Fasting has become a very common practice in many religions. Indeed, it is an observation that dates back to antiquity. In short, it goes through the ages! What does it mean? What is its role in the life of the Christian?
What fasting is not.
Fasting is not a hunger strike.
Today many people refrain from eating and drinking in order to convey certain demands or a message. This is commonly called the hunger strike. Some Christians use fasting as a means of blackmail or pressure on God to get what they want. Christian fasting is different from this practice.
Fasting is not a diet.
Although fasting can be beneficial to health and well-being, in the sense that it is practiced among Christians, it is not a diet. Fasting is not practiced in this vision.
What is Fasting?
Fasting is a practice that has a profound spiritual impact, if done according to divine principles. He is powerful and able to scare away demons: But this kind of demon only comes out through prayer and fasting (Matthew 17V21) .
Esther had the favor of King Ahasuerus following a time of fasting; the people of Nineveh found favor in the eyes of God after a time of national fasting. There are many examples that still bear witness to the spiritual significance of fasting.
The role of fasting.
The role of fasting is intimately linked to the motivation behind it. It is important before you start fasting to know the why and the expected results at the end. Defining the purpose of the fast beforehand makes it more effective. Let’s review some roles of fasting:
Fasting activates and strengthens our intimacy with God.
One of the benefits of fasting is that it brings us closer to God. Fasting is a privileged moment to listen to God, to let Him reveal His deepest secrets to us. In this regard, we can cite the example of Moses, who on Mount Sinai spent 40 days in deep intimacy with God. At the end of his retreat, he came out with the revelations of the tables of the law.
Fasting invigorates our inner man.
Fasting is a powerful vector that allows us to master the flesh and quicken our spirit. When we fast, we deprive our flesh of food, drink and pleasure (distraction), to focus on nourishing our spirit through prayer, meditation on the Word of God. This is why we must always add to our times of fasting times of intercession, adoration and meditation.
Fasting brings deliverance.
Isaiah 58, after describing the characteristics of fasting which gladdens the heart of God, reminds us of the promises that accompany it:
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your restoration will progress rapidly, your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. (Isaiah 58:8)
The Lord will be your guide constantly, He will meet your needs in the arid places and He will restore strength to your members. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose water never stops flowing. (Isaiah 58:11)
Why should Christians fast?
The Christian can be led to fast for several reasons:
1. To crucify our flesh .
The time of fasting is a time of disconnection from the things of the world, a time of greater connection to the things of the Spirit. It allows us to more easily overcome certain sins that were recurrent in our lives. Let us not forget that God is Holy and that His glory shines on us. It becomes easier to get rid of certain addictions or anything that took the place of God in our life.
The more time you spend with Him, the more you resemble Him. You begin to hate what He hates and love what He loves. And suddenly, you will be able to see that you are no longer interested in certain things that distanced you from Him, certain relationships no longer please you, you have more strength to resist certain temptations, etc.
2. Before making an important decision.
Sometimes some Christians before making important decisions in their lives, humble themselves and seek the face of the Lord during this time apart when they are more sensitive spiritually. Some do:
- Before getting into a relationship with a person;
- Before leaving any place, it may be their country of origin or a foreign country;
- To confirm something that God has put on their heart;
- Seek God’s will in any area.
In Acts 13 , during a time of fasting, the Lord said to separate Saul and Barnabas from Him: Acts of the Apostles 13:3“ They continue fasting and praying. Then they put their hands on Barnabas and Saul’s head and they let them go.
Despite the Word they received, they continued to pray to confirm what they had received and also prayed for the two chosen men so that God would accompany them in their ministry.
3. To reach new dimensions.
Maybe you just want to set yourself apart, spend more time in His presence. So fasting is one of the best ways to do that. Sometimes I don’t need to seek God’s will in any area or crucify my flesh, but just want to be on fire for Him, to thirst more for His presence. So I take special time, disconnect from certain things and spend more time with Him.
Psalms 63:2 “O God, You are my God, I seek You. My heart thirsts for You, my body needs You like dry, thirsty land without water.
I’ve always found that funny. When you are thirsty and you drink water, logically you are no longer thirsty. However with God it is not the same thing, the more you know Him, the more you want to know Him, the more you read the Word, the more you thirst to know more. And it is this thirst that will take you to another dimension, to the depths with God.
4. In case of danger to humble oneself before the Lord.
In the Book of Esther, Queen Esther fasted for three days. A great danger threatened the Jewish people, so everyone took a time of fasting and asked the Lord’s favor to take away this great misfortune from them.
Esther 3:13 “Letters were carried by the runners into all the provinces of the empire, ordering to slaughter, kill and exterminate the Jews, young and old, children and women, in one day , namely the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.
Eventually Queen Esther won the king’s favor. Haman had convinced the king to exterminate the Jews but it was he and his family who were exterminated and it was a day of gladness and joy for all the Jewish people. If God is for us, who can be against us?
James 4:10 “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will raise you up.
5. To intercede on behalf of others.
Just like Jesus we did not come to receive but to give, we did not come to be served but to serve.
Hebrews 10:19 “Christian brothers and sisters, we are sure that we can enter freely into the most holy place because Jesus shed His blood.
The lost have no access before the throne of grace. They need people who stand before God and intercede for them because they can’t do it themselves, they don’t know God. During this time apart, we can pray for those people who are running to hell for God to touch their hearts. We can also pray for our family, friends, co-workers, spiritual leaders, etc.
“God is doing very well before, during and after our fast. We do not fast for God but for ourselves.
We do not fast to force God to accept something we want but we fast to enter into His will, to know His plans for our lives, to strengthen our fellowship with Him, etc. When you fast it is essential to be flexible before God, do not expect confirmation of something you want but expect to enter into His perfect will.
How often should you fast?
To fast is to voluntarily deprive oneself of food and/or drink, in whole or in part. It is a time when one humbles one’s soul, a time when one treats one’s body harshly by depriving it of certain carnal things, in order to turn to more spiritual things. The Word describes that day as a day pleasing to God.
In the Bible, there are various types of fasts including: the 40-day fast performed by Moses and the Lord Jesus; Esther’s fast (a 3-day fast); Daniel’s partial fast (the vegetable fast of 10 days and the fast of 21 days without delicacies).
It is necessary to note that these examples of fasts cited above are not golden rules to be followed at all costs. Indeed, fasting goes far beyond the deprivation of food and drink. It is also possible to deprive and fast of certain things that we like. But, while it is true that we have some clues about the types of fasts we can practice, is there a frequency with which we should humble our soul by fasting?
As a general rule, there is no imposed fasting rhythm. As we have seen, there are certainly different types of fasting in the Bible, but the Bible does not impose a particular frequency on us. Rather, it reveals to us the attitude to have when we fast.
In the book of Isaiah, chapter 58 sheds light on the behaviors to avoid when we fast, such as arguing, quarreling, getting angry, remaining in our inclinations or our faults. Rather, we should guard our testimonies and perform certain acts that are pleasing to God, such as showing generosity, hospitality, compassion, etc.
In addition to this, when we fast we also have to have a certain attitude. Indeed, fasting is not appearance but rather a heart to heart with our God.
Matthew 6:17-18 (KJV) “When you fast, do not put on a sad expression, like the hypocrites, who make their faces crestfallen, to show men that they are fasting. […] But when you fast, perfume your head and wash your face, so as not to show men that you are fasting…”
Yes, we do not fast to prove ourselves something and even less to show others that we are “spiritual”. As we have just read, this is displeasing to the Lord. Fasting is an impulse of the heart; it is a time when one chooses to set oneself apart. A time when we decide to deprive ourselves of various things, to spend more time with the Lord and go deeper into our communion with Him.
As for how often to do it, it all depends on the relationship we have with God. At times we may feel a conviction in our hearts that the Holy Spirit may direct us to fast over a period of time and for a certain time. At other times, we may get up in the morning without having planned to fast and then the Lord convicts us to do so. He alone knows why; He is omniscient, we must trust Him and not resist the Holy Spirit.
That said, it happens that in some communities, fasts are decided. Most of the time it is the visionary, in other words, the shepherd who, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, submits a time of fasting over a certain period and most of the time with very specific modalities. So certainly, it is true that fasting is a matter of personal conviction, but we must also keep in mind that submission and obedience are very important for our spiritual growth.
We must also learn to trust the authorities established by the Lord. If the latter receive instructions for us, or for our community, we must be obedient and flexible. Nevertheless, it happens that for certain reasons (medical treatments or others), one is not able to follow certain modalities to the letter. In all things, it is essential to pay attention and to act wisely.
Besides depriving ourselves of food, drink, or anything else that we like, fasting is not a religious act, but rather a heart to heart with the Lord. We fast out of conviction, and that conviction stems from our personal relationship with God. Our Heavenly Father has a special relationship with each of His children. In a personal or community way, the Holy Spirit can bring to our heart the type of fast to do or even how often to fast. So we don’t have to copy or “copy-paste” a fast to be pleasing to God. Certainly, we can freely draw inspiration from certain fasts seen in the Bible or around us, while watching over our motivations.
It is essential to be attentive to the instructions of the Lord. To fast is to humble our soul before Him, in order to refocus on the essential. Moreover, fasting will always be to our advantage, because when we fast, although our outer being weakens, our inner man is renewed and strengthened.
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The different types of fasts
Fasting remains a powerful weapon for the Christian. It should be noted that there are several types of fasts:
- The young natural.
- The young partial.
- Total fasting.
- Collective fasting.
Natural fasting or normal fasting.
Natural fasting is the absence of any form of food or food. Natural fasting generally admits taking liquids such as water, juice or tea. According to some commentators, it is this type of fasting that Jesus practiced in the desert (Luke 4V2).
This type of fasting can be practiced when one wants to spend several days in the presence of God for specific subjects such as consecration, discovering his call, etc.
The partial fast is similar to that which was observed by Daniel:
Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the food of the king and with the wine the king drank, and he begged the chief eunuch not to force him to defile himself. (Daniel 1:8).
At that time, I Daniel, I was in mourning for three weeks. I ate no delicacies, neither meat nor wine entered my mouth, nor anointed myself until the three weeks were over. (Daniel 10:2-3)
This type of fasting does not exclude doing certain activities like going to work, etc. It can be practiced well for a long duration with specific spiritual goals.
It is the fact of depriving oneself not only of water or any other drink but also of food. It was this type of fast that Esther, the Nineveh people, etc. had practiced.
Go, gather all the Jews who are in Susa and fast for me, without eating or drinking for three days, neither night nor day. I too will fast in the same way with my servants, then I will enter the king (Esther 4:16).
The people of Nineveh believed in God. They proclaimed a fast and dressed themselves in sackcloth, from the largest to the smallest. The king of Nineveh down to the smallest. The king of Nineveh heard the news. He rose from his throne, took off his cloak, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down on the ashes. (Jonah 3:5-6).
Collective fasting .
Fasting can be individual but also collective. The collective fast is that organized by a group of Christians or the local church, a Nation, etc. The Israelites observed this type of fast according to the law of Moses (Isaiah 58). Likewise, the disciples fasted to commend the elders of the local church to God:
They appointed elders in each church and, after prayer and fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (Acts 14:23)
The Young Supernatural .
This is the type that Moses had known. He went 40 days without eating or drinking. Without divine power, it is impossible to go all this time without eating or drinking. It is therefore a supernatural fast. (Deuteronomy 19)
It is not enough to fast as a ritual but fasting must take us to another higher level in our walk with God. In other words, fruits must follow our fasting times.
10 Bible verses about fasting.
Esther 4:16 : Go, gather all the Jews who are in Susa and fast for me, without eating or drinking for three days, neither night nor day. I too will fast in the same way with my servants, then I will enter the king.
Psalms 35: And I, when they were sick, I put on sackcloth, I humbled my soul by fasting, I prayed, with my head bowed to my bosom.
Isaiah 58:5-6 : This is the fast in which I delight: Loosen the chains of wickedness, loosen the bonds of bondage, set the oppressed free, and break every yoke; divide your bread with those who are hungry, and bring the poor homeless into your house; if you see a naked man, cover him, and do not turn away from your fellow man.
Joel 2:12 : Wherefore now also, saith the Lord, turn unto Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
Jonah 3:5-6 The people of Nineveh believed in God, they published a fast and, whatever their social condition, they put on sackcloth clothes.
Matthew 3:6 Also, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad face, for they disfigure their faces, so that they appear to men to fast. Verily I tell you, they have their reward.
Matthew 6:18 You, on the other hand, if you want to fast, perfume your hair and wash your face so that no one notices that you are fasting. Let it be a secret between you and your Father who is there in the secret place. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 17:21 But this kind of demon comes out only by prayer and fasting.
Luke 18:12 : I fast twice a week, I tithe all my income.
Acts 14:23 : They appointed elders in each church, and after prayer and fasting committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.