Have you ever wondered what the Bible says about fasting? There is much confusion as to what fasting is about. In its essence, fasting is abstaining from food for a period of time. While the New Testament does not command that Christians fast, it is implied that Christians will fast. When they do, the fast should be accompanied by prayer. Beyond prayer, the Bible indicates that there is a purpose for the abstinence. Fasting is not simply a diet technique; at least not in the Biblical sense.
Jesus Taught that Fasting was Appropriate for a Christian
Matthew 6:16-18 “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.”
Luke 5:33-35 “And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? 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 at Times of Spiritual Importance
Luke 4:1, 2 “And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.”
Exodus 34:28 “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.”
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.”
Biblical Precautions When Fasting
Just because you fast, does not mean you are right with God.
Luke 18:12-14 “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
Fasting is not a substitute for true repentance.
Isaiah 58:3-5 “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?”
Why Christians May be Confused About Fasting
I think one of the reasons many Christians are confused about fasting is that it has become a tradition in some churches to abstain from certain foods on specific days or events. To require the church congregation to fast without teaching the people what fasting really means seems to cause people to rebel against the practice. It certainly isn’t in keeping with the spirit of fasting as taught in the Bible. When we fast—according to the passage in Matthew 18—it should be a private matter between the Christian and God. Not something that is demanded by a religion for the purpose of showing others how spiritual one is.
I hope these verses about fasting will be an encouragement to you to consider the practice of fasting. Using these verses and other fasting tips, I trust you will grow in your spiritual maturity and relationship with the Lord.