Preparing For The Fast
The normal fast involves abstaining from all forms of food, but not from water, and commonly lasts 24 hours, from sunrise to sunrise. If you are fasting for the first time, you might begin by missing a meal or two. Over time, you can build up to a full day or more.
Begin by refraining from solid food, but drink liquids. Water is the best, since soft drinks are not good for the digestive system, and coffee and tea stimulate the nervous system. Before beginning a fast, it is best to eat lightly and cut back on caffeinated drinks. During the first few days of a multi-day fast, it is common to experience headaches as the body withdraws from caffeine.
If you are planning for an extended fast , you should prepare mentally and physically by cutting down on food intake one week before the actual fast, taking on a vegetarian diet to control cravings for food. Reduce your intake of beverages like coffee, tea and soft drinks as well.
Drink plenty of water.
Ezra Fasted While Mourning Over Sin Ezra : 6
The Jews began to return to Israel after the Babylonian captivity. Yet they had disobeyed Gods laws during their captivity. Ezra gathered the people together to confront them for their sins.
Ezra 10:6 does not say specifically how long his fast was . The Bible does tell us that he did not eat any bread and only drank water during this fast. He fasted because he was mourning the sins of those who had been carried away from Israel but had finally returned.
Bible Verses About Fasting Reasons For
When all Jabesh-gilead heard all that the Philistines had done to Saul,all the valiant men arose and took away the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons and brought them to Jabesh, and they buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul,all the valiant men rose and walked all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there.They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so also did all the men who were with him.They mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan and for the people of the Lord and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.
Then Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpah and I will pray to the Lord for you.They gathered to Mizpah, and drew water and poured it out before the Lord, and fasted on that day and said there, We have sinned against the Lord. And Samuel judged the sons of Israel at Mizpah.
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Elijah Fasted While Escaping Jezebel 1 Kings 1: 4
Wicked Queen Jezebel threatened to kill the prophet Elijah after he won the great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah fled to Beer-sheba where he left his servant. Then he traveled alone another day into the wilderness.
Elijah found a juniper tree and rested. He prayed to God to allow him to die. He did not really want to die. If he did he could have stayed where he was and let the queen take care of him. Elijah was very discouraged and lay down for a nap. An angel came and fed him . Elijah took the food and then went back to sleep.
After being fed by the angel a second time, Elijah prepared for a great journey. The Bible says that Elijah traveled for 40 days in the strength of that food until he arrived at Mount Horeb . This is the same mountain where Moses received the 10 Commandments. It was called Mount Sinai during Moses time.
Paul Fasted After His Conversion Acts : 1
Saul was a man who persecuted Christians. He had gotten permission from the Jewish leadership to go to Damascus and arrest any who claimed allegiance to Christ. Along the way to Damascus Saul had a personal encounter with the Lord. We call this his conversion on the road to Damascus.
Part of this encounter involved a bright light which left Paul blinded. Paul was in Damascus for 3 days without sight. He also did not eat or drink . This could have been because of repentance or shock for everything that had recently transpired. Either way, Paul sacrificed food and drink for 3 days in exchanged for a relationship with the Lord.
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Inward: To Express Repentance
The first, most common, and perhaps most fundamental type of fast expresses repentance. Think of it as inward. Gods people realize their sin typically not small indiscretions or lapses in judgment, but deep and prolonged rebellion and come seeking his forgiveness.
For instance, in 1 Samuel 7, Gods people become freshly aware of their past and present idolatries . They want to return to the Lord and newly direct heart to the Lord and serve him only . They assemble, under Samuels leadership, fast as a demonstration of their repentance, and confess, We have sinned against the Lord . Similarly, in 1 Kings 21, even though king Ahab sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord , he humbled himself with fasting when confronted by the prophet Elijah and God was pleased to delay impending disaster, even for such an evil king .
Old Testament saints often expressed an inward heart of repentance to God not only in words but with the exclamation point of fasting. Such fasts did not earn his forgiveness but demonstrated the genuineness of their contrition.
How Do We Apply These Fasts In The Bible To Our Lives Today
As the Bible says: Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV. They are examples, instructions, to strengthen us, encourage us and empower our walk with God. Not just for our comfort, but so that we might be strong in the Lord, in the power of His might and be able to be that Light in the dark, dark world we find ourselves living in.
Fasting with a right spirit, for the right reasons, truly does get Gods attention. We dont do it to be seen or heard or to make ourselves something we are not. It is all about Jesus, and when the glory goes to Him, we will see the miraculous and be a part of a great and necessary awakening in these last and glorious days until we see the coming of the Lord.
Which types of fasting in the Bible has impacted you the most? Did you learn about a new one in this article?
*Related:Get a free copy of our Daniel Fast meal plan when you join our email list.
This post about the types of Biblical fasting was compiled by our guest contributor, Nannette Elkins, who has served as a pastors wife, missionary, speaker, and teacher. She also authored The Daniel Fast Devotional: A 21 Day Journey of Faith, available on Amazon.
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Forward: To Seek Gods Favor
Finally, we find a kind of forward fast, not in response to sin within or grief without, but more proactive, in a sense, asking for Gods guidance or future favor. The first explicit mention of fasting in the Bible, coming at the sordid end of Judges, has this forward component. Gods people not only weep for the civil war unfolding among them but also inquire of the Lord for guidance , whether or not to go out in battle against the tribe of Benjamin . We see such a forward orientation in 2 Chronicles 20:3: with a great multitude coming against his people, king Jehoshaphat sought the Lord and proclaimed a fast. He pled for Gods direction, We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you .
David also sought Gods rescue on his knees weak through fasting and appealed for healing for his sick newborn with a forward-looking fast . Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live? .
Fasting forward for Gods favor played a crucial role in the preservation and return of Gods people from exile. Before approaching the king to seek his favor, Esther sought Gods favor first, with a fast:
Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.
God answered and, through Esther, saved his people.
Should You Try It Faqs
First off, if you are pregnant or a nursing mother or are on a special diet of any sort for health reasons, then you should not go on the Daniel Fast without the approval of your primary health care professional.
Otherwise, here are some frequently asked questions you may want to know about.
1. What about prepared foods?
Read the labels of all prepared foods. Remember the Daniel Fast is sugar-free and chemical-free.
That is why I suggest organic, fresh or frozen foods for use in Daniel Fast recipes.
2. What about pasta?
Make sure the label says whole grain or vegetable-based pasta like quinoa, black bean or brown rice with no additives or sugar. But, the diet should consist mostly of vegetables and fruits.
3. What about roasted nuts?
Try to stick to organic, raw, unsalted nuts and/or soaked or sprouted ones. These are harder to find, so if you have to choose roasted nuts, then get plain roasted, unsalted nuts with no preservatives.
4. How do I get enough protein in my diet while on the fast?
Protein-rich foods allowed on the Daniel Fast are almonds, sunflower seeds, lentils, quinoa, brown rice, split peas and some whole grains. Be sure to include plenty of these protein-rich items in Daniel Fast recipes.
5. What about salad dressing?
Salads are great on the Daniel Fast. You can use olive oil combined with lemon or lime juice as salad dressing options.
6. Do I need to eat organic foods while on the fast?
7. Can I go out to eat?
8. What about bread?
9. How much can I eat?
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Outward: To Grieve Hard Providences
But fasting not only expresses repentance. On many occasions, it gives voice to mourning, grieving, or lamenting difficult providences. The seam that holds together 1 and 2 Samuel is the death of Saul and the nations ensuing grief. First Samuel ends with a seven-day fast of mourning for Saul . As 2 Samuel begins, and news reaches David and his men, they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword . It was not an expression of personal sin, but of grief at the death of their king.
When news of Hamans edict arrives in Esther 4, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes . When David prays about his friends betrayal of him, he says they rejoice at his misfortune, even though he had afflicted self with fasting and mourned when they were sick . In Psalm 69, David says he wept and humbled soul with fasting , not because of his own sin, but because he was ill-treated. Similarly, Ezra sat appalled , and fasted , not at his own sin, but having learned the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands .
Fasting gave voice to the pain and sorrow of sudden and severe outward circumstances and represented a heart of faith toward God in the midst of great tragedies.
What Is Biblical Fasting And How Does It Work
For thousands of years, biblical fasting has been the practice of abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. If youre used to a routine of three square meals a day, going without food as a spiritual practice may sound strange. But fasting was a very common religious practice when the Bible was written.
In his book Hunger for God, John Piper writes: Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God. Christian fasting is not only the spontaneous effect of superior satisfaction in God, it is also a chosen weapon against every force in the world that would take that satisfaction away.
But how does biblical fasting work and how can someone do it today? In this guide, were going to cover what every Christian should know about fasting: what it is and how it works.
If you want to jump ahead, heres what were going to look at:
Some Christians use the word fast when abstaining from pleasures besides food, like TV, internet or, for married couples, sex. You might know people who have gone on a social media fast or a screen fast for spiritual reasons. For the purposes of this article, were going to focus on traditional Christian fasting: abstaining from food.
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The Purpose Of Spiritual Fasting
While many people fast to lose weight, dieting is not the purpose of a spiritual fast. Instead, fasting provides unique spiritual benefits in the life of the believer.
Fasting requires self-control and discipline, as one denies the natural desires of the flesh. During spiritual fasting, the believer’s focus is removed from the physical things of this world and intensely concentrated on God.
Put differently, fasting directs our hunger toward God. It clears the mind and body of earthly attention and draws us closer to God. So, as we gain spiritual clarity of thought while fasting, it allows us to hear God’s voice more clearly. Fasting also demonstrates a profound need of God’s help and guidance through complete dependence on him.
What The Bible Really Says
Executive Editor, desiringGod.org
At no place, in all his thirteen letters, does the apostle Paul command Christians to fast. Neither does Peter in his. Or John. Or any other book in the New Testament.
And yet, for two thousand years, Christians have fasted. One expression, among others, of healthy, vibrant Christians and churches has been the practice of fasting. However much it may seem to be a lost art today, fasting has endured, for two millennia, as a means of Christs ongoing grace for his church.
Why, then, if Christians, unlike Muslims, are not commanded to fast, do we still fast? First of all, Jesuss teaching in the Gospels, particularly in Matthew, is plain enough. In addition to his own example , and while not directly commanding his followers to fast, Jesus gave instructions for when you fast, not if . More than that, in speaking about what his followers would do after his departure, he says, then they will fast . Again not a command, but a powerful promise from our Saviors lips that wed be foolish to ignore.
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Prayer And Fasting In The Bible
Fasting is mentioned throughout the Bible, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament . However, when Christians discuss fasting, two key passages often come up: one from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah and one from Jesus himself. But neither of these passages gives us specifics on how to abstain from food. Rather, both focus on the heart of the person fasting.
In Isaiah 58, God sees the nation of Israel abstaining from food for a day in order to seek help from God: justice for Israel and judgment on those who have oppressed Israel. However, the help does not come, and the people complain.
God turns the tables on Israel, pointing out how the Israelites are oppressing their own people. Employers withhold pay from the workers, and the people act violently toward each other. Through Isaiah, God tells the people that He doesnt want them to go a day without food He wants them to abstain from the ways theyve oppressed one another.
If you do away with the yoke of oppression,with the pointing finger and malicious talk,and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungryand satisfy the needs of the oppressed,then your light will rise in the darkness,and your night will become like the noonday.
The Israelites were merely putting on a show of fasting for God without truly following Him.
Likewise, when Jesus instructs His followers on how to fast, he tells them not to do so for show.
The Bible is full of examples of people who have abstained from food to seek God:
Jesus Fasted Before Temptation By Satan Matthew : 1
Before Jesus was tempted by Satan and before He started His public ministry, He fasted 40 days. The Bible says that Jesus was lead by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness . This verse indicates that the purpose of Christ going into the wilderness was for the temptation that would come. Verse 2 tells us that for 40 days and nights before He was subjected to a personal attack by Satan, Jesus fasted.
Though physically weak , Jesus was spiritually well prepared for the temptation that followed.
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