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Fasting brings a draining picture to mind: Hunger, fogginess, and weakness. At first glance, fasting from food seems like a way to prove self-control or detox our bodies. However, those are the goals of abstaining, and fasting goes beyond that. Biblical fasting is a practice that can strengthen us spiritually through surrendering physically. If you're curious about fasting or have tried it and only experienced craving a burger, you might have these questions:
"If God wants us to be healthy, why would He ask us to fast?" "Does every Christian need to fast?""How long should I fast?" "What should I do while fasting?" "What is the point of biblical fasting?"
Well, the Bible answers these questions and more. Let's look at what it says and how it applies to fasting in the modern age.
Here are the basics: Biblical fasting "is essentially giving up food (or another worldly habit) for a period of time in order to better focus your thoughts and attention on God." That could mean skipping one meal or going many days without food. The Bible has examples of people fasting daily and for ongoing stretches. Jesus Himself fasted for 40 days in preparation for His ministry. Whether fasting to worship, mourn, or receive wisdom, it is all about surrendering to God.
"Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God." - Matthew 4:4
"So, why food?" Since the beginning, food has been central to our lives. Literal or not, "the forbidden fruit" shows that Satan uses the desires of our flesh. It's important to note that God gave Adam and Eve food before the fall, so eating itself is not a sinful desire. However, sin causes us to put physical hunger before spiritual health. Fasting allows us to rely fully on God to sustain us.
We live in a world where eating disorders and diet trends mix with the glorification of consumption. Where does fasting fit into that? First, biblical fasting is not dieting. Restricting food to lose weight or eliminate certain foods is a different topic entirely. But we shouldn't fast without acknowledging how it does affect our bodies. God breathed life into us, and He tells us that our bodies have value. He does not want us to harm ourselves in His name. It's complex to understand that God also created us as spiritual beings, and we can deny our desires through the Holy Spirit.
There are potential positive and negative health impacts of fasting that depend on the person and the length of the fast. Before you fast, seek God's wisdom and pay attention to your health. The Bible does not tell us we have to fast, so don't push yourself if you have health risks. We should only practice fasting in prayer and never as a test of our own willpower.
Fasting goes “wrong” when we do it for the wrong reasons. It is not a way to prove our worth to God or others (Matthew 6:16). In western Christian culture, fasting isn't something we often talk about, and it can even be a controversial topic. There are plenty of reasons not to fast, but do we know the reasons to do it? Fasting isn't mandatory, yet it is frequently mentioned in the Bible as a Christian practice. Jesus and His disciples spoke on it as if it was expected. We live in a very different world than Bible times, but one could argue that fasting would be even more impactful in our culture.
If you're wondering why, when, and how to fast, consider these points:
Fasting from food will decrease your attraction to consumption and help you practice self-control.
Drawing energy from God alone will open you to hearing from Him.
Clearing your body and mind from distractions can help you read and retain God's Word.
You can focus on embodying the fruit of the Spirit.
Fasting will help you have compassion for those who don't have access to food.
You can fast from other things, such as screen time or other material habits.
However, think about whether it is actually a spiritual fast or a practical goal for your lifestyle.
Denying your primal cravings will show you the power God has in your physical life.
There's no set "correct" amount of time to fast. You can start by fasting from morning until evening one day.
Spend time in prayer and with biblical counsel as you consider fasting.
There are many good reasons to fast: To praise God, to seek repentance, to resist temptation, to ask for instruction, to pray for someone else, or simply because your soul needs to be fed by your Creator. Don't fast because you think it's what "good Christians" do. Jesus calls us to a relationship, and biblical practices are meant to help us deepen that relationship. God tells us to do everything with our hearts on Him, whether fasting or enjoying the food He blesses us with.
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31
Written Content Coordinator at Sun Valley Community Church. An avid writer since the age of 5, who loves to explore new ideas and places. Inspired by Jesus, books, and travel.