BIBLICAL FASTING: NOT WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN TAUGHT
By Edwin Christiaan | May 4, 2021
The Bible does not command Christians to fast. God does not require or demand it of His Children. No pastor should obligate or guilt trip anybody to fast in order to receive God’s blessings. Fasting should never be put as a burden or duty on a Christian. Fasting should not be used as a way to appear more spiritual than others. Nowhere in the scriptures is there any indication that God is more likely to answer prayers if they are accompanied by fasting!
OLD TESTAMENT MEANING OF FASTING
In the Old Testament, fasting with prayer was done out of deep need in the face of actual or anticipated calamity, or used in times of mourning, repentance, or desperation.
King David for instance prayed and fasted over his sick baby, pleading with God to heal him.
“David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground.” 2. Samuel 12:16 NKJV
Another example is that of Queen Esther, who urged Mordecai and the Jews to fast for her as she planned to go against the law and appear before her husband the king to save her people from a plot to kill all the Jews.
“Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” Esther 4:15-16 NKJV
NEW TESTAMENT MEANING OF FASTING
In the New Testament, prayer and fasting are NOT practiced in connection with repentance or in facing calamity.
For instance, the prophetess Anna worshiped night and day in the temple, fasting and praying. She fasted as part of serving God.
“And this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” Luke 2:37 NKJV
Making decisions in ministry
In the book of Acts 13:2-3, the believers were fasting and praying to make an important decision, and as they were doing so, the Holy Spirit told them to dedicate Barnabas and Paul for the special work to which God had called them. After more fasting and prayer, they laid their hands on them, and sent them on their way. In turn, Paul and Barnabas, with prayer and fasting, appointed elders in every church, and turned them over to the care of the Lord. (See Acts 4:23)
Dealing with unbelief
In another passage, Jesus told His disciples, who were struggling with unbelief, that the kind of demon that was in the boy He cured, would not go out except by prayer and fasting.
“A man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying,“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Matthew 17:14-21 NKJV
Here, Jesus seems to be saying that if the disciples didn’t have faith to defeat demons, they could resort to fasting as a way of increasing their faith. However, judging by Jesus’ sharp rebuke to the disciples, fasting wasn’t his original plan, but having faith was! If they had had faith, there would have been no need for fasting!
Times of testing before going into ministry
Biblical Christian fasting is going without food, as Jesus demonstrated when He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. Jesus resisted him and ultimately caused the Devil to flee from Him. During this time, Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights (see Matthew 4:1-2).
Fasting with humility and discretion
Jesus said, that when we fast, we should not make it obvious as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. But when we fast, we should comb our hair and wash our face. Then no one will notice that we are fasting, except our Father, who knows what we do in private. And our Father, who sees everything, will reward us (see Matthew 6:16-18)! Fasting should be done in a spirit of humility and discretion.
Fasting is not a way to get God to do what we want. Also, Biblical fasting should not be used for dieting purposes or to lose weight. If we fast, it should be to starve our flesh and thereby also our fleshly desires to make more room for God’s Spirit to work in our lives, ultimately leading to gaining a deeper fellowship with God.
Fasting is about changing us, not God!