What Are Some Improper Motives For Fasting
To impress others. Jesus taught that religious fasting should be a personal and private matter between an individual and God.Matthew 6:16-18.
To prove oneself righteous. Fasting does not make a person morally or spiritually superior.Luke 18:9-14.
To try to compensate for a deliberate practice of sin. God accepted only fasts that were accompanied by obedience and by heartfelt repentance for any sins committed.
To carry out a religious formality. In this respect, God is like a parent who is displeased when his children express love for him merely out of obligation, not from the heart.
Definition Of Fasting In The Bible
The quick answer- fasting is an abstinence from food/drink for a set period. We see fasting in both the Old Testament and the New. Fasting is not a diet method, a way to get Gods attention, or a way to receive what we desire.Jesus was clear that fasting is not to be used to appear more spiritual than others. Fasting is used to produce a change in us- heart and mind.
What Did The Prophets Say About Fasting
Fasting appears to be a way in which judgement was averted.
Joel 1:14 Consecrate a fast, Proclaim a solemn assembly Gather the elders And all the inhabitants of the land To the house of the Lord your God, And cry out to the Lord.
Joel 2:12-13 Yet even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning and rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and he relents over disaster.
Jonah 3:4-6 Then Jonah began to go through the city one days walk and he cried out and said, Forty more days, and Nineveh will be overthrown. Then the people of Nineveh believed in God and they called a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he got up from his throne, removed his robe from himself, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat on the dust.
Zechariah 8:19 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.
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What You Should Know About Fasting In The Bible
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Have you ever wondered what the Bible says about fasting? Or even the types of fasting in the Bible?
Perhaps youve considered fasting and were curious what the rewards and benefits of a biblical fast were.
Were going to cover all that and more in this post so that you can learn more about fasting in the Bible and how to fast for a spiritual breakthrough.
You can find everything that you are looking for about fasting in the Bible, but you may also wish to purchase the ebook for your convenience. No ads, no pop ups and youll have it forever to refer to when fasting. Best part its only $5! Your choice, read it here or have it forever.
What Is The Purpose Of Fasting In The Bible
Fasting was often observed as a sign of mourning for sin. Jonah proclaimed Gods judgement to the wicked people of Nineveh, and the Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. Jonah 3:5 NIV.
It was also a common expression of deep sorrow when a loved one died.
Fasting was sometimes used to ward off a present or impending disaster.
Especially religious Jews fasted frequently. The prophetess Anna worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. . The Jewish religion did not require her to do this, but she felt the need to do so- possibly to be closer to hear Gods Word.
In the New Testament, they fasted and prayed at the ordination of some elders and missionaries. Regarding Barnabas and Paul:
So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:3 NIV.
They didnt always fast before going out on missions, but because this was Pauls first journey, they may have felt it necessary.
The focus in fasting is often on the lack of food/drink, but its purpose is in taking our focus off the worldly things that steal our attention away from God. Fasting can be a way of coming before God to give Him glory, renew our reliance on Him, and gain new perspectives of how we are living our lives. It helps us focus on our spiritual life and can expand our personal and vital relationship with God.
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Biblical Examples Of Fasting
2. Jesus expected His disciples to fast, but cautioned them not to do it for the wrong reasons. .
3. In Luke 2:36-37, we learn of Anna, described as a righteous woman who She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
4. Nehemiah fasted for several reasons including confession, repentance, and favor of the king so that he might get permission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. .
5. We read of David fasting several times, each for different reasons. In Psalm 35:13, he humbled with fasting and asked God to intervene in the injustice he was experiencing. In 2 Samuel 12:17,23, he fasted during prayer asking God to heal his sick son.
6. When Jonah preached in the city of Nineveh, the whole city came together and fasted as an act of repentance . God rewarded their prayer and fasting by saving the city from destruction.
7. There are quite a few mentions of Paul fasting and he lists it as one of the ways he suffered for the gospel . Paul also discusses fasting as part of his instruction for Christian living as a time to come together in prayer and resist temptation.
Biblical Fasting: Why When How And How Not To Fast
The concept of fasting is pervasive in the Bible. The practice of fasting, for multiple reasons, was well known to people in the ancient worldfrom prophets and priests to princes and paupers. A discipline intentionally engaged in by millions of people throughout the centuries, it is still practiced today.
The practice of refraining from eating or drastically reducing our food intake for a certain amount of time can focus our thoughts and sharpen our responses to certain situations. When we break from our regular routines of eating at certain times of the day, we allow our bodies to assist our minds in understanding that, for a time, we are going to be denying ourselves one thing in the interest of pursuing or considering another, typically higher, question or goal.
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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.
Fasting In Short Durations
Fasts can be for a day or less. Here are a few examples of short fasts.
Judges 20:26 Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the Lord. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the Lord.
I Samuel 7:6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, We have sinned against the Lord. Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah.
II Samuel 1:12 They mourned and wept and fasted till evening for Saul and his son Jonathan, and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.
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Return To God With Repentance
Even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.
Return to me.
What a powerful phrase coming from our Almighty God.
This was a call to repentance, for the people to return to Gods mercy and steadfast love.
And one of the ways to show their truly repentant heart was through fasting.
Even here in the Old Testament, God was not asking for the act of fasting alone. Fasting was a way to show that they desired to return to God with all of their heart.
Examples Of Fasting In The Bible
Old Testament Fasting
- Moses fasted 40 days on behalf of Israels sin: Deuteronomy 9:9, 18, 25-29 10:10.
- David fasted and mourned the death of Saul: 2 Samuel 1:12.
- David fasted and mourned the death of Abner: 2 Samuel 3:35.
- David fasted and mourned the death of his child: 2 Samuel 12:16.
- Elijah fasted 40 days after fleeing from Jezebel: 1 Kings 19:7-18.
- Ahab fasted and humbled himself before God: 1 Kings 21:27-29.
- Darius fasted in concern for Daniel: Daniel 6:18-24.
- Daniel fasted on behalf of Judah’s sin while reading Jeremiahs prophecy: Daniel 9:1-19.
- Daniel fasted regarding a mysterious vision from God: Daniel 10:3-13.
- Esther fasted on behalf of her people: Esther 4:13-16.
- Ezra fasted and wept for the sins of the returning remnant: Ezra 10:6-17.
- Nehemiah fasted and mourned over the broken walls of Jerusalem: Nehemiah 1:4-2:10.
- The people of Ninevah fasted after hearing the message of Jonah: Jonah 3.
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Fasting In The New Testament
Fasting is mentioned far less in the New Testament than in the Old Testament.
I Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
II Corinthians 6:4-6 But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love,
II Corinthians 11:27-28in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
Acts 10:30-31 So Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God.
Why You Shouldnt Fast And The Wrong Motivations For Fasting
- To gain recognition by others. Fasting so that others will say Look at her. She fasts. Shes such a wonderful Christian! is wrong. If others notice that you are fasting, thats fine, but fasting for such recognition is a sin.
so that it will not be obvious to others 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 6:18
- To gain recognition from God. Fasting isnt an act that you do for God. It acknowledging His power and grace and that you are completely dependent on Him.
- To up the ante in hopes that God will answer your prayers. Heres the thing about this: its fine to fast and pray for something but it is the FAITH, not the fasting, that is in play here. You may choose to fast as part of your focused prayer time, but, fasting, in and of itself is not a fast track to God answering your prayers.
Lets take a look at the four main types of fasting in the Bible, as well as fasts that fall under each main type:
Why Did People Fast In The Bible
Fasting was an important aspect of life for the Hebrews. People in the Bible fasted not for dietary reasons as made popular in todays culture. Rather, they fasted as a reaction to certain situations.
God required His people to maintain fasts on the Day of Atonement to maintain purity and humility . In a similar fashion, when faced with their sinful actions, people would react by fasting to show their repentance, like when the king of Nineveh ordered a communal fast after Jonahs message . Fasting was also a response to grief and loss. When King Saul died, the nation of Israel abstained from food for 7 days .
Fasting wasnt just a communal act individuals like Moses, David, Hannah, and Daniel fasted usually to seek Gods deliverance .
In the New Testament, we find the early Church and its Apostles practiced fasting . Even Jesus fasted. Prior to His temptation in the desert, Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights preparing and strengthening Himself for His ministry ahead.
What Does The Bible Say About Fasting In Secret
Jesus has warned his disciples to be very careful while they fast. People in this world live a different way from the teachings of Jesus. When they fast, they try to proclaim to others so that people can praise them.
But Jesus says that his followers must not show their fasting to others. If they show their fasting to others, then they will not get any reward from him. Those who will keep it hidden will be rewarded by the Father who watches from the above. .
How Not To Fast
The prophet Isaiah instructs his readers about pursuing a fast while ones heart is not in the right place :
Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you pleaseand 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 todayand expect your voice to be heard on high.Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,only a day for people to humble themselves?Is it only for bowing ones head like a reedand for lying in sackcloth and ashes?Is that what you call a fast,a day acceptable to the LORD?Isaiah 58:45
This passage speaks to the heart and practice of people who fast to put on a show or whose motivations are not pure. Fasting is done with open hearts and hands to receive guidance and direction from God, not as a tool to manipulate God into conforming his divine will to one persons plans.
Isaiah calls out the individuals in question, relating Gods desire for authenticity from those who seek him.
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:
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