Some time ago a friend of mine asked me about fasting from a biblical perspective.


First of all fasting is not just a Christian activity. It has been used as way to regulate diet and weight, or at times people use it as tool to cleanse their bodies from toxins. During the absence of food, the body will systematically cleanse itself of everything except vital tissue. Throughout history some have used “fasting” or “hunger strikes” to achieve their goals. Wikipedia says this: A hunger strike is a method of non-violent resistance or pressure in which participants fast as an act of political protest, or to provoke feelings of guilt in others, usually with the objective to achieve a specific goal, such as a policy change. Mahatma Gandhi used this method to accomplish political change in India both against British colonialism as well as internal changes within Indian society.


As you can see each one of these descriptions of how fasting has been utilized has a goal in mind. My purpose as I write is not to critique those methods but rather to explore the biblical view on fasting.


Fasting in the scriptures was, at times, done by individuals or in a corporate manner. The reasons were numerous, a few examples are as follows: In 1 Samuel 1:7-8 Hannah weeps and refuses to eat when her husband’s other wife provokes her, and she prays for a son. She later gave birth to Samuel. In Exodus 24:18, 34:28, Moses twice spends forty days on Mount Sinai without eating or drinking in mourning over Israel’s sin. In 1 Samuel 14:24-46,  Saul places the army under oath not to eat until evening on the day of battle with the Philistines.


At times the purposes for fasting were noble as some of these mentioned above. There were times when the motive was as a result of sin as in the case of David as he fasts and weeps seven days during the terminal illness of his first son by Bathsheba found in 2 Samuel 12:16-23. The child died but David had hoped for a different result. In 1 Kings 21 we come across the case of King Ahab, he eats no food because he is sullen after Naboth refused to sell his vineyard and his wife Jezebel calls a national false day of fasting to accuse Naboth of cursing God.


In the New Testament, Luke 1 observes Anna as she served in the temple night and day with fasting and prayers, or the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable found in Luke 18 shows his self-righteousness by boasting that he fasts twice a week and tithes, or Paul and Barnabas appoint elders in the churches, having prayed with fasting in Acts 14:23.


As you can see the biblical examples are plenty with both positive and negative implications. But how do we view it personally and what does God want from us?


          First of all, I would like to stress that the purpose of fasting is not to manipulate God, as we look closely at the Word of God, we find that the Lord never did away with the principle of fasting which is still a valid key today that can be used today to bring us into kingdom living. What is fasting? Biblical fasting is done to bring spiritual results and is not simply for physical purposes. Doctors today are discovering the physical benefits of this practice and have found that abstaining from food (not water) for several days has a wonderful cleansing effect upon the body. Many impurities are burned up within the body as it is denied food, thus clearing the mind, and cleansing and healing the body. Even nature shows us that fasting is good medicine as we automatically lose our appetites when sickness strikes. Many people in the world are practicing fasting and finding it not only healthful, but even a wonderful way to lose weight quickly. However, even though we may enjoy these benefits while fasting, the Christian primarily fasts for spiritual purposes and not for health reasons. Obeying spiritual principles can produce positive physical results, but they are added blessings.

         The Lord tells us that “when” we fast, we are to do it unto the Lord. He doesn't say “if” we fast, as it states in Matthew 6:16-18 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

          We can see that our motives in fasting must be pure. We are not to do it in order to broadcast it, but we are to do it as quietly and simply as possible so as not to attract attention to ourselves. We are to appear to others as though we are not fasting. There are exceptions, such as when we are fasting as a group for a specific thing; then it must be announced so that others can take part. We find this in Joel 1:14 “Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD.”

          The main thing the Lord desires is that it be done unto Him and not as a show unto men. Our heart attitude must be right to produce spiritual results.



(to be continued)

By: Pastor David Jones