Examples of Fasting In the Bible

Updated: Sep 5, 2018

We can sometimes have the idea that fasting is for the “Navy-seals” of the Christian faith.  The mom busily changing diapers, shuttling kids back and forth to activities and school functions and maybe even working part-time, and the father who works 50-60 hours per week, there is simply no way that fasting is for the “person-in-the-pew.” The truth is that fasting is for allChristians.  Matthew 6:16, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites…”  Beyond Jesus telling us to not advertise when we are fasting, notice that he says, “when you fast.”  Jesus seems to assume that all his followers will fast.   ​ A working definition of fasting Fasting is going without food and/or water and some good gift from God for the sake of some specific Christian purpose. (Desiring God article, The secret benefit of fasting)  

The primary purpose of fasting The primary purpose of fasting is that we might long for and taste and see the Lord is good.  (Psalm 34:8)  As you go through the day and you feel the hunger pains you are drawn to the great truth that only Jesus satisfies the deepest longings of your heart.  Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  The great gift of fasting is God!  We long for and receive more of the presence of God.   We also long for the second coming of Christ. Matthew 9:14-15, “…The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”  Jesus’s disciples did not fast while he was with them, but after his resurrection and ascension, Jesus clearly says they will fast. Fasting seems to be connected to a longing for the return of Jesus!

8 reasons people fasted in the Bible Protection on a trip/journey Ezra 8:21-23Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.  For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we have told the king, “The hand or our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.”  So we fasted and implored our God for this and he listened to our entreaty.

God’s favor in difficult situations Esther 4:14-17 - For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.  And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?  Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.  I and my young woman will also fast as you do.  Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”  Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.

Repentance/brokenness over sin Daniel 9:3-5Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.  I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. Joel 2:12-13“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”  Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.

Overcome Temptation/Spiritual power and victory Matthew 4:1-2Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

Stronger faith Matthew 17:19-21Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Worshipping Luke 2:36-37And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher.  She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and them as a widow until she was eighty-four.  She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and praying night and day.

Guidance/Decision-making Acts 13:2-4While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands of them and sent them off.

Appointing someone to ministry Acts 14:23And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. This is not an exhaustive list in the Bible for fasting, but it does begin to present some of the reasons why people fasted. I encourage you to use this blog as a platform for more deep study of fasting.  Remember, ultimately, we fast so that we draw near to God.  Psalm 42:1-2, As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pant my soul for you, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When shall I come and appear before God?”

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