1. So, what Does the Bible Say About Spiritual Fasting?
In the Old Testament, God commanded Israel to observe several set times of fasting. For New Testament believers, fasting was neither commanded nor forbidden in the Bible. While early Christians were not required to fast, many practiced prayer and fasting regularly. Jesus himself affirmed in Luke 5:35 that after his death fasting would be appropriate for his followers. Spiritual fasting clearly has a place and a purpose for God’s people today.
2. What is Spiritual Fasting?
In most cases, a spiritual fast involves abstaining from food while focusing on prayer. This can mean refraining from snacks between meals, skipping one or two meals a day, abstaining only from certain foods, or a total fast from all food for an entire day or longer.
For medical reasons, some people should not fast from food altogether. They may choose to abstain only from certain foods, like sugar or chocolate, or from something other than food.
In truth, believers can fast from anything. Doing without something temporarily, such as television or sweets, as a way of redirecting our focus from earthly things toward God, can also be considered a spiritual fast.
3. The Purpose of Spiritual Fasting
While many people fast to lose weight, dieting is not the purpose of a spiritual fast. Instead, fasting provides unique spiritual benefits in the life of the believer.
Fasting requires self-control and discipline as one denies the natural desires of the flesh. During spiritual fasting, the believer’s focus is removed from the physical things of this world and intensely concentrated on God. Put differently, fasting directs our hunger toward God. It clears the mind and body of earthly attentions and draws us close to God. So, as we gain spiritual clarity of thought while fasting, it allows us to hear God more clearly. Fasting also demonstrates a profound need for God’s help and guidance through complete dependence upon him.
4. What Spiritual Fasting is Not.
Spiritual fasting is not a way to earn God’s favor by getting him to do something for us. Rather, the purpose is to produce a transformation in us—a clearer, more focused attention and dependence upon God. Fasting is never to be a public display of spirituality—it is between you and God alone. Only do it if you feel so led . In fact, Jesus specifically instructed us in Matthew 6:16-18 to let our fasting be done privately and in humility, else we forfeit the benefits. Also , New Testament believers were taught to practice fasting with a cheerful attitude. Lastly, it should be understood, spiritual fasting is never for the purpose of punishing or harming the body.
5. How long should I fast?
Fasting, especially from food, should be limited to a determined length of time. Fasting for too long can cause harm to the body.
Your decision to fast should be guided by the Holy Spirit. In addition, It is highly recommended, especially if you’ve never fasted, that you seek both medical and spiritual counsel before embarking on any type of prolonged fast. While Jesus and Moses both fasted for 40 days without food and water, this was clearly an impossible human achievement, only accomplished through the Holy Spirit’s empowerment.
(Important Note: Fasting from food without water is extremely dangerous and should not be attempted )
6. How often can I fast?
New Testament Christians practiced prayer and fasting regularly. Believers should be led by God through prayer concerning when and how often to fast.