Jeff shares essential biblical and practical information regarding fasting in the video clip below. The text of the video can be found further down this page.
Let’s talk about fasting for a bit. We’re never commanded to fast in the Scriptures. You’re not in sin if you’re not fasting. But Jesus clearly assumed that His followers would fast. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 (:16-18), He gave instructions for fasting that began with the words, “Whenever you fast…” And in Matthew 9 (:14-15), we read,
…John’s disciples came to him (Jesus), saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests be sad while the groom is with them? The time will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
Here in Acts 13 (:2-3), we see one of the reasons Christians fast – to seek direction from God. They sought confirmation of the word God had spoken in their midst. Christians will also fast to draw closer to the Lord in fellowship.
But I want to explain how fasting can help us hear more clearly from God and draw closer to Him…
First, we need to understand what fasting is. It’s abstaining from food and the intake of calories. And when we do that, our body has a metabolic reaction. Our whole body begins to slow down because it’s saying, “We’re not getting any fuel right now, so we need to move into a conservation state to keep everything running.” As part of that process, your mind begins to slow down too, and your entire being becomes quieter. This metabolic change in our bodies brings a stillness that clears our minds of distractions and makes it easier to hear from God. We become more sensitive to His voice. This is what fasting is, and this is why it doesn’t work if we just cut back on certain foods or do a sugar fast. It simply will not produce the same physiological results in our bodies.
Second, if we’re going to eliminate calories for a time so that we can hear from God more clearly, we also need to make time to hear from God more clearly! A simple way of doing this is to say that we’re going to spend the time we would normally spend eating in fellowship with the Lord. So, we’re going to take at least 30 minutes, 3 times per day, to walk and pray, to worship to music, to pray in our rooms, to get into the Word and let God speak to us. If you don’t have the time to do that while you fast, then I don’t recommend that you fast. Because otherwise, all you’re doing is going on a hunger strike! And that’s not the purpose of fasting! If I’m always watching sports on TV and I never have time for my family, the solution is not only for me to stop watching so much sports; the solution is to instead spend that time with my family! Instead of this, I’m going to do this.
So, to be clear, fasting is setting aside a period of time to eliminate the intake of calories and spend extra time with the Lord.
In addition to seeking direction from God (Cf. Judges 20:26; Daniel 9:3) and drawing closer to Him, we also see people fasting in the Bible:
- As an expression of repentance (Cf. Psalm 35:13, 69:10; Joel 2:12; Jonah 3:5-10).
- While praying for miraculous deliverance (Cf. Judges 20:26; Nehemiah 1:4; Esther 4:16; Psalm 69:10).
- While praying for God’s blessing and power to be on the elders of the Church (Cf. Acts 14:23).
- While praying for physical protection (Cf. Ezra 8:23).
Sometimes, we see groups of people fasting together in the Bible – like the elders in Antioch. When fasting alone, Jesus says we’re to be discrete about it. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,
“Whenever you fast, don’t be gloomy like the hypocrites. For they disfigure their faces so that their fasting is obvious to people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting isn’t obvious to others but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. - Matthew 6:16-18
In other words, we don’t fast to appear spiritual or devout to other people – we fast to draw near to the Lord. We don’t post stuff on social media, like, “Suffering to draw closer to the Lord is worth it but man, it’s hard sometimes.” So that somebody will reply, “What’s going on? Are you OK?” Just so that we can reply, “Yea, I’m just fasting right now and it’s really difficult.” Jesus says, “Keep it to yourself. Your Father in Heaven will see you, and He’ll reward you.”
Some additional practical notes on fasting:
- Drink lots of water.
- If you have health issues and can’t fast completely, you can generate a similar metabolic effect by significantly reducing your caloric intake and fasting over a longer period.
- As I mentioned earlier, when you fast, your being will slow down and quieten. Your spiritual sensitivity will increase. And for that reason, I’m extra careful about the media I consume while I’m fasting. I generally won’t listen to secular music or watch TV or movies while I’m fasting. Also, I don’t want to see any food-related commercials!
- I cannot stress enough the importance of spending extra time with the Lord while you’re fasting. If you don’t have that extra time, it’ll turn into a hunger strike, and all you’ll be thinking about is food.
- If you operate heavy machinery or work with anything dangerous, you should probably fast when you have time off from work.
- Lastly, just a bit of a reality check. Fasting for 24 hours is nothing. Most of us are not walking around with 8% or less body fat, yet we’ll talk about fasting for 24 hours as though we’re taking our lives into our hands. “Pray for me. I don’t know if I’m gonna make it.” Unless your doctor has specifically warned you not to fast, you’ll be fine.
And while I believe the Lord will bless any type of fasting, even for just a day, the metabolic results I’ve talked about, the slowing down of oneself, takes a bit longer than 24 hours to really kick in. Usually a 3-day fast – that’s 72 hours – is what it takes to really achieve the effect.
If you want to try fasting, try going for 24 hours. Craft out that extra time you’re going to spend with the Lord and see what happens. You’ll be blessed.