Fasting is our most powerful tool in our Christian toolbox (prayer, Bible study, meditation and fasting). Some things do “not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). Fasting is our big gun for big problems, big situations and big spiritual growth.
During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “when you fast” (6:16), but He didn’t say when. Later, when the disciples of John asked Jesus why His disciples weren’t fasting, He said after He returned to heaven, “then they will fast” (9:15). Are we?
What is fasting?
People say they are fasting when they choose to go without one particular kind of food or drink for a period; when they limit themselves to water or juices; and the latest fad where you limit all your eating and drinking each day to eight, 10 or 12 hours out of the 24. Sorry, 24 is not fasting!
But fasting in the Bible means going without all food and drink for a period, usually a day. Mordecai and the Jews fasted three days for Esther (4:16). Jesus and Moses incredibly fasted 40 days, Moses twice! The only day fasting is commanded is on the annual Holy Day called the Day of Atonement when God’s people “afflict their souls” (Leviticus 23:27). What irony that God commands His people to do this just five days before heading off to the Feast!—the Feast of Tabernacles. There is no better way to humble ourselves and to help us feel the misery of this world and its sin. Then five days later we start celebrating the return of Jesus to rid the world of sin and misery and bring the restoration of all things!
I’ve been fasting for 50 years in the Church of God. OK, obviously not continuously, just from a quick look at my corpulence!
I was always taught that fasting about once a month is probably the best guideline for when to fast, if a person wants to stay spiritually tuned and zealous. I have found that to be a good guideline to aim for. I wish I could say I’ve always done it.
The fasting chapter
is Isaiah 58. Anytime I choose to fast, I invariably study this chapter anew. And I always find something fresh and instructive in it to chew on and drink in.
We are obviously striving to show God how serious we are about something. God knows how hard it is for us to go without food and drink! But we must come humbly seeking God’s will, not “to make your voice heard on high” (v. 4). In this marvelous chapter God describes the kind of fasting He chooses (v. 6) and how we should go about a fast so He will “reward you openly” (Matthew 6:18).
Another reason I always go right to this chapter when I fast is that my Scofield Study Bible III gives chain references to fasting throughout the whole Bible, and I have added to theirs. I share these references with you, in hopes that you will appreciate them for a Bible study—why not while fasting!—rather than blog reading which most of us don’t retain long.
♦ Exodus 15:22—Israel found no water for three days, God said wait
♦ Judges 20:26—Israelites inquire of God before battle; God gives victory after a fast
♦ 1 Samuel 1:3-7—Hannah prepares for worship and prayer; God gives Samuel
♦ 1 Samuel 31:13; 1 Chronicles 10:12—David mourned death of Saul in seven days of fasting
♦ 2 Samuel 12:16—David tries to save his son, fasted seven days
♦ 1 Kings 21:27—Ahab humbles himself before God
♦ 2 Chronicles 20:3—Jehoshaphat knows what to do though he thought he didn’t! Eyes on God!
♦ Ezra 8:23—Asks God for protection for loved ones and possessions
♦ Nehemiah 1:4—Asks God for favor with king
♦ Nehemiah 9:1—Israel repents
♦ Esther 4:16—For deliverance for Esther and the Jews
♦ Psalm 35:13—David fasted for sick
♦ Daniel 6:18—Darius’ concern for Daniel in lion’s den, asking God to keep lions fasting!
♦ Daniel 9:1—Daniel fasted for nation
♦ Joel 1:14—Day of the Lord at hand
♦ Jonah 3:5-10—Ninevah people and animals fast
♦ Zech. 7:5—Are we really fasting for God? [Why not download the free eBook on Zechariah?]
♦ Matthew 17:21—Some things come out only by prayer and fasting
♦ Luke 17:10-14—Fast like the tax collector not the Pharisee!
♦ Acts 13:3—Church in Antioch sends off Paul and Barnabus, fasting for direction of Work
These are fasts God answered fast!
These Bible examples have inspired me at key junctures in my life and changed the course of it. Especially in my early days as a Christian, because the Creator of our bodies knows how hard it is for us to go without food and water, He would usually answer a fast quickly and dramatically. He still does but the answer is often “Keep trusting in Me, you need more patience!” Character is what we need more than anything!
Who else wants to reap the spiritual blessings of fasting!