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Isa 58 Fasting(05)

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The Kind of Fasting that Pleases God
Isaiah 58:1-14:
True Fasting

   1 "Shout it aloud, do not hold back.

    Raise your voice like a trumpet.

    Declare to my people their rebellion

    and to the house of Jacob their sins.

    2 For day after day they seek me out;

    they seem eager to know my ways,

    as if they were a nation that does what is right

    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.

    They ask me for just decisions

    and seem eager for God to come near them.

    3 'Why have we fasted,' they say,

    'and you have not seen it?

    Why have we humbled ourselves,

    and you have not noticed?'


    "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please

    and exploit all your workers.

    4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,

    and in striking each other with wicked fists.

    You cannot fast as you do today

    and expect your voice to be heard on high.

    5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,

    only a day for a man to humble himself?

    Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed

    and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?

    Is that what you call a fast,

    a day acceptable to the LORD ?


    6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

    to loose the chains of injustice

    and untie the cords of the yoke,

    to set the oppressed free

    and break every yoke?

    7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry

    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-

    when you see the naked, to clothe him,

    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

    8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

    and your healing will quickly appear;

    then your righteousness [a] will go before you,

    and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

    9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;

    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.


    "If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

    10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

    then your light will rise in the darkness,

    and your night will become like the noonday.

    11 The LORD will guide you always;

    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

    and will strengthen your frame.

    You will be like a well-watered garden,

    like a spring whose waters never fail.

    12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

    and will raise up the age-old foundations;

    you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.


    13 "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath

    and from doing as you please on my holy day,

    if you call the Sabbath a delight

    and the LORD's holy day honorable,

    and if you honor it by not going your own way

    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

    14 then you will find your joy in the LORD ,

    and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land

    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob."

    The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

I have always had mixed feelings about fasting…

Talking to a Mennonite fellowship about fasting

       Is like talking about dying of thirst

       To a camel in the desert.

We just love food!

       Wereneckje & Farma Wurscht,

       Home made Chicken noodle soup,


       And those church pot-luck lunches…

Just thinking about all that food makes me want to

       Quit my sermon and head for pizza hut right now.

Mennonites and Food –

       We’re like a match made in heaven…

       And many of us have that spare tire around the waist

       To give testimony to that truth.

So, how do we talk about the biblical teaching on fasting

in a “satisfying” way?

Well, lets take a closer look at today’s topic.

From the standpoint of the Bible,

fasting is abstaining from food & drink,

to focus on a period of spiritual growth.

Fasting is not some kind of a "work" or “test of discipleship”

That Jesus has commanded

Or that is required by God in the Scriptures.

Fasting, however, can be a helpful spiritual discipline

       That makes us receptive to the movement of God’s Spirit.

The Book of Acts records that the believers fasting

before they made important decisions (Acts 13:4; 14:23). Fasting and prayer are often linked together (Luke 2:37; 5:33).

Too often, the focus of fasting is on abstaining from food.

However, the purpose of fasting

is to shift the focus of our desires and needs

away from the things of this world,

and to focus instead on God.

When we fast, we make a declaration to God

       That we want to take our relationship with him seriously.

Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God and to ourselves that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Although fasting in Scripture is almost always a fasting from food, there are other ways to fast. Anything you can temporarily give up in order to better focus on God can be considered a fast (1Corinthinas 7:1-5). Fasting should be limited to a set time, especially when the fasting is from food. Extended periods of time without eating are harmful to the body. Fasting is not intended to punish our flesh, but to focus on God.

Fasting should not be considered a "dieting method" either. We shouldn't fast to lose weight, but rather to gain deeper fellowship with God. Yes, anyone can fast. Some may not be able to fast from food (diabetics, for example), but everyone can temporarily give up something in order to focus on God. Even unplugging the television for a period of time can be an effective fast.

Yes, it's a good idea for believers to fast from time to time. Fasting is not required in Scripture, but it's highly recommended. The only Biblical reason to fast is to develop a closer walk with God. By taking our eyes off the things of this world, we can focus better on Christ. "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:16-18).

Christian Fasting - A Lifestyle of Servant Living
Christian fasting is more than denying ourselves food or something else of the flesh - it's a sacrificial lifestyle before God. In Isaiah 58, we learn what a "true fast" is. It's not just a one-time act of humility and denial before God, it's a lifestyle of servant ministry to others. As Isaiah tells us, fasting encourages humility, loosens the chains of injustice, unties the chords of the yoke, frees the oppressed, feeds the hungry, provides for the poor, and clothes the naked. This concept of fasting isn't a one day thing - it's a lifestyle of servant living for God and others.

"Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' (Isaiah 58:8-9)

Fasting has been out of vogue for at least 150 years. In the twentieth century church, the idea seems alien to us. God's Word assumes that fasting will be a regular part of a Christian's life. Yet for most of us, it's not. If we were to make a study of fasting in the Bible most of us would find ourselves very challenged about this neglected area of Christian discipline. I'd like to encourage you to do something about that problem. But before I make that challenge I want to talk to you about what fasting really is, some Biblical principles on fasting, and some of the appropriate occasions for fasting according to the Scripture.

| !! A Word About God's Provision of Food


I don't know if you ever thought much about a Biblical perspective on food. 'Why did God give us food?' 'How are we to think about food?' 'Can we enjoy eating?' The Bible gives us answers to these questions. According to the Scripture, food is given to us as a gift from God for four reasons. Food is given to us for:

Enjoyment -- The variety of tastes found in creation is not an accident. God gave us such a wide variety of eatable types of food and a highly developed taste system, so that man would find pleasure in eating. Sometimes Christians, especially when we have been raised in more legalistic churches, have a hard time believing that we are allowed to enjoy anything! But we are! Food is meant to be a source of joy (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25; 5:18). And so are a lot of other things in God's creation. We are allowed to enjoy our food.

Sustenance -- Even in the garden of Eden, Adam needed food to sustain his life and give him energy to do the tasks God had assigned him. Plants were given to Adam and Eve for this purpose: Genesis 1:30. Later on animals were given for the same purpose: Genesis 9:3. Both plants and animals are God's provision for our nourishment.

Fellowship -- Genesis 18:1-8 gives us one of the first examples of fellowship and food. All through the Old Testament the people of God came together for fellowship over food. God made food for fellowship. He even commanded that some of the sacrifices offered to Him at the temple were to be shared with others. These were communal meals -- meals in which the whole community sat down and ate together (see Deuteronomy 12:6,7,18). Families still find a resource of love, fellowship, discussion, and understanding when they come together to eat.

In fact, in my childhood home, the dining table was one of the few times that we were all together as a family. The meal became a focal point for conversation, communication, discussion and teaching in our household. That's the way God intended it.

The Family of Christ still breaks bread together in the Lord's Supper and one of the purposes of the Eucharist is for fellowship (1 Corinthians 10:17). In Revelation 3:20 Jesus Christ's fellowship with believers is described as a meal. And at Christ's second coming we all get invited to a banquet (Revelation 19:9)! Food was made by God to bring us together.

Worship -- Food also is a source of worship. We should be very conscious of the fact that food is a gift from God (Matthew 6:11 & 1 Timothy 4:3b-4). In fact, Paul says that every bit of food "should be received with thanksgiving" (1 Timothy 4:3). Hence, every meal becomes an occasion for thanksgiving. When we put food to our mouths at the beginning of the meal (Acts 27:35) and when we sit back in our chair with satisfaction (Deuteronomy 8:10), our natural reaction should be Godward gratitude. According to the Bible food was created to be a source of thanksgiving and worship.

The Bible tells us that food was given for four reasons. God has created food for the purpose of enjoyment, sustenance, fellowship, and worship. Yet God also has a place for fasting in our lives. But before we find out where that place is, let's see exactly what the Bible means when it talks about "fasting".

| !! What Biblical Fasting is Not


Some people take even the most pure of religious exercises and twist it to their own ends. Fasting is one of those religious acts which people have often misunderstood and misused. So let's be sure that we are clear on what Biblical fasting is not:

(1) A Physical or Psychological Discipline -- God never tells people to fast as a purely physical discipline, i.e. dieting for the purpose of making the body beautiful or for some other physical benefit. I'm not saying that dieting is wrong -- only that this is not found in the Bible. Dieting may or may not be helpful to you personally, but the Bible never encourages "fasting" for that reason alone. When the Bible uses the term "fasting" it has spiritual goals in mind -- something very different than Weight Watchers or Low Carb diets.

As a side comment, let me add that you need to be careful of using Biblical fasting as a spiritual smoke screen for problems such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia. In the case of bulimia, fasting was never meant as a preparation (or a penance) for gluttony. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia are usually evidences of deeper emotional needs which can be met through the help of a competent Christian counselor. Don't "spiritualize" what is really a need for emotional healing. Seek help from those who care.

Of course, I am not denying that fasting can have physical and psychological benefits. At age 34 I began putting on weight around the middle. I grew 20 pounds in one year. Since I have been fasting on a regular basis the weight gain has stopped and I feel and look better. But I don't fast to keep my weight down. I fast to seek God.

Additionally, many Christians testify to possessing a greater amount of discipline in their lives once they began fasting on a regular basis. The discipline of conquering the desire to eat transfers over to other areas. This is a helpful by-product of fasting, but should not be an end in itself. God never encourages fasting for solely discipline or self-denial reasons. Many of the monks and spiritual hermits of days-gone-by used fasting in this manner. But that is not a Biblical reason for fasting. God has a higher purpose in mind for fasting.

(2) A Manipulative Tool -- Sometimes fasting is viewed as an attempt to twist God's arm or to win His approval. But God doesn't respond to pressure. One group of people in the book of Acts tried to get God on their side by manipulative fasting: "In the morning some of the Jews made a plan to kill Paul, and they took an oath not to eat or drink anything until they had killed him. They went to the leading priests and the older Jewish leaders and said, 'We have taken an oath not to eat or drink until we have killed Paul'" (Acts 23:12,14). But God did not hear their prayer and their plan did not work.

Using fasting in a manipulative way was done by the people in Jeremiah's day too. God said, "Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burn offerings and grain offering, I will not accept them. I will destroy them with the sword, famine, and plague" (Jeremiah 14:12). Fasting didn't move God one iota.

We must never think of fasting as a hunger strike designed to force God's hand and get our own way! We don't need to strong arm God. God is good (Psalm 119:8) and eager to answer our prayers. He is generous (James 1:5) and eager to give us 'good things' (Matthew 7:11). Don't use fasting to try to push God into a corner. Maybe God would rather let you starve and join Him in heaven!

(3) A Hypocritical Religious Exercise -- By Jesus' time fasting had become a very important part of the Jewish life. Perhaps overly important would be a better way of saying it. Based on Luke 18:12a, we know the Pharisees fasted twice a week. The Talmud tells us that this was on the 2nd and 5th day (Monday and Thursday). Why those days? According to the Pharisees it was because Moses went up on Mt. Sinai to get the Law on the 5th day and returned on the 2nd. At least that's what they said.

But if you look closely into Jewish history, you find another possible reason for the Pharisees fasting on Monday and Thursday. Market day in the city of Jerusalem was on the 2nd and 5th day! Everyone from the countryside came to town on those days. It was on these two days that the Pharisees chose to hold their fasts. They would walk through the streets with their hair disheveled; they would put on old clothes and cover themselves with dirt; they would cover their faces with white chalk in order to look pale; and they would dump ashes over their head as a sign of their humility!! Fasting had become a "look-at-how-spiritual-I-am" exercise. It was a hypocrisy.

Biblical fasting is not hypocrisy. It is not a manipulative tool. It is not a physical discipline.

| !! What Biblical Fasting Is


First of all, let's look at the root word which is used for "fasting." The Greek word for fasting is nesteia -- a compound of ne (a negative prefix) and esthio which means "to eat." So the basic root meaning of the word simply means "not to eat."

But what does this "not eating" food mean? Why did people in the Bible "not eat?" We find a clue in Leviticus 16:29. This verse says that fasting is synonymous with "afflicting one's soul." We gain some insight here about how the Hebrews viewed fasting. Fasting is more than just "afflicting one's body". It is "afflicting one's soul." In other words, fasting in the Hebrew mind is something my soul participates in. Fasting is denying my self. It is denying not only my own body, but also my own wants. It is a way of saying that food and my desires are secondary to something else. Fasting is "afflicting one's soul" -- an act of self-denial. But it is not only an act of self-denial and here is where the monks and hermits went wrong.

Biblical fasting is "not eating" with spiritual communication in mind. How do we know this? Because Biblical fasting always occurs together with prayer in the Bible - ALWAYS. You can pray without fasting, but you cannot fast (Biblically speaking) without praying. Biblical fasting is deliberately abstaining from food for a spiritual reason: communication and relationship with the Father.

| !! Types of Fasting


Let's take a look at the different types of fasting in the Bible, because I don't want you to feel overwhelmed by the thought of going without food for days and days. There are types of fasting that don't involve such a radical commitment. The Bible gives examples of many different kinds of fasting. (The terms "normal fast," "partial fast," and "radical fast" which appear below are not Biblical terms. They are entirely of my own making and simply a way to categorize the different fasts we see in the Bible.)

The Normal Fast: There are very few rules when it comes to fasting. What you do is really between you and the Lord. There is only one fast command in the Bible and that was the fast on the Day of Atonement. This fast was from sunset of one day to sunset of the next (Leviticus 16:29;23:32). Since, people usually don't eat during the night that makes the fast fairly easy, since you can eat again in the evening before retiring to bed. According to the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: "The rabbis ruled that one could not eat a quantity as large as a date on this day...According to the Mishna, Yoma 8:1, on the Day of Atonement it is forbidden to eat, or drink, or bathe, or anoint oneself, or wear sandals, or to indulge in conjugal intercourse" (Zondervan Encyclopedia, vol 2, 502). Of course, this direction is not from the Bible, but perhaps we can look at that as a template for a "normal fast." So in this type of fast the person abstained from food and liquid for a period of one day (from sunset to sunset). This is a normal fast.

The Partial Fast: In this type of fast, the emphasis is placed on restriction of diet, rather than abstaining completely from eating. Examples are: Daniel, Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego eating only vegetables and drinking only water (Daniel 1:15) and later on when Daniel alone practiced a limited diet for three weeks (Daniel 10:3). Some people would argue that this isn't really a fast at all, but Daniel 10:3 does use the word "mourned" which is a Biblical occasion for fasting (see below) and a common synonym for fasting.

The Radical Fast: This type of fast is one in which the person refrains from both food and water OR simply food (but not water) for an extended period of time. A radical fast can be harmful to your health and in most cases should not exceed three days. An example of a radical fast can be found with Esther and her household. Esther decided to fast for three days abstaining from both "food and water" both "day and night" (Esther 4:15-16). The rabbi Ezra and the apostle Paul also went without food and water for three days (Ezra 10:6-9; Acts 9:9). David is another example of a radical fast. He went seven days without food (but probably with liquid) as a plea to God to save the life of his child (2 Samuel 12:15-20). Fasts that extend beyond three or seven days can be found in the Bible, but these exceptions were based upon direct guidance from God or a supernatural ability given by God to complete the fast. Examples of these extreme fasts are: Moses (Deuteronomy 9:9-18 and Exodus 34:28); Elijah (1 Kings 19:8); and Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11).

| !! Why Fast?


God said, "When you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by you" (Jeremiah 29:13,14). When a man or woman is willing to set aside the legitimate appetites of the body to concentrate on the work of praying, they are demonstrating that they mean business, that they are seeking God with all their heart.

Fasting is an expression of wholeheartedness. This is clear from Joel's call to the nation of Israel: "Yet even now," says the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting. . ." (Joel 2:12).

Andrew Murray said, "Fasting helps to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything - to sacrifice ourselves - to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God."

How do you know when to pray and fast and when to just pray? That is not a question that someone else can always answer for you. But here is a principle: In God's word we always find fasting connected with a very troubled spirit or a very anxious heart before the Lord. So a reason for fasting is not something you choose on the spur of the moment. Rather the reason is a consuming one. In a sense, it's not something you choose, so much as something that chooses you, because it's that important.

So why fast? To demonstrate that we are seeking God "with all our heart." Fasting puts things in proper focus. It is a physical way of saying, "Food and the things of this life are not as important to me now as (fill in the blank) ."

Of course, denying yourself food to focus on God and His program shows humility. That is why fasting is also the equivalent of the phrase "to humble oneself before the Lord" (Psalm 35:13; 1 Kings 21:29; Ezra 8:21). When a person is really concerned about the things of God, he will humble himself. There will be times when he will abstain from the enjoyment of food to continue concentration and focus on that which is important to God.

| !! Some Biblical Principles on Fasting


Fasting is Assumed by the New Testament: When Jesus spoke about fasting, he didn't say if you fast, but "when you fast" (Matthew 6:16). Our Lord assumes that Christians will fast. And from the rest of the books in the New Testament we know that they did.

There once was an inappropriate time for fasting though: when our Lord was here on earth. During that time Jesus' disciples never fasted and that seemed unusual to the religious leaders and John the Baptist's friends. "Then the followers of John came to Jesus and said, 'Why do we and the Pharisees often fast for a certain time, but your followers don't?' Jesus answered, 'The friends of the bridegroom are not sad while he is with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and then they will fast.'" (Matthew 9:14-15).

Now Jesus is no longer physically present with us. He will not be until His second coming. So until the rapture, our Lord knows there will be times when fasting is an appropriate response. He is not here and because of that there will be spiritual struggle, and tribulation, and a need to fast.

The Occasion for a Fast is Voluntary: Fasting was looked upon as a very great virtue in the early church. In fact, they thought so highly of fasting that they inserted the term "fasting" into the Biblical text even though it wasn't in the original manuscripts (check various translations or margin notes for Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29; Acts 10:30; 1 Corinthians 7:5)! This emphasis upon fasting also caused them to do the very thing the Pharisees had done, which was to prescribe certain set times for fasting: twice a week on Wednesday and Friday!

We need to be careful to avoid pitfalls of legalism like this. Surprisingly, a particular day for fasting was commanded in Scripture only once -- on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). The fast on the Day of Atonement was connected with a deep mournful spirit in confessing sin. Now in the New Covenant, Jesus Christ has become our atonement offering, so we no longer even need to observe the Leviticus 16 Day of Atonement! In all the rest of the Bible there are no other Scriptures which command fasting at a specific time or on a specific occasion! None!

So when should a Christian fast? When he or she feels the Spirit of God leading them to fast. The occasion for fasting is a totally voluntary decision. Some of the specific times when people in the Bible fasted are listed in the next section. But basically we can say a Christian may decide to fast whenever there is a spiritual concern or struggle in his or her life. Of course, there may be times when those in authority over us proclaim a fast, as was done by King Saul (1 Samuel 14:24) or Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:3). But normally and ultimately that decision is solely between us and the Lord.

The Length of a Fast is Voluntary: When we were looking at a "normal fast" (see above) we noted that a fast was usually for one day. In addition to the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:32) you can see examples of one day fasts in Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 14:24; 2 Samuel 1:12; and 2 Samuel 3:35. The Jewish day was counted from sunset to sunset, so this meant that the fast would be broken (that is, food could be eaten) after sundown. However, some fasts were longer. The fast of Esther continued 3 days, both day and night. At the burial of Saul the fast was seven days (1 Samuel 31:13) and David also fasted seven days when his child was ill (2 Samuel 12:16-18). The longest fasts we find in the Bible are for forty days: Moses (3 times -- Deuteronomy 9:9,18; Exodus 34:28), Elijah (once -- 1 Kings 19:8), and Jesus (once -- Matthew 4:2). The Biblical principle here is that the length of time you fast is determined by your own desires and the occasion or purpose of the fast. The duration can be that which the individual or group feels led to set. There is a great deal of freedom in the Lord here. However, the more common practice of a "normal fast" appears to be one day.

How You Spend Your Time While Fasting is a Personal Decision Too: My ideas about fasting were shaped more by the world and what I saw in the media than by God's Word. So I grew up with the idea that fasting was something done by cloistered monks in prayer cells, hermits in caves, and very spiritual people on sacred retreats. But that's not the way the Bible thinks about fasting. In the Bible, fasting often occurs as something you do while carrying on your everyday activities!

Matthew 6:16-18 demonstrates this, since Jesus pictures a situation in which Christians are among other people going about their normal duties and activities. In fact, soldiers involved in the activity of warfare sometimes fasted (1 Samuel 14:24) as well as the sailors on the ship with Paul (Acts 27:33). There is a certain sense in which fasting, even in the midst of your daily activities, becomes a constant prayer to the Lord. And in the actual experience of fasting, a periodic pang of hunger can become a good reminder to send up a short "arrow prayer" for the particular thing about which you are fasting.

What a marvelous freedom God gives us in the area of fasting. Jesus assumes that we will fast, yet he leaves the choice of when to fast, the length of our fast, and the decision of how we will spend our time while fasting completely up to us!

Fasting Does Not Negate Our Responsibility to be Obedient to God: We cannot fast and pray expecting God to bless when there is known sin in our lives. Fasting does not impress God with our spirituality to the point that he ignores our disobedience. On the contrary, genuine fasting will always cause us to examine our hearts to make sure everything is right with Him.

The people of Isaiah's day thought that they could fast in disobedience and God would hear them. But God said, "on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high". (Isaiah 58:3b-4).

| !! Occasions for Fasting


'When is it appropriate to fast?' 'What types of situations should induce a fast?' 'What is a good Biblical reason for going without food?' The Bible has answers to those questions. We find seven occasions when the people of God fasted. God's people fasted in these situations:

Mourning someone's death: We see fasting and mourning connected in 1 Samuel 31:13; 1 Chronicles 10:12; 2 Samuel 1:12; and 2 Samuel 3:35. In these situations fasting showed the sorrow that the people felt over the loss of someone God used in their lives. In fact, the custom of fasting in mourning was considered normal behavior among the Israelites. That's why the servants of David were so astonished when David got up and ate following the death of his son: "David's servants said to him, 'Why are you doing this? When the baby was still alive, you refused to eat and you cried. Now that the baby is dead, you get up and eat food?!'" (2 Samuel 12:21).

When someone experiences the loss of a close friend or relative, they usually don't feel like eating. This is a normal, natural reaction in the initial stages of grief. It is a perfectly good reason to fast.

Mourning sin, i.e. in repentance and confession: Examples of this are found in Deuteronomy 9:18; 1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Kings 21:27; Ezra 10:6; Jonah 3:5; and Acts 9:3-9. When people wished to demonstrate that they were serious about repenting from their sin, they fasted. Our willingness to sacrifice shows the depth of our commitment and in this case fasting is a pictorial way of saying to the Lord, "I care more about getting right with You, God, than I do about even my own life." So a good occasion for fasting is when we are truly grieving over our sins.

A situation of impending danger; for protection: There are occasions when death or danger threaten us. We see from the Scripture that it is certainly appropriate to employ fasting as a means of receiving God's protection during these times. When Ezra was carrying a large consignment of gold and silver to the temple in Jerusalem along a route infested with bandits, he records: "I proclaimed a fast...that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a straight way for ourselves, our children, and all our goods" (Ezra 8:21,23,31). Other examples of fasting for protection are found in Jeremiah 36:9 and Esther 4:3.

Direction: Fasting helps us find God's will. If we expect God to reveal his direction for our lives, we must put Him first. Often this means putting aside the fulfillment of our physical appetites, so that we can focus our attention on Him.

We find an example of fasting for direction in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30. Three nations were coming against Judah to destroy them. King Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, proclaimed a fast for the whole nation and they asked the Lord what they should do. God heard their prayer and their fast and gave the people prophetic direction through one of the choir members! God told them what to do.

Acts 13:2 is another example of direction being given by God during a fast. Here we find the leaders of the church of Antioch worshipping and fasting. The Holy Spirit used this occasion to tell the church leaders to choose Paul and Barnabas from among their group and send them out to spread the gospel among the Gentiles. So fasting is one of the ways we seek God's guidance and direction in our lives.

Sickness: There are two examples in Scripture of fasting on behalf of those who are sick: 2 Samuel 12:15-23; Psalm 35:13. Both of these examples come from the life of David. In Psalm 35:13 David says, "Yet when they were sick, I put on clothes of sadness and showed my sorrow by going without food." David saw fasting as a way to ask God for physical healing in the lives of other people.

The ordination of missionaries or church leaders: Fasting appears to have been a regular part of the ordination of church leaders and missionaries. We have already looked at Acts 13, the calling of Paul and Barnabas for missionary service. Verse 3 tells us that after they received this direction from the Lord, then they ordained them for missionary service by prayer, fasting and laying their hands upon them.

We find the same thing later on in the book of Acts -- Paul and Barnabas fasted at the selection of the first elders for the new churches they planted (Acts 14:23). It would appear that fasting in these cases is a way of seriously seeking God's blessing, anointing, and power upon the leaders of the church.

Special revelation: The final occasion for fasting is for special revelation. Exceptional insights from God were sometimes given to the prophets and others during periods of fasting. Daniel sought God with fasting to ask God to fulfill His promise to restore Jerusalem (see Daniel 9:9,18 and compare with Jeremiah 29:10-13). He received through the angel Gabriel a wonderful unfolding of God's plan for Israel. If we have sought God in vain for the fulfillment of some promise, it could be that He is waiting for us to humble ourselves by fasting and seek Him as Daniel did.

Other examples of prophetic revelation during times of fasting are found in Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9,18; and Daniel 10:1-3. God decided to speak to these men while they were in the midst of a fast. For those seeking prophetic guidance or revelation today, God may also use the occasion of fasting to speak to them in a very unique way.

| !! What Will Be Your Response?


As we look at the Bible it becomes evident that fasting was practiced more often than Christians usually practice it today. In fact, among most American Christians fasting is entirely neglected. I want to challenge you today to begin the practice of fasting. If you accept the challenge of God's Word to fast, I would like to provide some guidelines for you as you begin to make this a more regular part of your Christian life. The Lord will reward your efforts at fasting. Here are some individual guidelines for fasting:

1.  Reach a personal conviction on the subject through careful Bible study. -- Get into the Word on your own. See what the Bible really says about fasting. Check the things that have been said here, read the Scripture references listed in this article and the ones listed below, and go deeper.

2.  A physician's note: Make sure you are medically able to fast before attempting it. Some brothers and sisters that I know can only do a one-day partial fast. They drink different types of juice, but take no food or other liquid. God knows and understands their medical condition and does not expect them to harm their "temple" (1 Corinthians 6:19) in order to be spiritual. There are no rigid standards about fasting in the Bible that say you must do this or that.

3.  Begin with short fasts and gradually move to larger periods of time if you desire. If you've never fasted before, you need to start slow. Don't start with a three day fast!

4.  Be prepared for some dizziness, headache, or nausea in the early going. Most of our bodies have never gone without food for longer than a few hours.

5.  Break a prolonged fast gradually with meals that are light and easy to digest. Trying to gorge yourself following a fast will only make you sick and will leave you with an unpleasant memory of fasting.

6.  Enter with a positive faith that God will reward those who fast with the right motives. - Jesus gave this promise: "When you fast, your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:18).

7.  Sometime during your fast, mix your fast with prayer, time in Scripture reading, singing, or devotional reading. Remember: fasting is not an end in itself. Seek the Lord, not the experience of fasting.

8.  Keep checking your motives concerning your fasts. Hypocrisy and spiritual pride can easily creep in. There is a reward for fasting, but only fasting done with the right motives (Matthew 23:28).


Ezra 8:21-23; 10:6 Nehemiah 1:4Esther 4:16Job 33:19,20Psalm 69:10; 102:4Isaiah 58:6Daniel 9:3,20-23; 10:3Joel 2:15 Exodus 34:28 Deuteronomy 9:9,182 Samuel 12:16,17Matthew 4:2; 6:16; 9:15Acts 13:3; 14:231 Corinthians 7:52 Corinthians 11:27,28Jonah 3:5,10

Copyright 2004 by Dennis Rupert.
Permission is granted to distribute to others, but not for commercial purposes.[1]

Announcement in the church bulletin for a National Prayer and Fasting Conference … “The cost for attending the Fasting and Prayer Conference includes meals.”


Fast — The sole fast required by the law of Moses was that of the great Day of Atonement (q.v.), Lev. 23:26–32. It is called “the fast” (Acts 27:9).

The only other mention of a periodical fast in the Old Testament is in Zech. 7:1–7; 8:19, from which it appears that during their captivity the Jews observed four annual fasts.

(1.) The fast of the fourth month, kept on the seventeenth day of Tammuz, the anniversary of the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans; to commemorate also the incident recorded Ex. 32:19. (Comp. Jer. 52:6, 7.)

(2.) The fast of the fifth month, kept on the ninth of Ab (comp. Num. 14:27), to commemorate the burning of the city and temple (Jer. 52:12, 13).

(3.) The fast of the seventh month, kept on the third of Tisri (comp. 2 Kings 25), the anniversary of the murder of Gedaliah (Jer. 41:1, 2).

(4.) The fast of the tenth month (comp. Jer. 52:4; Ezek. 33:21; 2 Kings 25:1), to commemorate the beginning of the siege of the holy city by Nebuchadnezzar.

There was in addition to these the fast appointed by Esther (4:16).

Public national fasts on account of sin or to supplicate divine favour were sometimes held. (1.) 1 Sam. 7:6; (2.) 2 Chr. 20:3; (3.) Jer. 36:6–10; (4.) Neh. 9:1.

There were also local fasts. (1.) Judg. 20:26; (2.) 2 Sam. 1:12; (3.) 1 Sam. 31:13; (4.) 1 Kings 21:9–12; (5.) Ezra 8:21–23: (6.) Jonah 3:5–9.

There are many instances of private occasional fasting (1 Sam. 1:7; 20:34; 2 Sam. 3:35; 12:16; 1 Kings 21:27; Ezra 10:6; Neh. 1:4; Dan. 10:2,3). Moses fasted forty days (Ex. 24:18; 34:28), and so also did Elijah (1 Kings 19:8). Our Lord fasted forty days in the wilderness (Matt. 4:2).

In the lapse of time the practice of fasting was lamentably abused (Isa. 58:4; Jer. 14:12; Zech. 7:5). Our Lord rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocritical pretences in fasting (Matt. 6:16). He himself appointed no fast. The early Christians, however, observed the ordinary fasts according to the law of their fathers (Acts 13:3; 14:23; 2 Cor. 6:5). [3]


Abstinence from ingestion of food for a period of time; seen throughout the Old Testament but specified under the law only for the Day of Atonement (q.v.); Lev. 16:29–30; in the New Testament the legalistic fast of the Jewish leaders were condemned by Jesus Mt. 6:16, who fasted in the wilderness, although perhaps out of necessity; seen in the book of Acts, for example, at crucial times of decision making, e.g. 13:2–3; not specifically enjoined for believers today; Zech. 7:2.[4]

  F. Ezra’s proclamation of a fast seeking the Lord’s protection 8:21–23


Zechariah Justice and Mercy, Not Fasting

7     In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev. 2 The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech, together with their men, to entreat the LORD 3 by asking the priests of the house of the LORD Almighty and the prophets, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”

4 Then the word of the LORD Almighty came to me: 5 “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted? 6 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? 7 Are these not the words the LORD proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?’”

8 And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah: 9 “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.’

11 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry.

13 ”‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the LORD Almighty. 14 ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land was left so desolate behind them that no one could come or go. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.’”

The Lord Promises to Bless Jerusalem

8     Again the word of the LORD Almighty came to me. 2 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.”

3 This is what the LORD says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.”

4 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. 5 The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.”

6 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” declares the LORD Almighty.

7 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. 8 I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God.”

9 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “You who now hear these words spoken by the prophets who were there when the foundation was laid for the house of the LORD Almighty, let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built. 10 Before that time there were no wages for man or beast. No one could go about his business safely because of his enemy, for I had turned every man against his neighbor. 11 But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past,” declares the LORD Almighty.

12 “The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people. 13 As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.”

14 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Just as I had determined to bring disaster upon you and showed no pity when your fathers angered me,” says the LORD Almighty, 15 “so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid. 16 These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; 17 do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the LORD.

18 Again the word of the LORD Almighty came to me. 19 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”

20 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him.”

23 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’” [6]

1:1-11, Nehemiah’s Response to the Destruction of Jerusalem’s Walls.

In November/December (the Jewish month Chislev) of 445 b.c. (the twentieth year of Artaxerxes I), Nehemiah, who lived in Susa, one of the three capitals of the Persian Empire, received a discouraging report about the physical condition of Jerusalem (→ Shushan; Persia). Hanani, who delivered the report, was a brother of Nehemiah.

Nehemiah engaged in various acts of sorrow (weeping, mourning, and fasting), during which he confessed his own sin and that of the people. According to the kind of retributive theology characteristic of Deuteronomistic thought, sin was the moral cause of the Exile and of the dismal state of affairs in Jerusalem. The formulaic list in v. 7 does not allow us to identify the specific sins he may have had in mind. Verses 8-9 are a loose paraphrase of Deut. 30:1-5. Nehemiah identified the people in Jerusalem as heirs of the original group that experienced God’s redemption in the military acts of the Exodus (Neh. 1:10; cf. Deut. 9:29). He prayed that God would remember the promise revealed to Moses and bring about the restoration that was supposed to follow acts of repentance.

In addition, Nehemiah appealed to the Lord to pay attention to the prayer of himself and the people—whose obedience and dedication to God are indicated by the term “servants” (Neh. 1:6, 10)—and to give him a favorable response from “this man” (i.e., Artaxerxes I).

A cupbearer tasted the king’s wine to thwart assassination attempts and also guarded the royal living quarters. Some Septuagint manuscripts identify Nehemiah as a eunuch instead of a butler, but this is probably only a confusion in the Greek text and not a reflection of the Hebrew. Nehemiah’s opponents would have used his condition as a eunuch to disqualify him for leadership in the community (cf. Deut. 23:1) if he had in fact been castrated.[7]

Esther 4:1-3, Mordecai Hears the News.

Mordecai’s reaction to the threat of genocide against the Jews is not dismay at what damage his principles have done to his people, but a public protest (“at the king’s gate”) at the injustice that now has royal assent. Mirroring Mordecai’s public response is the more private and religious response of the less powerful Jews throughout the empire; though God is not mentioned in the book, their fasting is a sign of their religious commitment (→ Fasting; Sackcloth).[8]

fasting, abstention from food. In the ot there are two kinds of fasting, public and private. Public fasts were periodically proclaimed (2 Chron. 20:3; Ezra 8:21-23; Neh. 1:4-11; Jer. 36:9). The fasts were always accompanied by prayer and supplication and frequently by wearing sackcloth as a sign of penance and mourning (Neh. 9:1; Dan. 9:3; 1 Macc. 3:47). In the tragic days surrounding the fall of Jerusalem, four fast days were proclaimed (Zech. 7:5; 8:19). ‘Humbling or afflicting oneself,’ synonymous with ‘fasting,’ is required on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:31-34). Public fasts ordinarily lasted a day, and offerings of various sorts were made (Lev. 16:1-5; Judg. 20:26; Jer. 14:11-12). The prophetic writings contain strong warnings against abusing the fasting rituals (Isa. 58:1-9; Jer. 14:11-12; Zech. 7:3-5; 8:18-19). The prophet Joel, however, unhesitatingly calls for a public fast and communal lamentation (Joel 1:8-2:17). Private fasts were observed as acts of penance (2 Sam. 12:15-23; 1 Kings 21:27; Ps. 69:1-15), when others became sick (Ps. 35:13-14), and when one was accused and scorned (Ps. 109:4-21).

In the nt Jesus stresses that there should be joy in fasting (Matt. 6:16-18; cf. Zech. 8:19), and he fasted at the outset of his ministry (Matt. 4:2). He does not, however, enjoin his disciples to fast as did John the Baptist (Mark 2:18-20). Later textual tradition adds ‘and fasting’ to Jesus’ assertion that certain kinds of demons could not be ‘driven out by anything but prayer’ (Mark 9:29). In the early church fasting accompanied prayer prior to the consecration of teachers and elders (Acts 13:2-3; 14:23) and during times of severe trial (Acts 27:1-38).     J.G.G. [9]

True Fasting

58     “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.

Isaiah 58

Raise your voice like a trumpet.

Declare to my people their rebellion

and to the house of Jacob their sins.

2 For day after day they seek me out;

they seem eager to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that does what is right

and has not forsaken the commands of its God.

They ask me for just decisions

and seem eager for God to come near them.

3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,

‘and you have not seen it?

Why have we humbled ourselves,

and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please

and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,

and in striking each other with wicked fists.

You cannot fast as you do today

and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,

only a day for a man to humble himself?

Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed

and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?

Is that what you call a fast,

a day acceptable to the LORD?

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice

and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free

and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry

and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe him,

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,

and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness a will go

before you,

and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;

you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always;

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath

and from doing as you please on my holy day,

if you call the Sabbath a delight

and the LORD’s holy day honorable,

and if you honor it by not going your own way

and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,

and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land

and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

The mouth of the LORD has spoken. [10]

Matthew 6

6:1-18, The Deeds of Righteousness.

The synagogue across the street had its own list of deeds of righteousness (almsgiving, prayer, and fasting). Matthew provides his community with the same list, but in each case the pious deed is radicalized. In this systematized form they are clearly due to Matthew. How much of the substance goes back to Jesus? On the one hand, the teaching on fasting seems to contradict Mark 2:19a. On the other hand, the picturesquely hyperbolic imagery of each of the injunctions, including that on fasting, seems characteristic of Jesus. Certainly we can accept all three injunctions as the result of his teaching. In any case, the original nucleus of the Lord’s Prayer (→ Lord’s Prayer, The) is authentic to Jesus (see commentary below on 6:9-15). Probably Matthew took over the three items from a written source (where they already appeared in verse form), prefaced it with an introduction that is in prose form (6:1), and inserted the Lord’s Prayer (6:9-15). 6:1, Introduction. The better righteousness includes for Matthew not only a radicalization of the Decalogue and Holiness Code but also of the Jewish rules of piety that go beyond the Torah.6:2-4, Almsgiving. All three rules are radicalized in contrast to the behavior of the “hypocrites,” i.e., the synagogue across the street. In Greek, “hypocrite” is a neutral term meaning “actor,” one who plays a role wearing a mask. Here it means those whose outward behavior stands in contrast to their inward disposition. They assume a mask of benevolence but are really concerned with their own glory and the praise of others. This will be the principal charge leveled against the Pharisees in chap. 23. Matthew again has in mind the people in the synagogue.6:5-8, On Prayer. In Judaism, prayer was closely connected with almsgiving (e.g., Tob. 12:8). Jesus here had private prayer in view. That he did not exclude public or corporate prayer is shown by Matt. 18:19-20.6:9-15, The Lord’s Prayer. Since the Our Father interrupts the poetic structure of the three precepts, it is clearly an insertion by Matthew into his M source. It has a parallel in Luke 11:2-4, but Matthew’s version is expanded. These additions are also found in Did. 8:2 and represent liturgical expansions. Jesus invited his disciples to address God as “Abba, Father,” a privilege accorded to those who had responded to his message, not a right for everybody. Matthew has reverted to traditional Jewish practice by expanding it to the more fulsome “Our Father, the One in the heavens.” This emphasizes God’s transcendence, which Jesus himself expressed in other ways. Following the second petition, “may your reign come,” Matthew has added “may your will be done, as in heaven so too on earth.” This was intended to amplify and clarify the petition for the coming Reign of God; it does not really add anything new. When God’s Reign comes, his will is effectively asserted on earth. The powers of evil will be overthrown and the plan of salvation accomplished. By placing the Lord’s Prayer in the sermon and in the exposition of the better righteousness, Matthew probably intends the third petition to be a prayer for the fulfillment of the better righteousness through Christian obedience. In the fifth petition, Matthew reads “debts” (Luke: “sins”). Probably the tradition followed by Luke (Q or some special source) also read “debts” originally, for in Luke the ensuing clause reads “for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Those who are privileged to call God “Father,” i.e., the members of Matthew’s community, have received forgiveness of sin. Yet they still sin daily and, therefore, need constantly to pray for forgiveness. The seventh petition should probably be translated “but deliver us from the evil one” (i.e., Satan). Like the other additions by Matthew, this does not add anything essentially new to the petition before it. The trial referred to in the sixth petition is the last great trial before the end, the time of the messianic woes, when Satan seeks to deceive the elect and tempt them to be unfaithful.

The kjv included the familiar doxology, which is absent from the more ancient texts, and therefore not original. However, according to Jewish custom, Jesus would have expected users of his prayer to ad-lib a doxology every time they said the prayer.6:16-18, On Fasting. Prayer and fasting often went together in Jewish practice. Fasting added force to the prayer and made it more urgent. From Mark 2:18-19 it would appear that when Jesus and his disciples were on the road in Galilee they dispensed with the additional fasts of the Pharisees and of the Baptist’s disciples over and above the Day of Atonement (→ Atonement, Day of), which all Jews practiced. This was due to the emergency situation created by the inbreaking of God’s Reign, which was like a wedding feast. It would not, however, have been inconsistent for Jesus to tell his followers how they were to keep the regular fast of the Day of Atonement. Such teaching would lead to the post-Easter observance in Greek-speaking communities of the “day when the bridegroom was taken from them” (Mark 2:20). Matthew omits “on that day” (9:15), so presumably Jewish Christians continued to observe Yom Kippur rather than Good Friday.[11]

Luke 5

5:33-39, Concerning Fasting.

Apparently this issue is also raised at Levi’s house. The question is not whether fasting is right or wrong. Matthew says Jesus fasted (Matt. 4:2) and the church fasted (Matt. 6:16-18). Luke will later describe the church as fasting (Acts 13:2-3; 14:23). At issue is a matter of appropriateness. Routine fasting as the Pharisees did on Mondays and Thursdays was not an adequate reflection of God’s grace and generosity toward the world. To Jesus’ way of kingdom living there is an aspect of joy and thanksgiving. Weddings and banquets are proper analogies of the kingdom. Of course the Passion of Jesus evoked fasting among his followers, and until the end of days the church recalls the cross as well as Easter. Jesus tells his critics that his disciples can no more join their newfound joy to old rituals than one can tear up a new garment to patch an old, or put new wine in old skins. Christian rituals must be appropriate to the new life. Luke’s concluding v. 39 is unique and unusual. Is it humor or irony? Perhaps it is a recognition that even among the new, the followers of Jesus, there remains a clinging to the old ways of Judaism.[12]

Fasts: In contrast to feasts and festivals, fasts were times of mourning and self-denial arising from misfortune and sin. They could be single spontaneous responses of individuals, single spontaneous responses of the public, or recurring annual public observances.

Individuals fasted to obtain divine aid (2 Sam. 12:16-23; Dan. 9:3), to repent (1 Kings 21:27), to mourn (Neh. 1:4), to obtain revelation (Exod. 34:28), or to express devotion to God (Ps. 35:13; Luke 18:12). Similarly, the community often undertook a single fast to obtain God’s help or protection (Judg. 20:26; 1 Sam. 14:24; Joel 1:14; Esther 4:3; Ezra 8:21-23), to express repentance (1 Sam. 7:6; Jon. 3:5-10), or to mourn the death of leaders (1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Sam. 1:12).

The only prescribed annual fast is that on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29-34; 23:26-32; Num. 29:7). It occurred on the tenth day of the seventh month. The people were to ‘afflict themselves,’ meaning they were to abstain from food and drink and other bodily gratifications (cf. 2 Sam. 12:16-20; Dan. 10:2-3).

After the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians (580 b.c.), fasts were annually held in the fourth, fifth, seventh, and tenth months to mourn this calamity (Zech. 7:3, 5; 8:19). A public fast preceded the festival of Purim on the thirteenth of Adar; Esther 9:31 apparently refers to this (cf. 4:16).

In the nt: In the nt, the Gospels report that Jesus observed Jewish feasts (John 5:1; 7:2, 10; Matt. 26:17-18), and a tradition recorded by Paul reports that Jesus transformed Passover for his followers into a ritual remembrance of his death (1 Cor. 11:24). Aside from that, however, the nt contains few regulations pertaining either to fasts (Matt. 6:16-18 does not prescribe fasts, it simply gives advice to those fasting; but see Mark 2:20) or to festivals. Those that are observed by Christians have grown out of the traditions of the life and practices of Jesus and the experiences of the church: for example, Christmas, to celebrate Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:1-20); Epiphany, the appearance of the Magi (Matt. 2:1-12); Lent, Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-12); Easter, Jesus’ resurrection (Mark 16:1-8); Ascension Day, his ascent into heaven (Acts 2:9-10); and Pentecost, the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-11). Because the cardinal event of the Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus, occurred on a Sunday, Christians turned to that day, rather than the Sabbath (Saturday), for their regular worship. See also Atonement, Day of; Easter; Esther; Fasting; Jubilee; Lord’s Supper, The; Passover, The; Pentecost; Purim, The Feast of; Sabbath; Sabbatical Year; Tabernacles, Festival of; Trumpets, Feast of; Worship. [13]

fasting(Heb. sum) (4:16; 2 Sam. 12:23) Strong’s #6684: The Hebrew root word simply means “to abstain from food.” At times fasting meant abstaining from drinking, bathing, anointing with oil, or sexual intercourse as well. In essence, fasting acknowledges human frailty before God and appeals to His mercy. Fasting was a common practice in the ancient world, associated with mourning for the dead (2 Sam. 12:21, 22), intercessory prayer (4:3, 16), repentance and contrition for sin (Jer. 36:9; Jon. 3:5), and times of distress (Judg. 20:26; Neh. 1:4). Fasting was required for the Day of Atonement (see the phrase “afflict your souls” in Lev. 16:31). There were also four fast days that commemorated the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Zech. 8:19). Fasts varied in length from one day (1 Sam. 14:24; Dan. 6:18) to seven days (1 Sam. 31:13) and could even last up to forty days on extraordinary occasions (Ex. 34:28). The strict fasts lasted from sunset to sunset, whereas the more lenient fasts lasted from sunrise to sunset. But no matter what type of fasting was performed, the prophet Isaiah admonished His people to participate in acts of righteousness and social justice with their fasting (Is. 58:3–9).


The Journey Home

By Drew Wilkerson

Scripture: Joel 2:12

Introduction: Here the prophet Joel explains how a lost soul can return to God. The journey back may seem long, but it starts with only three steps of faith.

1.     Fasting. To return to God with all of our hearts, it helps to embrace the discipline of fasting. To fast means to go without something, usually food, for a period of time. Fasting from food helps us focus intently on God and expresses the seriousness of our desires.

2.     Weeping. When we weep we allow God to cleanse us from the inside out. Remorse for sins is vital; when we realize we have sinned against God, weeping is an appropriate response. Initially, crying is exhausting physically and emotionally. Yet when we have no tears left to cry, it’s amazing how much lighter our burdens feel.

3.     Mourning. We must become genuinely sorrowful for our sins if we want God to forgive us and restore us. Only when we regret or mourn the sins we have committed against God can God set us free.

Conclusion: Joel goes on to tell us that God has abounding love waiting for those who rend their hearts and return to Him. The journey home may not be an easy road, but God has an unbelievable welcome waiting for us.[15]

Fastingabstaining from physical nourishment

A.     Occasions of:

Public disasters     1 Sam. 31:11–13

Private emotions     1 Sam. 1:7

Grief     2 Sam. 12:16

Anxiety     Dan. 6:18–20

Approaching danger     Esth. 4:16

National repentance     1 Sam. 7:5, 6

Sad news     Neh. 1:4

Sacred ordination     Acts 13:3

B.     Accompaniments of:

Prayer     Luke 2:37

Confession     Neh. 9:1, 2

Mourning     Joel 2:12

Humiliation     Neh. 9:1

C.     Safeguards concerning:

Avoid display     Matt. 6:16–18

Remember God     Zech. 7:5–7

Chasten the soul     Ps. 69:10

Humble the soul     Ps. 35:13

Consider the true meaning of     Is. 58:1–14

D.     Results of:

Divine guidance     Judg. 20:26–28

Victory over temptation     Matt. 4:1–11

E.     Instances of:

Moses     Ex. 34:27, 28

Israelites     Judg. 20:26

Samuel     1 Sam. 7:5, 6

David     2 Sam. 12:16

Elijah     1 Kin. 19:2, 8

Ninevites     Jon. 3:5–8

Nehemiah     Neh. 1:4

Darius     Dan. 6:9, 18

Daniel     Dan. 9:3

Anna     Luke 2:36, 37

Jesus     Matt. 4:1, 2

John’s disciples and the Pharisees     Mark 2:18

Early Christians     Acts 13:2

Apostles     2 Cor. 6:4, 5

Paul     2 Cor. 11:27 [16]

FAST, FASTING - going without food or drink voluntarily, generally for religious purposes. Fasting, however, could also be done for other reasons. It was sometimes done as a sign of distress, grief, or repentance. The law of Moses specifically required fasting for only one occasion-the Day of Atonement. This custom resulted in calling this day "the day of fasting" (Jer. 36:6) or "the Fast" (Acts 27:9).

Moses did not eat bread or drink water during the 40 days and 40 nights he was on Mount Sinai receiving the law (Ex. 34:28). Voluntary group fasts (not specified in the law) were engaged in during time of war, such as when the Benjamites defeated the other Israelites (Judg. 20:26), and when Samuel gathered the people to Mizpah during the Philistine wars (1 Sam. 7:6). It was at a called fast that witnesses accused Naboth, setting the stage for his death (1 Kin. 21:9, 12).

Jehoshaphat called for a fast in all Israel when opposed by the Moabites and Ammonites (2 Chr. 20:3). Reacting to Jonah’s preaching, the men of Nineveh, at the king’s order, fasted and put on sackcloth (Jon. 3:5). Those about to return with Ezra from the Captivity fasted at the river of Ahava because of the dangers faced on the journey (Ezra 8:21, 23). Esther and the Jews of Shushan (or Susa) fasted when faced with the destruction planned by Haman (Esth. 4:3, 16; 9:31).

In times of grief, people fasted. A seven-day fast was held when the bones of Saul and his sons were buried (1 Sam. 31:13; 1 Chr. 10:12). Fasting was practiced during the 70 years of the exilic period on the fifth and the seventh months, the date the siege of Jerusalem began and the date when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians (Zech. 7:5).

Fasting was practiced by individuals in times of distress. David fasted after hearing that Saul and Jonathan were dead (2 Sam. 1:12). Nehemiah fasted and prayed upon learning that Jerusalem had remained in ruins since its destruction (Neh. 1:4). Darius, the king of Persia, fasted all night after placing Daniel in the lions’ den (Dan. 6:18).

Going without food or water was not automatically effective in accomplishing the desires of those who fasted. In the prophet Isaiah’s time, people complained that they had fasted and that God had not responded favorably (Is. 58:3-4). The prophet declared that the external show was futile. The fast that the Lord requires is to loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, feed the hungry, shelter the poor, and clothe the naked (Is. 58:5-7).

Fasting also occurs in the New Testament. Anna at the Temple "served God with fastings and prayers night and day" (Luke 2:37). John the Baptist led his disciples to fast (Mark 2:18). Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights before His temptation (Matt. 4:2). Using a marriage-feast comparison, however, Jesus insisted that fasting was not suitable for His disciples as long as He, the Bridegroom, was with them (Matt. 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35).

Cornelius was fasting at the time of his vision (Acts 10:30). The church in Antioch fasted (Acts 13:2) and sent Paul and Barnabas off on the first missionary journey with fasting and prayer (Acts 13:3). Paul and Barnabas prayed with fasting at the appointment of elders in the churches (Acts 14:23). Paul suggested that husbands and wives might abstain from sexual intercourse for a while to give themselves to fasting and prayer (1 Cor. 7:5).[17]

FASTING. Observed on occasions of public calamities, 2 Sam. 1:12; afflictions, Psa. 35:13; Dan. 6:18; private afflictions, 2 Sam. 12:16; approaching danger, Esth. 4:16; ordination of ministers, Acts 13:3; 14:23. Accompanied by prayer, Dan. 9:3; confession of sin, 1 Sam. 7:6; Neh. 9:1, 2; humiliation, Deut. 9:18; Neh. 9:1; reading of the Scriptures, Jer. 36:6. Habitual: by John’s disciples, Matt. 9:14; by Anna, Luke 2:37; by Pharisees, Matt. 9:14; Mark 2:18; Luke 18:12; by Cornelius, Acts 10:30; by Paul, 2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27. In times of bereavement: of the people of Jabesh-gilead, for Saul and his sons, 1 Sam. 31:13; 1 Chr. 10:12; of David, at the time of Saul’s death, 2 Sam. 1:12; of his child’s sickness, 2 Sam. 12:16, 21–23; of Abner’s death, 2 Sam. 3:35. Prolonged: for three weeks, by Daniel, Dan. 10:2, 3; forty days, by Moses, Ex. 24:18; 34:28; Deut. 9:9, 18; Elijah, 1 Kin. 19:8; Jesus, Matt. 4:2; Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 4:1, 2. See Humiliation; Humility.

Unclassified Scriptures Relating to: Ezra 8:21–23; Psa. 35:13; Psa. 69:10; Isa. 58:3–7; Jer. 14:12; Dan. 10:2, 3; Joel 1:14; Joel 2:12, 13; Zech. 7:5; Zech. 8:19; Matt. 6:16–18; Matt. 9:14, 15; Matt. 17:21; Acts 27:9, 33, 34; 1 Cor. 7:5 Instances of: Of the Israelites, in the conflict between the other tribes with the tribe of Benjamin, on account of the wrong suffered by a Levite’s concubine, Judg. 20:26; when they went to Mizpeh for the ark, 1 Sam. 7:6. Of David, at the death of Saul, 2 Sam. 1:12; during the sickness of the child born to him by Bath-sheba, 2 Sam. 12:16–22; while interceding in prayer for his friends, Psa. 35:13; in his zeal for Zion, Psa. 69:10; in prayer for himself and his adversaries, Psa. 109:4, 24. Of Ahab, when Elijah prophesied the destruction of himself and his house, 1 Kin. 21:27; with verses 20–29. Of Jehoshaphat, at the time of the invasion of the confederated armies of the Canaanites and Syrians, 2 Chr. 20:3. Of Ezra, on account of the idolatrous marriages of the Jews, Ezra 10:6. Of Nehemiah, on account of the desolation of Jerusalem and the temple, Neh. 1:4. Of the Jews, when Jeremiah prophesied against Judea and Jerusalem, Jer. 36:9; in Babylon, with prayer for divine deliverance and guidance, Ezra 8:21, 23. Of Darius, when he put Daniel in the lions’ den, Dan. 6:18. Of Daniel, on account of the captivity of the people, with prayer for their deliverance, Dan. 9:3; at the time of his vision, Dan. 10:1–3. Ninevites, when Jonah preached to them, Jonah 3:5–10. By Paul, at the time of his conversion, Acts 9:9. Of the disciples, at the time of the consecration of Barnabas and Saul, Acts 13:2, 3. Of the consecration of the elders, Acts 14:23.[18]


Moses fasted forty days, Deuteronomy 9:11–18.

In time of sorrow, 1 Samuel 31:13; 1 Chronicles 10:12; 2 Samuel 3:35.

During national crisis, 2 Samuel 1:12.

Fasting for people’s sins, Ezra 10:6.

In need of courage, Esther 4:16.

Humbled by fasting, Psalm 35:13.

Scorn for acts of humility, Psalm 69:10–11.

Weakness from fasting, Psalm 109:24.

Real meaning of fasting, Isaiah 58:3–7.

Egypt’s desolation, Ezekiel 29:11–13.

Distraught king, Daniel 6:18 (kjv).

Prayer and fasting, Daniel 9:3.

Fasting for repentance, Joel 1:13–14.

Animals and men fast together, Jonah 3:7.

Insincere fasting, Zechariah 7:1–6.

Joyful fasting, Zechariah 8:19.

Example of Jesus, Matthew 4:1–2.

Pretense of fasting, Matthew 6:16 (cev).

Disciples did not fast, Matthew 9:14–15.

Some fast, others do not, Mark 2:18–20.

Four thousand people fasting three days, Mark 8:1–3.

Jesus in desert, Luke 4:1–2.

Time to eat, to fast, Luke 5:33–35.

Worship and fasting, Acts 13:2–3.

Fasting with evil intent, Acts 23:12–13.

Anxiety, lost appetite, Acts 27:33–36 (ab).

Little value in itself, 1 Corinthians 8:8.

See Denial, Discipline.[19]

What does the Bible say about Fasting?

The "key" of fasting to receive God's authority in His kingdom, will be covered in this teaching. The Lord said He would give us the "keys to the kingdom." What did He mean by that statement? Keys to the kingdom are actually keys of authority.

Matthew 16:19, "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven..."


When Jesus becomes our Lord, we are automatically transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. Colossians 1:12-13 says, "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear son." Now that we have a new king and live in a new kingdom, we must understand "kingdom principles" if we are to be victorious Christians. We cannot overcome until we have the keys that unlock the kingdom of heaven. The Lord never meant for us to wait until we die to experience heaven but purposed for us to bring heaven to the earth through the power of His Spirit. "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). We are unable to receive God's healing, provision and blessing if we do not know the keys the Lord has given us to accomplish kingdom living. Keys represent authority in the Kingdom of God, and authority is gained by using them. Fasting is only one of the keys to the kingdom; others are prayer, praise, worship, intercession and travail (a prayer burden from the Lord).

The key of fasting has nearly been lost to the modern church. It is also one that some say was only for early day Christians. Looking closely at the Word of God, we find that the Lord never did away with the principle of fasting, but it has been man who has attempted to make it obsolete. Fasting is still a valid key that can be used today to bring us into kingdom living. What is fasting? It is another means by which we can suffer for the Lord, through the voluntary abstinence from eating. Biblical fasting is done to bring spiritual results and is not simply for physical purposes. Doctors today are discovering the physical benefits of this practice and have found that abstaining from food (not water) for several days has a wonderful cleansing effect upon the body. Many impurities are burned up within the body as it is denied food, thus clearing the mind, and cleansing and healing the body. Even nature shows us that fasting is good medicine as we automatically lose our appetites when sickness strikes. Many people in the world are practicing fasting and finding it not only healthful, but even a wonderful way to lose weight quickly. However, even though we may enjoy these benefits while fasting, the Christian primarily fasts for spiritual purposes and not for health reasons. Obeying spiritual principles can produce positive physical results, but they are added blessings. Even people that are underweight who fast for spiritual purposes have been known to gain weight after completing their fasts.

The Lord tells us in Matthew 6:16-18 that when we fast, we are to do it unto the Lord. He doesn't say if we fast.

"Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." We can see that our motives in fasting must be pure. We are not to do it in order to broadcast it, but we are to do it as quietly and simply as possible so as not to attract attention to ourselves. We are to appear to others as though we are not fasting. There are exceptions, such as when we are fasting as a group for a specific thing. Then it must be announced so that others can take part. We find this in Joel 1:14, "Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord." The main thing the Lord desires is that it be done unto Him and not as a show unto men. Our heart attitude must be right to produce spiritual results.

Jesus, by fasting, set an example that we might follow in His steps. Matthew 4:1-4, "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."

This Scripture shows us that the Lord drank water but did not eat food, for it says that after forty days he was hungry. The normal fast is without food, drinking water only.

There are also absolute fasts recorded in the Bible. Upon Saul's conversion in Acts 9:9, he immediately went on an absolute fast for three days, having neither food nor water. ("And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.") The body can go for a number of days without food, but cannot go for long periods without water. Therefore, the Bible does not record any absolute fasts that go beyond three days, except the account of Moses spending forty days and nights on top of Mount Sinai (Horeb) without food or water.

Exodus 34:28-29, "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. And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shown while he talked with him."

We can see that because Moses was in the literal presence of the Lord, it was that presence that sustained him so he neither needed food nor water. This, of course, is an exceptional fast.

The Lord did not set up any specific duration that we are to fast, but from His teachings, we see that he did expect us to fast.

Luke 5:34-35, "And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days."

Fasting can be done for one meal, one day, one month or for however long God leads. It depends on how the Holy Spirit speaks to us. Shorter fasts are easier to endure until we have built up our "spiritual muscles". A helpful book we recommend is Arthur Wallis', God's Chosen Fast. It is a spiritual and practical guide to fasting. A three day fast is most beneficial as a spiritual cleansing. An example of this is Paul's being thrust into his fast upon conversion. After the three days of cleansing, he received the Holy Spirit and his eyesight when Ananias laid hands on him (Acts 9:17-18). We also can be spiritually cleansed by fasting so that we receive more of the Lord's Spirit and have our spiritual eyes opened to new dimensions. A three day fast is also especially helpful in breaking any addictive habits.

These then are two reasons for fasting: We receive spiritual cleansing and our spiritual eyes are opened, and we also obtain victory over the devil. When Jesus encountered Satan, He was able to overcome Him because His fasting had given Him spiritual strength. Isaiah 58:6 also gives us light on this purpose of fasting: "Is 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?" Many people believe that fasting is to move the hand of God, when in actuality it is to make Satan turn loose of the things he is holding.

Fasting looses the bands of wickedness. When Jesus discussed the keys to the kingdom, He told us to bind and loose. When we fast, we loose the bands of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, set the oppressed free, and break every yoke of the enemy. Fasting is an important key to getting the victory over hard situations that do not seem to respond to normal prayer.

Fasting builds our faith. In fact, this is what Jesus meant when he spoke to the disciples in Matthew 17:21 in answer to why they were not able to cast a demon out of a child. He said, "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." He was telling them if they wanted their faith to be at such a level as to be able to cast out demons, then they must fast and pray for their faith to increase.

Fasting also makes it easier for us to hear the voice of the Lord. We find an account of this in Acts 13:2-3:

"As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away."

While fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke to them and gave them direction. We too can be directed by the Lord if we seek Him through prayer and fasting.

Fasting and mourning are closely associated in the Bible. Two examples of this are found in Ezra and Nehemiah.

Ezra 10:6, "Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Johanan the son of Eliashib: and when he came thither, he did eat no bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away." Nehemiah 1:4, "And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven."

From these Scriptures, we see that fasting and travail (a prayer burden from the Lord that brings crying and tears) were combined. Both of these men were fasting for the repentance of God's people. How we need this same kind of intercession today. Here were men so burdened for the sins of their people that they fasted, travailed and prayed.

Today, God is looking for people who are willing to take the same kind of burdens in the Spirit. After being filled with the Holy Spirit, so many are eager to do something for the Lord; however, due to a lack of proper teaching, they end up doing works in the flesh instead of works in the Spirit. Works that we do in our own strength profit nothing, but works that are inspired by the Spirit are profitable and bring results. Prayer is work in the Spirit. That is why it is not easy to pray. Travail and fasting are works in the Spirit. Witnessing under God's leadership is a spiritual work. God is looking for laborers who are ready to go to work for Him. (Matthew 9:37-38, "Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.") The Lord is looking for workers, people who will labor to produce eternal results. Laboring in the Spirit brings many into the kingdom of God and causes much growth in the church.

Fasting is also one of these labors. It is a form of afflicting our soul. (Isaiah 58:3, "Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?...") By afflicting our soul, we say to our flesh, "Flesh, you are demanding to eat, but Christ is stronger than the desires of my soul. My spirit shall rule my soul, and my soul shall not have dominion over me." Numerous individuals today are in bondage to their appetites because they have never denied themselves anything. The Lord wants us to be ruled by the Spirit, not by the flesh. Fasting brings the flesh unto subjection of the Spirit. (Matthew 4:4, "But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.")

Fasting is also a way we can minister unto the Lord. We read in Acts 13:2 that they ministered unto the Lord and fasted. It is a way we can offer the time we generally spend in eating as unto the Lord in prayer. As we spend this time with Him, it causes things to happen in the Spirit. We do not understand this principle any more than other mysteries in the Bible, but we find that by applying it we get results. There are many things I don't understand with my natural mind, but I receive them by faith because the Word of God says they are true. If God's Word says it, that settles it. I don't even understand why Jesus had to die on a cross to save us from our sins. However, because I believed that He did and received His forgiveness in my heart, I was "born again." Likewise, I do not understand all the principles of fasting, but I do know they work.

We have discussed the absolute and the normal fasts, but we need to also mention the partial fast. This is a fast where we restrict our intake of food, but do not totally abstain. We have a record of this in Daniel 10:2-3, "In those days I, Daniel was mourning three full weeks. 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 went on a three-week partial fast, restricting his diet of all pleasant food, meat and wine. It was during this time that he had a visitation from an angel. Fasting always suppresses the flesh and heightens our spiritual sensitivity. Generally speaking, we hear the Lord's voice more easily while fasting.

We all can benefit by giving up our pleasant bread for a season. The Lord blesses us for whatever sacrifices we make for Him. Our country is suffering under a spirit of gluttony and it would be a great blessing for the United States to have a time of national fasting unto God. We sit down and eat many times when we are not even hungry, simply because it is a habit. We should not eat out of habit or tradition, but rather that we might glorify Christ in our bodies. (I Corinthians 10:31, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.")

Fasting sometimes comes spontaneously. Often if people are grieving they lose their appetites and unconsciously fast. That is why mourning and fasting are mentioned together in the Bible. Another type of spontaneous fasting occurs when we are so busy seeking God about a situation or a spiritual goal that we simply forget to eat. (We are moving too fast to take time to eat because we are concentrating on the things of the Spirit. We are moving in the spirit in a "fast" way. The fasting acts as spiritual dynamite to speed things up in the Spirit that would normally take a longer time to come to pass.) Some Christians are forced to fast due to a lack of food in their part of the world. They can dedicate this time to God and He will bless it as He would a voluntary fast.

Does fasting move the hand of God? No. If we believe that God withholds from us and we have to fight to get Him to bless us, then we have a wrong conception of the Lord. Isaiah 58:6 indicates that fasting is not to move the hand of the Lord, but it is to make Satan turn loose of what he is holding back that rightfully belongs to us. Jesus died so we could have the blessings. They belong to us as His children. However, we must press in and demand the enemy to release some things. This is our right as sons of God. Sometimes Satan still controls much territory in our lives and the lives of our loved ones. He has many in bondage. Fasting is a key that breaks loose the bands of wickedness. As we fast and pray, Satan must let our children who are bound by spirits of rebellion and drugs go free. He must take his hands off our loved ones, our friends and family. Some people are so bound that only fasting can loose them from the wicked chains of darkness.

We need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit as to when fasting is needed. Sometimes it is not necessary because the problem has already been "prayed through." We need simply to rest in the Lord until His time for our answer to arrive. If we fast at those times, we will just be going hungry. We need also to seek the Lord as to whether He would have us go on a partial fast, normal fast or total fast. If we will ask, He will let us know. He will confirm His will to us. If we cannot hear His voice too clearly, He will send somebody to speak His counsel to us. We must trust Him.

We need also to check our motives when we fast. If they are selfish, our fast will not be accepted by the Lord. We see this in Jeremiah 14:10 and 12, "Thus saith the Lord unto this people, Thus have they loved to wander, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the Lord doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence." We cannot fast and have evil, unrepented sin or selfishness in our lives and expect God to answer our prayers. Many times we don't even recognize selfish prayers. When we pray for our loved ones to be saved or delivered, and our motive is to only bring relief to ourselves instead of being concerned that they receive the peace and joy of Jesus, we are wrong. Let us examine our hearts when we seek God for anything.

Isaiah 58 is the great fasting chapter. Here we read how this key can break the bonds of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens and bring healing. It frees the oppressed and the depressed. It breaks every yoke. Some people are yoked to bad habits in this world, and fasting can break those yokes so they can be free to enter into the kingdom of God. A three-day fast will break most addictions.

Isaiah 58:7 also says, "Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?" Fasting makes it possible for us not only to give "spiritual bread" to those that are hungry, but also releases our finances so that we can give "natural bread" to the poor and needy. The Lord wants us to have an abundance so we can be a blessing to others. He will bring the poor to our houses to be fed. He wants us to be able to minister to others. He will give us a ministry and cause people to be drawn to our doorstep by the Holy Spirit for counsel and prayer.

Verse 7 continues, "when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him." We are to cover others' sin through fasting and prayers of mercy. We are to ask God to forgive them and give them another chance. If we were stripped naked right now and our lives were bared before the world, every one of us would be ashamed and embarrassed about our past sins. None of us could stand. All of us would fall down naked, exposed and humiliated. However, we do not have to suffer this because Jesus paid the price for our sins and washed those things away. Praise God! They are not there anymore; God does not remember them, and neither should we. (Hebrews 10:17, "And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.") We need to pray for others to be released from the burden of sin that is upon their lives.

Verse 7 also says, "...and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?" One trick of the enemy is to get us so busy ministering to others that we fail to minister to our own flesh. We must also ask the Lord to do a work of cleansing in our lives, and also make sure that we take time to let the Lord minister to us through His word, and in time spent alone with Him. Also, we are not to neglect our own flesh and blood. We must not get so busy with others' needs that we do not minister to our own families. We are to fast for them, pray for them and spend time with them.

In verse 8 we see the fruits of fasting, "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." Healing will come forth quickly through fasting. If we have a besetting sin that we cannot get the victory over, fasting will strengthen us spiritually and deliver us from that bondage so that our righteousness can go before us. What a beautiful promise that the glory of the Lord shall be our reward! We receive a reward during the time of fasting, but it does not stop there. We also will be rewarded by seeing things come forth in the future as answers to our prayers.

Verse 9 says, "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." By this we see there are conditions to our fast. We cannot point our fingers at others in condemnation if we expect our prayers to be answered. We must come humbly before the Lord if we desire to see our prayers answered.

The remainder of Isaiah 58 explains that the Lord will cause us to be lights to others, and that we shall not walk in darkness but have the Lord continually guiding us. He says we shall be taken care of in drought. No matter what is happening in the land, we shall have plenty. Waste places shall be rebuilt, and the Lord will restore and repair the damage that has been done to our lives. We shall ride upon the high places of the earth and shall inherit God's blessings. Fasting brings restoration not only in our individual lives but in the life of the church also.

To sum up the different kinds of fasts:

(1.) Normal Fast - No food, water only.

(2.) Absolute Fast - Absolutely no food or water (Caution: Should not be undertaken over 3 days and only then if you have a clear directive from the Lord and are in good heath).

(3.) Partial Fast - Abstainance from certain kinds of foods (ie: No meat or sweets).

(4.) Juice Fast - Fruit and vegetable juices only.

If you are considering an extended fast, you should seek competent medical supervision of someone familiar with fasting. This is especially needed if you are taking any medications. (This article is informational and spiritually directive and is not intended to take the place of medical advice). We would also recommend you reading these books for detailed information on fasting: God's Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis or The Coming Revival by Dr. Bill Bright. You can purchase these from your local Christian bookstore or you may order them from our CHAPEL BOOKSTORE (Click Here).


We are living in the time of restoration of the church now. God has begun a work of restoration in us. The power of the Holy Spirit is being restored to the church. God is healing His people and giving back to them the things Satan has robbed. The Lord is restoring truth to the church again, so she can rise from obscurity and be seen in love and power, even as she was in New Testament days.

The world is looking for a church that has the power to heal and bless, a church that walks in victory. The world wants to see a church that is not hypocritical, a church that is holy and full of love. We are the individual members of that church if we are born again. The work must begin in us personally before it can manifest itself corporately. The Lord is returning for a bride without spot or blemish. God is preparing her. We must have the keys to the kingdom so that we can come to that place in God where the world can tell the difference between "us" and "them."

Fasting is a wonderful tool given to help bring us to that place. God's ultimate desire is that we live "fasted" lives, thus reducing the need for periodic fasting. However, until we come to the place where the kingdom of God means more to us than food, we need to set our wills to fast in order to bring our bodies under subjection to the Spirit of the Lord.

Paul was an overcomer and says in I Corinthians 9:27, "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." For us to overcome we must do likewise. To grow in God we must follow the methods He mapped out in His Word. The Lord is encouraging us to walk in His footsteps so that we might attain the same victory that Paul did. It is not impossible; we just have not understood God's ultimate purpose for our lives; we have lived far below the level God intended. Even though we will walk through some hard places in this life, we will be able to say it was worth it all when we come into the same perfection that Paul did.

II Corinthians 11:27, "In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." Philippians 3:8, "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ."

The keys of prayer, praise, worship, intercession, travail and fasting will bring us to the same place that Paul attained through Jesus. We can have a similar anointing in our lives, and be used as Paul was to achieve God's victories in the name of Jesus. We can enter into the Lord's authority so that the demons and devils obey us. We can expose Satan's devices and learn the ways by which we overcome him. These important keys will unlock many from the chains of darkness. Let us use all the keys to the kingdom so that the kingdom of God might be formed in us.

"Father, You know each one that is reading this today, and I ask You to reach out and meet their needs. Lord, minister to their need now through the power of the Holy Spirit. If there are those who have not been filled with Your Spirit, I pray that You would fill them now to overflowing. Lord, to those who need You as Savior, touch them and come into their hearts; may they be born again and placed into Your kingdom. For those who need healing in their bodies, touch them with Your creative power. Father, deliver and set free those who are suffering from depression and are bound by the things of this world. Bless Your people, Lord, as they seek Your will and way for their lives. Give them Your strength to use the keys of the kingdom to overcome the enemy. In Jesus' name, Amen."[20]



[2]Johnson, Derric. Did You Read That?, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000; 2004.

[3]Easton, M.G. Easton's Bible Dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996, c1897.

q.v. The abbreviation (q.v.) following a term means to see the entry for that term.

[4]Karleen, Paul S. The Handbook to Bible Study : With a Guide to the Scofield Study System. "This book is intended as a companion to the Scofield Reference Bible"--Pref.; Includes indexes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

[5]Karleen, Paul S. The Handbook to Bible Study : With a Guide to the Scofield Study System. "This book is intended as a companion to the Scofield Reference Bible"--Pref.; Includes indexes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

[6]The Holy Bible : New International Version, Zec 7:1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.

v. verse

[7]Mays, James Luther, Publishers Harper & Row, and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper's Bible Commentary, Ne 2:1. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.

[8]Mays, James Luther, Publishers Harper & Row, and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper's Bible Commentary, Es 4:1. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.

ot Old Testament

nt New Testament

J.G.G. John G. Gammie, Ph.D.; Emma A. Harwell Professor of Biblical Literature; University of Tulsa; Tulsa, Oklahoma

[9]Achtemeier, Paul J., Publishers Harper & Row, and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper's Bible Dictionary. Includes index. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.

 a Or your righteous One

[10]The Holy Bible : New International Version, Is 58:1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.

chap. chapter

Did. Didache

Q Qumran

kjv King James Version

[11]Mays, James Luther, Publishers Harper & Row, and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper's Bible Commentary, Mt 6:1. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.

v. verse

[12]Mays, James Luther, Publishers Harper & Row, and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper's Bible Commentary, Lk 5:33. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988.

nt New Testament

[13]Achtemeier, Paul J., Publishers Harper & Row, and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper's Bible Dictionary. Includes index. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.

[14]Nelson Study Bible. electronic ed., Es 4:15. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997.

[15]Morgan, Robert J. Nelson's Annual Preacher's Sourcebook : 2002 Edition. electronic ed., Page 269. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001.

[16]Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nelson's Quick Reference Topical Bible Index. Nelson's Quick reference. Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995.

[17]Youngblood, Ronald F. Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary : An Authoritative One-Volume Reference Work on the Bible With Full Color Illustrations. Edited by Bruce, F.F. electronic ed. of the revised ed. of Nelson's illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995.

[18]Swanson, James, and Orville Nave. New Nave's. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, 1994.

kjv King James Version

cev Contemporary English Version

ab Amplified Bible

[19]Anderson, Ken. Where to Find It in the Bible. electronic ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1996.


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