How do I fast? Am I fasting in the right way? These are frequent questions in the Christian environment, and this is a subject that always leaves many in doubt and thinking about it today we will talk about fasting here on the blog. Together we will try to understand what the Bible has to tell us about this subject. But I want to tell you one thing, fasting is preparation for battle!
What is fasting?
First, we need to understand what fasting is. In general, it is total or partial abstinence from food for a definite period of time and for a specific purpose. Fasting has been applied practically in all eras, nations, cultures, and religions, with different purposes, being spiritual or even medicinal, since its practice brings several physical benefits with the detoxification it produces in the body, but our focus here will be on biblical fasting.
Biblical fasting also brings abstinence from desirable things. Daniel, for example, ate no tasty foods and used not fragrant lotions for three weeks (Daniel 10:2-3).
What is the purpose of fasting in religion?
Fasting does not change God, it changes you! Fasting will not make God kinder or more merciful to you, in fact, it is directly related to us, that is, our need to break the barriers and limitations of our flesh. Fasting mortifies our flesh and makes our spirit alert, so its primary purpose is the mortification of the flesh.
Many may still have the view that fasting is like “magic” and by itself will solve whatever they want, but this is not actually how it works. When we fast, we should not believe in the fast, but in God, for it is He who does it. When we fast, the answer to prayer “flows better” because we are releasing our spirit in the battle against the flesh. Therefore, by fasting we remove the debris of the flesh, freeing space for our faith to express itself.
Although mortification of the flesh is the central purpose of fasting, we see in the Bible different reasons for fasting such as: consecration; repentance from sin (1 Samuel 7:6); mourning (2 Samuel 1:12 and 3:35); afflictions (2 Samuel 12:16-23); seeking Protection (Ezra 8:21-23); in situations of sickness (Psalm 35:13); intercession (Daniel 9:3, 10:2,3), among others.
Forms of fasting
1) Normal fasting: abstaining only from solid foods. In this case, the person who fasts drinks only water. Some believe that Jesus, when he fasted 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, abstained only from solid food (Matthew 4.2).
2) Total fasting: abstaining from liquid and solid food. In the Bible we see that Saul of Tarsus, after meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, abstained from solid and liquid food for three days and three nights (Acts 9.9). Moses, when he went up Mount Sinai to receive the tablets of the law for the second time, abstained from solid and liquid food for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 34.27). A true miracle!
3) Partial fasting: abstaining only from certain foods. Daniel and his three friends refused to eat Nebuchadnezzar’s (Babylon’s king) delicacies and to do so they ate only vegetables and water (Daniel 1.8; 12-15).
How long should a fast last?
When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.Ecclesiastes 5:4-5
The Bible does not determine a certain time for fasting, so each one is free to choose how long to last and when to do it. We see several examples of fasts of different lengths in Scripture, and here are some examples:
1 day – The Day of Atonement fast
3 days – Esther’s fast (Esther 4:16) and Paul’s fast (Acts 9:9)
7 days – Fasting to mourn Saul’s death (I Samuel 31:13)
14 days – Involuntary fasting by Paul and those with him on the ship (Acts 27:33)
21 days – Daniel’s fast on behalf of Jerusalem (Daniel 10.3)
40 days – the fast of the Lord Jesus in the desert (Luke 4:1,2);
Can we say that we are fasting?
16 “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. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 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.Matthew 6:16-18
In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus condemns the Pharisees’ exhibitionism before men to attest to their spirituality. He did not forbid commenting on fasting, otherwise the Bible itself would be violating this by telling of the fast that Jesus did. We should set an example and talk about the importance of fasting, but never talk about fasting to boast.
I want to close this text by challenging you to fast! You will discover how deep your relationship with God can be, after all it is in denying the desires of our flesh that we are strengthened in faith! May the Lord be with you and guide you in this practice!
God bless you!
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