Fasting means to voluntarily abstain or eat very little food for a period of time for religious or medical reasons. Fasting has many advantages for spiritual, physical, mental and emotional health. Scientifically speaking, fasting has been shown to control blood sugar control, help fight inflammation, improve heart health, and promote weight loss.
Scientific data also tells us that fasting help to clear “brain fog”, improving memory and alertness. Furthermore, regular fasting helps keep the brain healthy. In fact, fasting could delay diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.
Fasting is not a new practice. It has been written about in the Bible thousands of years ago to inform us of its benefits and necessity.
We learn in the Bible that fasting helps us to have spiritual health that today is so needed.
Here are biblical reasons to fast:
To Have Control over Temptation
There is a spiritual battle between the flesh and the spirit. We are carnally minded:
“To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” – Romans 8:6-7
“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” – Galatians 5:17
But when we deny food we can be stronger when fighting this battle! Our mind becomes clearer and we can hear the Holy Spirit speak to us in a clearer way. We exercise self-control of the spirit over the flesh.
We can read in 1 Samuel 7:6 Israel’s people fasted to repent for their sins against 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. Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh.”
– 1 Samuel 7:6
Paul was fasting to repent for persecuting God’s people in the New Testiment:
“And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.” – Acts 9:9
During Times of Trouble
In the book of Esther we read that a plot has been established against the Jews and that a death decree was about to be set. Esther needed to speak with the king but it could have cost her life. She therefor told Mordecai to tell all the Jews to fast for her:
“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.” – Esther 4:16
For Guidance and Protection
“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” – Ezra 8:21
“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work
where I have called them.” – Acts 13:2
To Have More Understanding of God’s Words
“Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. They stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day. And another fourth part they confessed, and worshiped the LORD their God.” – Nehemiah 9:1-3
Daniel fasted to understand a message from an angel:
“I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth. Neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” – Daniel 10:3
To avoid judgment
In the book of Jonah, the people of Nineveh did a fast to repent for their wickedness and to avoid God’s judgement:
“And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles. He said, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water” – Jonah 3:7
The Lord calls us right now to turn to Him with all our heart with fasting, to avoid the judgement that will soon come upon us.
“They shall run to and fro in the city; run upon the wall, climb up upon the houses; they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. The earth shall quake before them; heavens shall tremble: sun and the moon shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?
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” – Joel 2:9-13
For powerful intercessory prayer
It is good to fast when we pray for others. The Bible records several stories of intercessory fasting. For example, Jesus told his disciples that to cast out certain kind of demons from someone else, they must pray and fast.
- “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” – Mark 9:28-29
David fasted and prayed when some people were sick:
“But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom” – Psalm 35:13
The King of Persia fasted for Daniel when he was thrown into the lions den:
“Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him.” – Daniel 6:18
Paul was fasting for the church:
“In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” – 2 Corinthians 11:27
How to fast?
DISCLAIMER: Consult a doctor before performing any kind of diet
change including intermittent fasting.
Fasting can be done with one kind or a combination of simple foods such as fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. Daniel fasted by eating a small quantity of simple food to keep his mind clear. It can also be done by drinking simple foods made into juice or smoothie.
We can also fast by abstaining from food, but only drinking water. Despite the fact that fasting without water is not medically recommended, the Bible records times when Esther, and later Paul fasted without water no more than 3 days.
- “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.” – Esther 4:16
- “And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.” – Acts 9:9
For how long should we fast?
Moses and Elijah fasted 40 days without any water, but they were sustained by a supernatural help.
“And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.” – Exodus 34:28
The Bible records different length of fasting time:
- “I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” – Daniel 10:3
- “Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.” – Luke 4:2
God can lead his people into doing a long fast with or without water, just like Esther, Moises or Elijah. But without God leading us in doing this, fasting for more than 3 days becomes risky. For those who desire to start fasting, you can increase your fasting time gradually and pray that God will help you. You might encounter difficulties at the beginning when feeling hungry, drinking water can help or even drinking some smoothies or eating a fruit. But the more you will fast, the easier it will get, as your body will get used to it.
When fasting for spiritual reasons, there is a kind of fast that should NOT be done.
“Father which is in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” – Matthew 6:17-18
Take the following passage from Isaiah:
“Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Does not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
Cont. from Isaiah
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.
If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity. And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day. The Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” – Isaiah 58:3-11
There is an opposite to fasting which is overeating (You can read more about it in Temperance & Spirituality).