What is fasting?
Unger’s Bible Dictionary explains that the word fast in the Bible is from the Hebrew word sum, meaning “to cover” the mouth, or from the Greek word nesteuo , meaning “to abstain.” For spiritual purposes, it means to go without eating and/or drinking (Esther 4:16) for a designated period of time. Fasting is a means self-denial by going without food for a period of time. Fasting may be total or partial — avoiding certain foods or eating smaller than normal quantities.
Why should we fast?
Jesus said he expected 4 things from you: He said his disciples would: LOVE, PRAY, GIVE AND FAST. In Matthew 6:16 we read: “and when you fast…” and in Mark 2:18-20, we read: – “now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to Him, “why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” (19) and Jesus said to them, “can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.”
It was assumed by Jesus that His disciples would fast.
Why don’t we? Well…we all have our excuses. Some don’t think they can do it…and some have tried and failed and so they never attempt it again. Most Christians, however, do not fast simply because they have never been taught HOW to fast properly. It is not preached from the pulpit as it was in days past and it’s not encouraged or suggested by Church leadership as a means to solve spiritual problems.
What are the types of fasts? There are as many ways to fast as there are to pray. One of the reasons people do not fast is there is the false idea that fasting means no food and no water or that it is no food and only water. This is wrong.
Types of fasts:
- Normal fast – going without food for a specified amount of time. You ingest only liquids (water and/or juice).
- The duration can be 1 day, 3 d, 1 week, etc.
- Drink different veggie/fruit juices
- Can cook broths. For ex – potatoes, carrots, celery, strain
- Absolute fast – no food or water at all – should be short. Moses, Elijah and Jesus did an absolute fast….but this will kill anyone without a supernatural intervention and you should test the spirit that tries to lead you in a prolonged absolute fast.
- Partial fast – one that omits certain foods or is on a schedule. Example is eating only vegetables.
- Rotational fast – eating or omitting certain families of foods for designated periods of time.
What are specific kinds of fasts?
Isaiah 58:6-8 says: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? (7) Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? (8) Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the lord shall be your rear guard.”
From these and other scriptures we see several types of fasts. We have given them arbitrary names so help show the sources and reasons for fasting:
- Disciples fast – Purpose: “to loose the bands of wickedness” – freeing ourselves and others from the addictions of sin.
- Scripture: Matthew 17:21 – “howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”
- Ezra fast – Purpose: “to undo heavy burdens” – to solve problems or overcome barriers.
- Scripture: Ezra 8:23 – “So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.”
- Samuel fast – Purpose: “to let the oppressed go free” – for revival and soul winning.
- Scripture: 1 Samuel 7:6 – “So they gathered at Mizpah 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 people of Israel at Mizpah.”
- Elijah fast – Purpose: “to break every yoke” – conquering mental and emotional problems that would control your life and returning the control to the Lord.
- Scripture: 1 Kings 19:4, 8 – “but he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “it is enough; now, o lord, take away my life, for i am no better than my fathers.” (8) and he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.”
- Apostle Paul fast – Purpose: “allow God’s light to break forth” – bring clear perspective and insight when making crucial decisions.
- Scripture: Acts 9:9 – “and for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.”
- Daniel fast – Purpose: “So thine health can spring forth” – to gain a healthier life.
- Scripture: Daniel 1:8 – “but Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.”
- John the Baptist fast – “That righteousness shall go before you” – that our testimony will be enhanced before others.
- Scripture: Luke 1:15 – “for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”
- Ester fast – Purpose: “That the glory of God will protect us from the evil one”.
- Scripture – Esther 4:16 – “go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then i will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if i perish, i perish.”
What are some practical steps to take in order to be successful in my fast?
- Take and medical conditions into consideration.
- Fast for a specific reason – what are your goals?
- Have a prayer partner – spouse, friend, pastor, etc
- Keep a journal
- Make very personal insights
- It helps to go back and review the lessons you were taught
- Don’t be distracted
- No cell phone…no internet surfing…no facebook….no emails (outside of obligations for work and service)
- No marital relations
- Lots of scripture and prayer – fasting is about worship
- You need a supportive family and environment.
- Sample schedule – depending on the type and kind of fast
- Pray ahead of time about type and kind…discuss with prayer partner
- Pick a time when you won’t be distracted and can devote yourself to God Consider sunset to sunrise or sundown to sunset; holy days-Easter; other Hebrew holy days
- Start small…maybe just one meal…or sunrise to sunset.
- At what would be your meal time – enter into a time of extended prayer about the issue of your fast…remember…you are fasting for a reason. Take notes in your journal.
- Read a book of the Bible and take notes in your journal
- Use the resource (free download): “Fasting For Spiritual Breakthrough Study Guide.” Take notes in your journal.
- Go on a prayer walk….but if on a long fast…don’t over-do it.
- Allow the Holy Spirit to guide you
What are the reasons for failure?
- No reason or goal: This is why most people fail. They set out to “fast” but have no specific purpose in mind. It is always more motivating when you know WHY you are exercising the flesh…if you have a goal.
- Not enough prayer or study of God’s word – not enough worship. Fasting is a spiritual discipline. You will fail at fasting if you fast just to fast. Prayer and the Word of God are an integral part of fasting. You CANNOT fast without them.
- You try to continue your normal routine: Fasting is abnormal…especially extended fasting. Fast on days when you know your schedule is light and there won’t be a lot of competing time.
- Unsupportive environment: We can fail because we do not have an environment conducive to fasting. The spiritual road-bumps get us distracted and we forget our goals. Sometimes you cannot eliminate all the distractions…but try!
For some practical guides, check out these links: