Matthew 6:16-18... Jesus states, “when you fast” ... the text implies fasting will happen, not merely a suggestion to consider.
There are NO laws or commands on biblical fasting. However, in the New Testament, we also find an absence of “laws” on giving.
What is clear however, are the principles of both giving and fasting. Throughout scripture, fasting refers to abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. (Read about Anna, in Luke 2 or Daniel, in Daniel 9)
Look up the word fasting in a bible dictionary and see what you find out! Many great situations discussed in the Old Testament.
Fasting is not the same as hunger strikes or dieting. Hunger strikes are generally for the purposes to gain political power or attract attention to a specific cause. It is also distinct from health dieting which stresses fasting from food, or certain types of food for physical reasons and not spiritual.
Biblical fasting always centers on spiritual purposes. Biblical fasting abstains from food, solid or liquid, but not water. When we are willing to set aside our physical, emotional, and even spiritual desires for something as foundational as food, for a period, and to reflect and dwell in our relationship with God, we can sharpen our minds on what is truly important in life, subdue personal wants and cravings for a deeper and more meaningful connection with God and His kingdom. In openness, I have come to realize how food has been an idol for me at times in my life.
We can understand Jesus’ encouragement in John 4, when he was encouraged by the disciples to eat some food. His response?
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus, the saying ‘One sows, and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:34-38)
Chew (or more properly phrased... meditate) on that exchange for a bit...
In Matthew 9:15 we read the following: Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
Jesus’ intent was to restore proper fasting. Not as a religious duty but to sharpen our minds on God as our primary source of “food”. Fasting is often connected to “big events” upcoming in life. Combined with prayer, fasting can help us gain Spirit led clarity.
In Acts 13:2 we read: While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
The Purpose of fasting:
1-Centered on God
2-Reminder of our real food... Matthew 4:4 Fasting is feasting!
3-Balance... 1 Cor 6:12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
The Practice of fasting:
1-Is there a specific task, challenge, or concern before you?
2-Start slow... maybe a 16 hour fast (8 PM to noon) ... Medical considerations must be made
3-Then... noon to noon. Fruit juices only, then go to water only
4-Don’t call attention to your fast
5-36 hour fast? Maybe even build from there...
6-Consider a regiment of much lighter eating first and only healthy foods/beverages
7-Fasting from things other than food is helpful also, particularly if they tend to be strongholds in your life, like media, technology, entertainment. I urge this practice if you have an addiction to any of these outlets...
8-As you fast, orient your thoughts (meditation and prayer) around your specific task, challenge, or concern
9-Establish a regular pattern our routine in which you incorporate fasting
Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Still to come: