in fasting, not while he was with them on earth but after he had died and rose again and gone back to heaven.

In Mark 2:18-20, this was explained. The scripture reads:

  • “And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.

2. To be rewarded and for prayers to be answered

It is possible for prayers to be answered without fasting but there are times when you need to take things to the next level and to add fasting to your prayer, as this is pleasing to God and something that he may be waiting to see you do before he answers. As a matter of fact, as we will see later on with the man possessed with a dumb and deaf spirit, some prayers will only be answered and deliverance obtained, when coupled with fasting.

In Matthew 6:17-18, Jesus stated:

  • “When thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall REWARD thee openly.”

3. To draw closer to God, by becoming more spiritually mature, kingdom-minded and discerning

Fasting makes you more kingdom-minded, less worldly- oriented, gives you more spiritual insight and discernment and helps you to become more spiritually mature. One of the reasons for the latter is that during your biblical fast, God will show you your flaws and what you need to change and address in your own life, even if you were fasting for some other reason or some other person.

In Luke 2:38, while serving God with fasting at the temple, when Joseph and Mary brought in the child Jesus and he had been blessed by Simeon, the Bible states of Anna the prophetess (who was clearly kingdom-minded and spiritually mature): “And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”

4. For healing from illness, whether for self or for others

When David’s first child with Bathsheba was very ill, 2 Samuel 12:16 states that: “David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted and went in and lay all night upon the earth.”

Some people will say that this happened in the Old Testament. This is true but, although we are under a New Covenant based on grace and no longer the law, the Old Testament is not to be wholly discarded and rejected. God allowed it to form part of the Bible, partly because it is rich of relevant principles that we can apply to our own lives for the better. Indeed, 2 Timothy 3:16 states (and this includes the Old Testament) that:

  • All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

5. For guidance, direction and divine protection in moving forward in life

In Ezra 8:21-23 and 31, after Ezra began to return to Jerusalem from Babylon and had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments (chapter 7:9-10), he stated:

  • “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him. So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us…Then we departed from the river Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.”

6. As part of the process of repentance and so as to ensure deliverance from destruction, affliction and enemies, standing ready to capitalize on your troubles which arose from your sin

In 1 Samuel 7:3-6, it reads:

  • “And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only. And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the Lord. And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the Lord, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the Lord. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh.”

Additionally, in Joel 2:12-15, it reads:

  • “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly.”

In Nehemiah 1:3-6, it also reads:

  • “And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.”

7. To cast out and get rid of demonic and diabolical forces

In Mark 9:17-29, it speaks of Jesus:

  • “And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us.
  • Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.
  • When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose.
  • And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, THIS KIND CAN COME FORTH BY NOTHING, BUT BY PRAYER AND FASTING.”

8. When in need of the supernatural intervention of God in a serious, looming problem

In Esther 4:15-16, when Haman had used his position of influence to get the king to proclaim that the Jews should be destroyed on a certain date, Esther the Queen, who was a Jew, decided to go see the king to make request for her people, that the decree be reversed. However, given that she had not been invited to visit the king and that there was a law that whoever came to the king uninvited was to be killed, she requested that the Jews fast with her and her maidens for three days on the issue.

The scripture reads:

  • “Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.”

9. To know God’s perfect will in a matter, to make right decisions or to receive further instructions

  • “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.” (Acts 13:1-4)

10. To obtain God’s continued blessing after having made an important decision (even when you know that the decision made was in keeping with God’s will)

In Acts 14:23, it reads: “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”

11. To obtain the victory and for peace to be restored when confronted on every hand and side by enemies who are waging war against you and you feel weak or outnumbered

In 2 Chronicles 20:2-4, it reads:

  • “Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazontamar, which is Engedi. And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the Lord: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.”

As stated before, in Esther 4:15-16, Esther, her maidens and the Jews also fasted for a similar purpose, due to a decree having been passed to destroy all Jews on a certain date.

HOW TO ENGAGE IN BIBLICAL FASTING IN A MANNER ACCEPTABLE UNTO GOD

Having touched on the importance, based on scriptures, of biblical fasting, the question that arises is how should a Christian engage in a biblical, God-approved fast?

Truth be told, most of the fasting that many professers of Christianity engage in and call biblical fasting are not acceptable to God and so, even where the matter being prayed and fasted about is within the will of God to grant, they get no results. For, it is not the ACT of fasting or the afflicting of our souls that brings the deliverance, answer or blessing we want.

On one occasion, on my first day of fasting, I studied Isaiah 58. I recommend you do the same before engaging in a biblical fast. This chapter revealed that an ACCEPTABLE fast in God’s eyes and the one that yields results in terms of what has been prayed about is one that:

  • ONE – Is entered into with the right motives out of a pure heart (vs. 4);
  • TWO – Is more focused on and concerned about inner change than an outward show or appearance of suffering and affliction (vs. 3, 5). This is consistent with what Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 6:6-18. He instructed them: “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”
  • THREE – Is entered into with sincerity, the person having the recognition that there is a problem that is so bad that he is incapable of handling it on his own (humility) and that only an intervention by God at the spiritual level will change it (vs. 6)
  • FOUR – Is fueled by genuine repentance of any sin in one’s life (which should be a precursor) in that: (a) it is done by someone that has totally surrendered/submitted his ways for God’s ways and is now totally committed to doing God’s will and abandoning his own and sincerely wants to change ALL of his evil ways and replace them with God’s ways and (b) it is done by someone that is prepared to obey God totally e.g. by speaking the things with his mouth that are pleasing to him, not pre-occupied with seeking his own comfort/pleasure but wants what God wants more than the good things of life he wants for himself. In other words, he is not earthly-minded but kingdom-oriented and sacrificial (vs. 9, 13)
  • FIVE – Is done by someone that does not always just think of himself but fasts for others and understands and practices selflessness and loving his neighbor and makes reaching out to the poor and less fortunate a lifestyle and priority (vs. 6, 7, 10).

(Written partially in 2016, 02nd February, 2020 and completed on 31st October, 2020)

Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be informative, edifying, beneficial or interesting, you may also be interested in reading the following:

  • Note 14 – ‘Praying – How To Get A ‘Yes’ From God’
  • Note 105 – ‘Can Songs Of Praise Move God To Intervene?’
  • Note 161 – ‘Overcoming Opression – Spiritual Warfare’

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