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Fasting in the Bible: Although fasting is not regularly used as a way of deeper communication and relationship with God in present times, it was regularly practiced throughout the history of the Bible. The first known fast in the Bible is Moses’ 80 day supernatural fast. (Deut 9:9-18) Only two other people in the Bible fasted for 40 days; Elijah (1 Kings 19:5-9) and Jesus (Mat 4:2). All other fasts are of much shorter duration. Often those who fasted were in some type of serious situation (danger {Ezra 8:21}, mourning {2 Sam 3:35}, dealing with sin {Jonah 3:5} or illness {Ps 35:13}) to name a few.
The only time a fast was declared by God was on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16). Because Christ atoned for our sins, we no longer have to observe the Day of Atonement. Even though fasting is not a commandment, Jesus expects us to fast (Mat 6:16). Fasting then, as it is now, is an act of humility and obedience to God.

The Purpose of Fasting: We often communicate to God through prayer and meditation. There are times however, when we need to communicate on a deeper level with God. Like those in the Bible, we may need deeper communication and understanding with God in times of mourning death, for repentance and confession of sin, protection, direction or when dealing with illness. Fasting must always be combined with prayer. Fasting is not a manipulative tool nor is it something we initiate through physical or psychological will power. Fasting should also not be seen as a hypocritical religious act (Mat 6:16-18).
As Jesus states in the above verse: “when you fast, put on festive clothing, so that no one will suspect you are hungry, except the Father who knows every secret. And he will reward you”. True biblical fasting is between an individual and God. By giving up something that controls us, our needs are more exposed to God. This is a way of saying food and other things in my life, at this time, do not matter to me as much as the pain I have inside (act of humility). Once the pain is exposed to God, he can work more easily in the healing process.

When Should You Fast?: Fasting is not your decision. It’s God’s. Normally fasts are needed when we bring a very troubled spirit or very anxious heart before the Lord. Fasts are not chosen on the spur of the moment. They often occur when we continue with that which afflicts us. It demonstrates we are seeking God with all our heart. Food does not sustain us, God does (Col 1:17, Mat 4:4). We are not so much abstaining from food as we are feasting on the word of God (John 4:32-34). Breakthroughs in the spiritual realm may happen in no other way. Fasting is a seldom used way to receive God’s grace.

Does Fasting Only Involve Giving Up Food?: There are many things in our lives that hide our heart from God. These things often control us and keep us from a strong relationship with God. Consider fasting from things such as media sources, the telephone, shopping, impulse spending or hobbies that occupy a great deal of time. Giving up control of any of these allows God to step into your heart.

Types of Fasts: Partial fast (lunch to lunch) – miss two meals. This fast can be supplemented with fresh juices.

Normal 24 hour fast – miss two meals. Drink only water in healthy amounts.

Longer fasts – 36 hour – miss three meals

3 to 7 day (always consult God before doing this)

If you consider a 3 to 7 day food fast, be sure to consult a physician to determine if you are physically capable of completing it.

The time you normally spend with the activities that control you should be given to God in the form of study, meditation, prayer and worship.

Information Sources:

Celebration of Discipline: The Pathway to Spiritual Growth, Richard J. Foster, 20th Anniversary Edition, Harper Collins.
Going Faster in the Christian Life: Internet Paper, Dennis Rupert, www.new-life.net/fasting.html, 2004