Archive for January 6th, 2011

What is Fasting?

FAST, FASTING Eating sparingly or abstaining from food altogether, either from necessity or desire. In medical terms, fasting is the detoxification of the body through the restriction of food.

 Spiritual fasting entails setting aside activities as well as reducing the intake of food and replacing these activities with the exercise of prayer and preoccupation with spiritual concerns. The NT word that is translated as “fasting” literally means one who has not eaten, one who is empty.

Three types of fast are generally recognized: normal, in which there is no intake of food for a prescribed period of time, though there may be an intake of liquids; partial, where the diet is limited, though some food is allowed; and absolute, where there is a total abstinence from food and liquids in all forms.[1]

God created the human body to require food to keep it operating. To make sure the body gets fuel God created within us an appetite for food, called hunger. Eating satisfies our appetite.

So why choose to fast?

From God’s perspective fasting can be used to accomplish a spiritual purpose. In the OT, the Israelites were commanded to fast once each year. This fast took place on the Day of Atonement. As Christians we live under grace, so we are not required to fast. However, Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 6:16 that we are allowed to fast for certain reasons:

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” (NASB95)

Likewise, in Matthew 9:15 He states:

“The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (NASB95)

And in Matthew 17:21 He declares:

“But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”(NASB95)

Also see the apostles in the Early Church fasting for a spiritual purpose in Acts 13:2-3:

While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” (NASB95)

Elmer L. Towns wrote, “The purpose of fasting is not to make an outward show of your religious dedication to God, but rather to make a personal commitment between you and God. Like any spiritual discipline it is not always easy and you will undoubtedly encounter resistance. Embark on your fast with full understanding of what you are doing. The path maybe difficult, but the rewards will be great.”

Has God called you to fast and prayer? Do you need a breakthrough and/or want to get to know God better? 

Prayer: Jesus said the spirit is willing but the body is weak. Lord, my prayer is that you will help to understand what fasting is and do I need to fast. Amen 

 Further Reading:

The Daniel Fast for Spiritual Breakthrough – Elmer L. Towns


[1]Elwell, Walter A. ; Comfort, Philip Wesley: Tyndale Bible Dictionary. Wheaton, Ill. : Tyndale House Publishers, 2001

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