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.
Why Do We Use The Term Breakfast
Even English speakers who think theyve never used fast in a sentence are actually frequent users of the word. Youve likely had the aha! moment when you noticed yourself using fast in a very specific setting: breakfast.
Breakfast is a compound made up of the words break and fast, and the meaning is just as straightforward. Its such a familiar word we seldom stop to think about what it means when you take it apart! Quite literally, when you eat in the morning, you are breaking your fast from when you were sleeping the night before, whether that was an eight-hour sleeping fast or a 12-hour fast.
Intermittent Fasting May Cause Older Adults To Lose Too Much Weight
While intermittent fasting shows promise, there is even less evidence about the benefits or how fasting might affect older adults. Human studies have looked mostly at small groups of young or middle-aged adults, for only short periods of time.
But we do know intermittent fasting could be risky in some cases. If youre already marginal as far as body weight goes, Id be concerned that youd lose too much weight, which can affect your bones, overall immune system, and energy level, says registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Womens Hospital.
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Marks Series Of Reflections On Lent
We now move on in our Lenten series to discuss the third of the Jewish acts of piety that Jesus instructs us to observe: fasting.
Actually, to be precise, Jesus does not so much instruct us to observe almsgiving, prayer, or fasting as simply assume that we are going to do it. He says, When you give alms pray. fast . There is no question that any disciple worth his salt will certainly do these things. That is simply assumed. What Jesus is concerned with is the spirit in which they are done. And with extreme consistency, what Jesus demands is that they be done to please God, not to score virtue-signaling points with human beings.
But before we can move on to discussing fasting, a question arises in many postmodern minds that does not arise concerning almsgiving or prayer: namely, why fast? Whats the point?
Almsgiving, after all, has an obvious and concrete value in building up the community and caring for the poor. Prayer, likewise, is about building relationship with God, and communal prayer can likewise build relationship with fellow believers.
But for many post-moderns, fasting seems purely negative: a strange act of self-loathing and self-abuse with no goal in view other than making somebody go hungry for the sake of going hungry. And this fills many people with the apprehension that, at the end of the day, Christian faith is basically about loathing of pleasure and the haunting fear that someone, somewhere is having a good time.
Fasting As A Form Of Protest
In addition to its role in religion, fasting may be used to express social and political views, particularly as a gesture of protest or solidarity. The classic example of this approach was set by Mahatma Gandhi, who in the early 20th century conducted a fast in prison to atone for the violent excesses of those of his followers who did not practice his teaching of satyagraha against British rule in India. Gandhi later often fasted in pursuit of similar objectives, including the removal of disabilities imposed by the government on the untouchables. Fasting has frequently been practiced to protest against war and what are considered social evils and injustices, as in the fasts of the American black comedian Dick Gregory from the 1960s in protest against the violation of civil rights of American Indians and against U.S. military activity in Southeast Asia. In 1981, 10 Irish nationalists died in a Belfast prison during a hunger strike conducted to urge recognition of themselves and their associates as political prisoners.
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Do Christians Need To Fast
Fasting might sound sensational today. But in Jesus culture, it was weird for a religious person not to fast.
The disciples of John the Baptist, an important prophet who prepared the way for Jesus ministry, often fasted. So did the Pharisees, a group of religious leaders who opposed Jesus teachings and conspired to kill Him!
During Jesus earthly ministry, His followers didnt fast. But Jesus assumed they would fast after he returned to the Father . In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives His followers instructions on how to fast, specifically telling them not to make a show of fasting like others in their culture .
Jesus may not have commanded his followers to fast, but He expected them to.
Safety And Side Effects
Despite the long list of possible health benefits associated with fasting, it may not be right for everyone.
If you suffer from diabetes or low blood sugar, fasting can lead to spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels, which could be dangerous.
Its best to talk to your doctor first if you have any underlying health conditions or are planning to fast for more than 24 hours.
Additionally, fasting is not generally recommended without medical supervision for older adults, adolescents or people who are underweight.
Additionally, if fasting for longer periods, try to minimize intense physical activity and get plenty of rest.
Summary When fasting, be sure to stay hydrated, eat nutrient-dense foods and get plenty of rest. Its best to consult with your doctor before fasting if you have any underlying health conditions or are planning to fast for more than 24 hours.
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Schedule #: Fasting 1
On this plan, you fast for a full 24 hours once or twice per week, eating sensibly the other days of the week.
What it involves
Its flexible: You can choose whichever 24 hours you want.
People who benefit
This is an advanced fasting schedule.
It works best for people whove tried either meal skipping or a one-day fasting experiment and thought, Gee, that was interesting. Lets see what happens if I push this a bit more.
Note that if youre not ready to fast one or two days a week, theres a nice half step. You can just fast for 24 hours occasionallysay, once a monthas a refresher to remind yourself that hunger is no big deal.
If you try it
- Start with just one fasting day. Two fasting days can be stressful .
- Take an honest look at the rest of your life. Fasting doesnt pair well with things like the sleep deprivation that comes from being a new parent or exhaustion from training for a marathon.
- Train on your non-fasting days. This is especially important if youre exercising intensely.
- On your non-fasting days, eat real food. Were talking plenty of lean protein, colorful veggies, healthy fats, and minimally processed carbs.
- On your fasting days, practice radical self care. Relax. Drink plenty of water or tea. Wrap yourself in a cozy blanket. Breathe deeply and find comfort in ways that work for you.
- Plan for how you will break your fast. Have food you feel good about eating ready to go. Take a few breaths before your first bite. Slow down and enjoy.
Stage 5 Fasting : Stem Cells And Immune Function
The final stage of fasting begins after a full three days without food.
Before you read about the benefits, note that a 72-hour fast is a serious undertaking. If youre going to try it, make sure you drink plenty of water, get plenty of electrolytes like sodium, magnesium, and potassium, and stop fasting if you feel lightheaded or otherwise unwell.
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Promotes Blood Sugar Control By Reducing Insulin Resistance
Several studies have found that fasting may improve blood sugar control, which could be especially useful for those at risk of diabetes.
In fact, one study in 10 people with type 2 diabetes showed that short-term intermittent fasting significantly decreased blood sugar levels .
Decreasing insulin resistance can increase your bodys sensitivity to insulin, allowing it to transport glucose from your bloodstream to your cells more efficiently.
Coupled with the potential blood sugar-lowering effects of fasting, this could help keep your blood sugar steady, preventing spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels.
Keep in mind though that some studies have found that fasting may impact blood sugar levels differently for men and women.
For instance, one small, three-week study showed that practicing alternate-day fasting impaired blood sugar control in women but had no effect in men (
and alternate-day fasting could help decrease blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance but may affect men and women differently.
The Goal Of Fasting Is To Draw Near To God
It hits the reset button of our soul and renews us from the inside out.
Fasting enables us to celebrate the goodness and mercy of God. It prepares our hearts for all the good things God desires to bring into our lives.
When deciding on a fast, we encourage you to seek God in prayer and follow what the Holy Spirit leads you to do.
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Is Intermittent Fasting Safe
Some people try intermitting fasting for weight management, and others use the method to address chronic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol or arthritis. But intermittent fasting isnt for everyone.
Williams stresses that before you try intermittent fasting , you should check in with your primary care practitioner first. Some people should steer clear of trying intermittent fasting:
- Children and teens under age 18.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- People with diabetes or blood sugar problems.
- Those with a history of eating disorders.
But, Williams says, people not in these categories who can do intermittent fasting safely can continue the regimen indefinitely. It can be a lifestyle change, she says, and one with benefits.
Keep in mind that intermittent fasting may have different effects on different people. Talk to your doctor if you start experiencing unusual anxiety, headaches, nausea or other symptoms after you start intermittent fasting.
Could Help Promote Balance In Other Areas Beyond Food
When we think of intermittent fasting we immediately think of food, since that is what we are limiting. But could we benefit from taking a break from other things in our life?
The basic concept of fasting is to abstain from something for a specific period of time, so what other things could we fast besides food?
Television, social media, and video games to name a few may all be things we could use a break from that may positively impact our health and well-being.
At the end of the day, consciously choosing to reduce or shift our habits can help us create health and wellness goals based on our values and beliefs.
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Intermittent Fasting And Working Out
Fasting and exercise dont always mix because theyre both stressors. In this chapter, well dig into what science tells us about intermittent fasting and exercise, how to balance your workout schedule with your fasting schedule, and when to do low intensity, high intensity, and active recovery workouts.
It May Be Dangerous If Youre Taking Certain Medications
If you want to give intermittent fasting a try, make sure to discuss it with your doctor first, says Dr. Eric Rimm, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Skipping meals and severely limiting calories can be dangerous for people with certain conditions, such as diabetes. Some people who take medications for blood pressure or heart disease also may be more prone to imbalances of sodium, potassium, and other minerals during longer-than-normal periods of fasting.
Dr. Suzanne Salamon, associate chief of gerontology at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, expresses another concern: People who need to take their medications with food to avoid nausea or stomach irritation may not do well with fasting.
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Why Do We Fast What Is The Purpose Of Fasting
Fasting is an ancient practice. We believe it must have existed among believers from the very beginning. The purposes of fasting include:
Developing spiritual strength, including resisting temptation.
Developing self-mastery, making our spirits masters of our bodies.
Obtaining spiritual knowledge and testimony.
Obtaining spiritual guidance.
Helping the needy.
As President Russell M. Nelson has taught: Fasting helps your spirit to develop dominance over your physical appetites. Fasting also increases your access to heavens help, as it intensifies your prayers .
In addition, the law of the fast also has the purpose of helping those in need . Today, we are asked to skip two meals and give an offering of at least the value of those meals. Our generous fast offerings go directly to helping the poor and needy, and we are blessed as well.
As President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency has taught, In Church we are invited to help Him as He cares for the poor in His way, and He promises everlasting blessings will come from our helping Him .
May Aid In Cancer Prevention And Increase The Effectiveness Of Chemotherapy
Animal and test-tube studies indicate that fasting may benefit the treatment and prevention of cancer.
In fact, one rat study found that alternate-day fasting helped block tumor formation .
Similarly, a test-tube study showed that exposing cancer cells to several cycles of fasting was as effective as chemotherapy in delaying tumor growth and increased the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs on cancer formation .
Unfortunately, most research is limited to the effects of fasting on cancer formation in animals and cells.
Despite these promising findings, additional studies are needed to look at how fasting may influence cancer development and treatment in humans.
Summary Some animal and test-tube studies suggest that fasting could block tumor development and increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy.
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Types Of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting has become very trendy in the past few years, and several different types/methods have emerged.
Here are some of the most popular ones:
- The 16/8 Method: Fast for 16 hours each day, for example by only eating between noon and 8pm.
- Eat-Stop-Eat: Once or twice a week, dont eat anything from dinner one day, until dinner the next day .
- The 5:2 Diet: During 2 days of the week, eat only about 500600 calories.
Then there are many other variations.
There are many different intermittent fasting methods. The most popular ones are the 16/8 method, Eat-Stop-Eat and the 5:2 diet.
Benefits To Fighting Inflammation
Inflammation is your bodys normal response to containing and fighting infection and repairing tissue damage. But chronic inflammation can occur when this immune response lingers, causing oxidative stress. This is linked to heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel diseases and other conditions.
Intermittent fasting has the potential to manage or prevent chronic inflammation, according to some researchers. A study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine found that in some groups, ketones produced during fasting improve the ability of cells to suppress inflammation and repair damage.
A separate study by a team at Mount Sinai hospital in the US found intermittent fasting reduced the release of pro-inflammatory cells called monocytes, and put them into sleep mode. Given the wide range of diseases caused by chronic inflammation, researchers said there was enormous potential in doing more research into the anti-inflammatory effects of intermittent fasting.
Research is ongoing into whether these benefits stem from the weight loss or the fasting.
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Bible Verses About Fasting
Daniel 10:3: I ate no choice food no meat or wine touched my lips and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.
Esther 4:16: Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.
Joel 2:12: Even now, declares the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.
Luke 2:37: and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
Luke 4:2-4: where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread. Jesus answered, It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone.
For the Top 40 Bible Verses about Fasting, click here.