Let’s clear the air, fasting isn’t a diet. If truth be told, I have never lost a single pound while fasting, and I don’t mind because it is not the goal or purpose of fasting. We see fasting going all the way back into the early Old Testament books when we see Moses fasting and praying for forty days before the Lord to save the Israelites from God’s wrath. We see David fasting and praying in 2 Samuel for his dying son. Even Jesus is Matthew 4 fasted.
Fasting is mentioned in Scripture around “77” different times according to Donald S. Whitney. (The Gospel and the Discipline of Fasting, Lifeway.com) Fasting has been a long used spiritual discipline with one ultimate purpose to draw the one who is fasting closer to our Abba Father, to seek Him and His wisdom, sometimes even for answers to a specific petition you are making to the Lord like Moses. But, there are few facts that we find in Scripture that remain constant about fasting:
- Fasting is private: Matthew 6:16-18 says “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth; 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 men that you are fasting but only to your Father, who is unseen: and your Father, who sees what is done in private will reward you.” (NIV) Though sometimes fasting may corporate which we see in the book of Acts.
- Fasting should be done with a purpose: Not one spiritual discipline like fasting can save us, only Christ through His death and resurrection can do that. Fasting is not done for the saving of our souls. We fast as a servant to Christ Jesus, one who seeks to draw closer to God through this Spiritual discipline. Times of full fasting or partial fasting should come at times of spiritual dryness when we feel disconnected, or you are in a season of making important decisions or seeking to grow deeper in your faith walk.
There isn’t a set rule for how long to fast, when to fast or if it should be total fasting or partial fasting. The Lenten season we find that partial fasting is a common choice, choosing to eliminate a particular food from your daily habits. Some days through Lent there is complete and total fasting. Some may decide to fully fast the Thursday before Easter in order to align their hearts properly with the events that bring us to that Sunday Morning.
I love what Donald S. Whitney has to say about fasting at the end of his article, “Fasting is a God-ordained expression of our belief that we have tasted and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8)- so good that there are times we’re satisfied to feast on Him instead of the food that the Lord made to sustain us. Fasting is a temporary, physical demonstration that you believe the eternal, spiritual reality of the gospel, that ‘man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’(Matthew4:4).”
Fasting is a profound spiritual discipline that we should be doing, if it was needed by the disciples who actually spent time in the presence of Jesus, the same disciples who watched Him ascend into heaven, the same disciples who went running into an empty grave looking for Jesus, then it is needed for us today. A discipline that like prayer can draw us closer to the feet of the Master.