Last week, I shared about the holy fire ignited in my women’s Bible study as we began examining the Scriptures about Biblical fasting. Previously, I had misconceptions, thinking the Bible said little on the subject and that it was an optional practice. Both thoughts were incorrect.
The following are highlights of what we have learned thus far. If you are a new reader, you can learn about how I approach a topical study, seeking to understand the Biblical significance and stance of a particular subject in The Power of Words.
Fasting is one of three spiritual disciplines Jesus presented in Matthew 6 when teaching how Christians are to live. He shared specifically the way we are to give, pray, and fast. With little understanding or knowledge, I had tried fasting on a few occasions. But Jesus’ own words clarify that Biblical fasting is a normal part of being a Christian just like giving and praying.
Susan Gregory author of The Daniel Fast says, “Fasting is a powerful spiritual discipline designed by our creator to draw us closer to him.” She also states, “Fasting is an exciting life-changing spiritual adventure.” Gregory adds, “Miracles happen when people turn their hearts to God and consecrate themselves for a period of prayer and fasting.”
What is Fasting
Various authors and Scripture indicate fasting is abstaining from some or all food or food and water for a set time to devote oneself to focused prayer about a specific purpose. It brings our body into submission of the spirit with self-restraint. We grow closer to the Lord in this process of seeking him, his intercession, and intervention.
Fasting does not change our positional relationship with God, that is based on Jesus Christ alone. If you’ve made the choice to put on the salvation of Christ you are a joint heir with Jesus. Through his redemption, you are adopted into the family of God. Adherence to or neglect of the practice of fasting will not change this relationship. Similarly, if you were obedient or disobedient to your parents you are still their son or daughter. Although, in the relationship with God and our parents a heart motivated by righteousness will desire to honor and obey.
Types of Biblical Fasts
There are three types of fasting found in the Bible.
• Absolute fast: Abstaining from all food and water.
Some examples are Moses on Mt. Sinai while receiving the 10 commandments (Exodus 34:28) and Paul after the Damascus Road encounter (Acts 9:9).
• Normal fast: Abstaining from all food but taking in water.
Presumably Jesus due to no mention of the exclusion of water or thirst during preparation for ministry and being tempted (Matthew 4:1).
• Partial fast: Abstaining from select foods.
Some examples are Daniel refraining from defiling himself (Daniel 1:8-16) and John the Baptist a vowed Nazarite (Luke 1:15 and Matthew 3:4).
Original Language & Definitions
The Hebrew word for fasting is תַעֲנִית; to cover over (the mouth).
The Greek word for fasting is νηστεία; not eating, to abstain from food (religiously).
When looking at Scripture in the original languages we understand that fasting is about abstaining from food. Dictionaries today still define fasting as abstinence from food.
Arthur Wallis, author of God’s Chosen Fast says, “For nearly a century and a half, fasting has been out of vogue, at least in the churches of the West.” He further declares, “When our minds are conditioned by prejudice or paralyzed by traditional views, we may face a truth in Scripture again and again without its ever touching us. Our spiritual inhibition concerning that truth permits us to see but not to perceive. The truth lies dormant within, mentally apprehended but not spiritually applied. This is particularly true in relation to fasting.
“When, however, such a truth is first ignited by the Holy Spirit, there is immediate conflict in the minds of most people. The truth of the Bible has suddenly become “Alive and powerful,” and there is an assault upon our traditional attitudes and prejudices.
“The outcome of the struggle reveals whether or not we are open to receive and obey fresh light about God and so grow in the knowledge of the truth.”
Fasting is Not
A fast without a spiritual emphasis is dieting, not fasting. It is not a means to manipulate God or earn favor by good deeds. Like all aspects of our relationship with God, our motivation must stem from a desire to submit to God’s righteous authority, coming from a heart of gratitude, for his undeserved grace thereby glorifying the name of Jehovah.
Restraining from social media, video games, TV, movies, sports, etc. can be good sacrificial practices but they are not Biblical fasting. Giving up certain activities can be a means of allocating more time for prayer, the study of Scripture, and enhancing your relationship with God. A person may want to refrain from or restrict these activities in combination with fasting.
More to Come
There is so much more we’re learning of this discipline; we have only begun. I’ve repented of my sin of omission, neglect to do what Jesus taught. I’m grateful God sees the heart and says to me, the same thing he said to the adulteress, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore” (John 8:11, CSB).
Dear Reader, I will echo the question Jentezen Franklin asks, “If Jesus did not begin to minister before fasting, how can we?”
Dear Father God, thank You for revealing Yourself to us and teaching us how to live. You are gracious and good. Help us, Holy Spirit, to apply the truth of fasting into our lives as we turn away from ignorance and rebellion. May we find Your words to be a sweetness to our body, soul, and spirit. As we come into compliance with Your teachings, let there be greater unity so that the world will know You are the Alpha and the Omega, and one day every knee will bow honoring You as Lord of all. In the strong name of Jehovah. Amen.
Franklin, Jentezen. Fasting. Charisma House, 2008.
Gregory, Susan, The Daniel Fast. Oasis Audio, 2011
The Interlinear Bible Hebrew-Greek-English, Edited by Jay P. Green Sr. Hendrickson Publishers edition, 2012.
Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1942.
Towns, Elmer L. Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough. ChristianAudio, 2008.
Wallis, Arthur. God’s Chosen Fast. CLC Publications, 2016.
Willmington, Dr. H.L. Willmington’s Guide to the Bible. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1981.
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