Fasting - a biblical overview (video)
This 10 minute video on Fasting takes you through a quick biblical tour of fasting in the Bible and ends with Jesus' teaching on fasting
What is fasting?
Fasting is consciously abstaining from food - either entirely or partially, for a predetermined period. The objective is to draw closer to God and seek his intervention, help or guidance.
Fasting can involve the abstaining from delicacies and activities for short or long periods.
Whether we fast by not eating anything for a predetermined length of time, or use a Daniel fast, the most important thing is that we do engage with the spiritual disciple of fasting.
Jesus said 'when' we fast not 'if' we fast.
TheVideo above presents the a fundamental understanding of what it means to fast in the Bible.
1 Moses communion and dependency
The first clear reference we have to fasting in the bible comes from the life of Moses (Exodus 34:28), when he spent forty days and nights without food with God writing the ten commandments.
Here fasting is a period of close communion and dependency on God. The length of period without food and water was certainly a supernatural feat.
2 Elijah – deliverance and breakthrough
The next person to spend forty days in fasting was Elijah (1 Kings 19:7-8). Here we find the prophet fleeing from Jezebel. The angel of the Lord appears to him and provides him with food before leading Elijah on a forty day journey without food. The journey ends with Elijah returning to gain victory over the false prophets.
Here fasting brings deliverance and freedom by the power of the Lord.
3 Jesus – freedom for others
The third person to fast for forty days in the Bible is Jesus (Matthew 4:1-2). Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness and was tempted by the devil. During the forty days Jesus did not eat. The whole encounter ended with Jesus withstanding the temptations of the devil, he overcame evil on our behalf.
Here we see fasting bring deliverance and freedom to all those who would receive Jesus. Fasting can help us bring freedom and breakthrough into other lives.
It is worth mentioning that all the above cases of these long fasting periods were instigated by the Lord. They were all personal.
The Lord Jesus still leads us to personally seek him with fasting.
How long does fasting last
One day - In Judges 20:26 we witness the whole people of Israel fasting from morning to evening after facing defeat in battle. The Lord heard their prayer and gave them victory in the next battle.
Three days - In Esther 4:16-18 we witness the Jews calling a three-day prayer and fasting when their very existence was under threat, The Lord heard their prayer and delivered them
Three weeks – In Daniel 10:2-3 we learn of Daniel fasting for three weeks by not eating delicacies, meat or drinking wine. Here is a choice he made. A prudent approach as it kept his focus on God and still enabled him to have enough energy to get about day to day activities.
An undefined time - In Acts 13:1-3 we observe ministers of the gospel set aside time to pray and fast.
With the exception of Daniel, the cases above involved a cooperate and joint time of fasting. The periods vary as the people felt led.
There is no specific time for how long fasting should last. It all depends on how you are led.
Fasting can be
- Done as an individual
- Together as a group of people. A good example of this is the Lent period that many church traditions follow.
- Fasting can be for a day or longer period, as in 40 days lent.
- Fasting does not mean the complete abstinence from food. You can have a. Full fast for a short period, say a day, and break you fast at the end of the day.
b. Daniel Fast for a longer period, where you avoid eating certain foods or delicacies.
c. Tailored fast where certain activities or events are avoided besides not eating certain foods or delicacies.
Benefits of fasting
- Brings us into close communion and dependency on God.
- Brings deliverance and freedom from oppression.
- Can be used to pray for other people’s bondages and hardships
Jesus and fasting
In the New Testament Jesus himself gave the clearest insight on fasting. In Matthew 6 Jesus mentioned 3 things we should do
- Give alms – Matthew 6:1 - 'Thus, when you give to the needy'
- Pray – Matthew 6:5 - 'And when you pray'
- Fast – Matthew 6:16 – ‘And when you fast'
And then went on to mention 3 things we should not do
- Love money – Matthew 6:24 – ‘You cannot serve God and money’
- Worry – Matthew 6:25 – ‘do not be anxious’
- Be Critical or judgemental – Matthew 7:1 – ‘Judge not, that you be not judged’
Now, we can only concentrate on Fasting in this series.
Jesus said when we fast, not if we fast.
Fasting is a voluntary discipline that the Christian who wants to grow spiritually should personally get engaged in. Choose the period and type of fast that is appropriate to you.
Fasting helps us to bring our bodies under control and focus on God. If you desire to hear God speak to you, or you have a particular prayer request that you strongly desire God to answer, then fasting is a good way to approach it.
Fasting does not change God. Rather, fasting brings us closer to God. When we get close to God the devil flees (James 4:7-8) and this breaks the oppression of satan, sin and sickness over our life.
Furthermore, getting close to God means we can hear the voice of the Lord clearer. As you draw close to God you will witness more of the grace and wisdom of Christ in your life and experience more of the guidance of the Lord.
You can choose either a Daniel Fast, full Fast or customised Fast (a variation of the Daniel Fast).
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