Don’t confuse fasting with skipping meals to lose weight or because you are too tired to cook. At the same time, fasting is not a magic ritual for God to answer our prayers. It is also not about depriving yourself or harming your body. Fasting, in simple terms, is giving up food or something else for a specific time to focus your thoughts on God. When you read about the New and the Old Testament, you will find fasting mentioned more than 50 times.
In the Old Testament, fasting is referred to as a way of humbling yourself before the Lord. In Psalms 35:13, you can learn how David humbled himself before the Lord with fasting. In the New Testament, fasting is getting closer to God by focusing on him and meditating. The New Testament shows that fasting and prayer go hand-in-hand, as seen in Luke 2:37, where a widow fasted and prayed day and night. Early Church Believers and Jesus are perfect examples of how fasting draws someone closer to God.
Christians fast to develop a strong relationship with God. It is a way of putting distractions aside and focusing on God. According to the scripture, God worked in miraculous and incredible ways when people fasted. Even though most people see fasting today as different from way back then, God still works in miraculous ways. Taking the focus away from ourselves and instead focusing on God helps realign our hearts closer to him.
The majority of Christians fast when they want something to happen in their lives. When faced with unique circumstances that require making significant decisions, it is crucial to reach out to God. Fasting helps to strengthen a person’s focus on God. It is not good to fast to seek attention. Fasting should not be seen by others but by God, who is in secret. When fasting, you redirect your focus into a reminder for prayer to God. Focusing on what you need makes fasting more fruitful. It is also a great form of spiritual discipline because Christians learn a lot by connecting to God.
What was the purpose of Jesus fasting in the wilderness?
Jesus fasted for 40 days before undergoing temptation with Satan (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13). Jesus, in His own words, reveals that He fasted to draw near to God. As seen in Deuteronomy 8:3, Jesus says that ”Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” It is a clear demonstration of faith in the act because Jesus gave up physical water and food. Instead, He relied on God as a source of strength and not on Himself. Below are the primary purposes on why Jesus fasted.
1. Fasting as a Spiritual Tool
Jesus fasted so that he could be prepared for the spiritual battle against Satan. According to the Bible, Satan lost. Fasting is a spiritual tool that helps prepare Christians spiritually to draw near to God’s strength. It is an excellent way of showing that our strength comes from God and not our own. When Jesus was fasting, He recognizes his Father’s commands. By obeying the commands and the words of God, Christians can draw strength and grow spiritually.
2. True Nourishment is from God
Jesus’s fasting is a demonstration of His faith in God. It is clearly shown when He constantly referred to God when responding to the temptation of Satan. Jesus set a great example to his followers by how he handled the situation.
3. Conquered Temptation
According to the Bible, Jesus was tempted by Satan many times. First, Jesus was tempted by the devil to turn stones into bread to feed this hunger. The second temptation He was asked to throw himself down to prove that He was the son of God and angels would catch him. The last temptation Satan asks Jesus to worship him and get the world’s glory. Jesus conquered all these temptations with powerful rebuttals. Fasting shows how Jesus is powerful and overcomes temptation. When faced with temptation as a Christian, you need to ask Jesus for help to shun away Satan.
4. Jesus’ Flesh was at its Weakest
Fasting in the wilderness for 40 days shows that Jesus is one of us because His flesh was at its weakest. Satan tempted Jesus when he was the weakest of flesh because it is easy to be susceptible to temptations during this time. Christians are constantly reminded to be thankful for the sacrifices Jesus made to be whole and closer to God.
Why do Christians Fast During Lent?
Lent refers to the six weeks before Easter. For nearly 2000 years, Christians have celebrated lent. It is that way of commemorating the death and burial of Jesus before celebrating His resurrection. People celebrate lent by fasting. They abstain from something they love or enjoy for a specific time.
Key Days During Lent
Ash Wednesday is considered to be the first day of Lent. During this time, you will see many people with black crosses on their foreheads. Ash Wednesday service is a symbolism of grief of wrongdoing by Christians, resulting in God’s division.
The day before Good Friday is known as Maundy Thursday. It is a commemoration of the night before the death of Jesus, where He had the Passover meal with his followers and friends. During Good Friday, Christians remember the death of Jesus and reflect on how it was a sacrifice for our behalf to receive forgiveness for our sins and wrongs.
Easter Sunday Christians celebrate the rising of Jesus from the dead to give us eternal life. Jesus died and resurrected to give people a chance to have a good relationship with God in this life and eternity.
Things that Happen During Lent
The main things that Christians focus on during Lent are charity, prayer, and fasting. Prayer during this time focuses on God’s forgiveness by repenting to receive God’s love and mercy. Fasting by giving up on something is also practiced. The time spent doing the things you love is replaced by connecting with God. Charity or giving money or doing something nice for others is a way of responding to God’s love, generosity, and grace. Spending time praying, fasting, and giving during lent is a way of appreciating the sacrifice made by Jesus by dying and resurrecting and giving it more meaning.
What is the Significance of Fasting in Lent?
Fasting has been linked to Lent for many years. Even though the rules regarding fasting have changed over the ages, church history fasting remains sacred. To please God through fasting, Christians need to change their behavior. Fasting goes hand-in-hand with prayer because hunger reminds us of our desire to get closer to God. Lent brings Christians together to pray and fast, creating meaningful and deeper conversations with God.
Over the recent years, a growing number of people participate in lent regardless of their denomination. The beauty of lent is that one can decide on the level of sacrifice they are willing to make. As a Christian, you can select something you struggle to do without or something you will not miss. During this time, you fast when focusing on hope and prayer, building a healthier relationship with God.
Lent provides an excellent opportunity for many Christians to set good examples for their children. Many Christian households usually observed lent as a family. It offers a promising avenue for deep and insightful conversations. It is also a great learning experience as families encourage one another to be committed to fasting and praying.
How to Fast According to the Bible
Fasting happens in almost all major religions as an ancient practice. In the Bible, fasting is mentioned more than 70 times to express grief and pray to God. It is vital to consult a medical doctor before fasting, especially if you have a medical condition. Below is information on fasting according to the Bible.
1. Fasting as a Foundation of the Church
In Acts 12:2-3, we can see how God chose Paul and Barnabas to be missionaries. On that trip, Paul and Barnabas selected leaders for the new churches. Through fasting, commitment, and prayer, Christians can build a firm foundation for the Church. It is an excellent way of drawing nearer to God and obeying his commandments.
2. Jesus’ Teachings on Fasting
In Matthew 6, Jesus did not command people to fast, but instead, He gave his disciples instructions on what not to do when they fast. He tells them not to be like hypocrites by disfiguring their faces to show others they are fasting. When fasting, nobody else should know because it is done in secret. It is a time to draw nearer to God to seek His grace and forgiveness.
3. Fasting for Safety
In Ezra 8:23, the Israelites and Ezra, while on a journey to Jerusalem, fasted and petitioned their prayer to God. When they realized that they were at risk of being robbed or ambushed on the way, they humbled themselves before God to ask him for journey mercies for their possessions in children. When fasting, Christians get closer to God in prayer. Through fasting, we see that God answered Ezra and the Israelites prayers.
4. Daniel’s Test
In Daniel 1, Daniel asked a guard at King Nebuchadnezzar’s Court to test them for ten days without giving them water to drink and vegetables to eat. At the end of the fast, Daniel and his Friends looked healthy, which impressed the guard, resulting in changing the whole Court’s diet. Daniel was tested a second time, according to Daniel 10:3. He received a vision from God, which prompted him to go on a three-week fast. He did not let any wine touch his lips, ate no meat, and did not apply any lotions until the fast was over. Fasting is an indication of how Christians draw strength from God and overcome temptations.
5. Esther’s Three-day Fast
In the Bible, Mordecai pleaded with Esther to go before the king to save the Jewish people. Esther recognized this was a dangerous task and instructed Mordecai, together with all the Jews, to fast. They were not supposed to drink or eat anything for three days. After the fast, Esther pleaded with the king, and the Jews were spared. Esther then instructed the Jews to fast every year for three days in celebration of their rescue. It is a clear indication that fasting and prayer are a great way to get closer to God to win as Christians. When we fast, God works in miraculous ways.
6. Moses Receiving Instructions from God
In Exodus 34:28, Moses went on a 40-day fast without drinking water or eating bread. During this time, Moses was instructed to write down the Ten Commandments. In the Bible, God’s servants fasted before a huge task so that God can communicate and listen to them. As Christians, when faced with difficult situations, it is good to fast so that God can hear our prayers. When you deprive yourself of eating or doing the things you love with the purpose of getting closer to God, He recognizes and shows mercy and grace.
7. Jesus in the Wilderness
In Matthew 4, Jesus was led into the desert and fasted for 40 days. In Luke 4, we can see that Jesus did not eat anything during those 40 days. Even though most people see fasting for 40 days may not seem realistic or healthy, this idea is at the heart of Lent. After this period of fasting, Jesus started his ministry. It was a necessary step for the preparation of his future tasks. Jesus overcoming the temptations in the wilderness gives Christians the courage to keep going on. It also shows that fasting and becoming closer to God helps us overcome temptations.
How Long Do Christians Fast?
In Like 5:33-35, Jesus did not give the disciples specific instructions on how often or how long they should fast. Paul in Romans also tells us that fasting is between the individual and Jesus. From this information, it is clear that fasting is a personal decision. It is upon you as a Christian to decide on how long you plan to fast. In Leviticus 23:27-32, God commands his people to fast on the Day of Atonement for 24 hours without water or food. Apart from this command, any length of fast is acceptable by God.
Fasting involves choosing to go without food or water or both deliberately for a day, part of a day, week, or more. The health of the individual usually determines the length of the fast. It is advisable for Christians who have never fasted before to commit a day. You will familiarize yourself with the process and accomplish your purpose of fasting.
Also, you can choose partial fast, like mentioned in Daniel 10:3. You take water and food in small portions and spend the extra time praying, meditating, and reading the Bible. Healthy individuals can go without water or food for three days before their bodies get stressed. Jesus Christ, Elijah, and Moses 40-day fasts were possible because of the supernatural intervention of God.
There is no specific length that is right for fasting, which means you need to be flexible and have a goal in mind when starting. It is acceptable to break your fast when you are in severe pain and discomfort.
Creative Ways to Fast
In the Bible, many servants of God fasted mainly from food. However, there are a lot of types of fasts for believers. Provided as a Christian your heart desires to know God better, there are many creative ways to fast as listed below.
Fasting from Food
When fasting from food, it is best to start small. With time you can fast for longer as your body keeps adjusting. Fasting aims to focus on God. When you have severe hunger pains, don’t strain your body but instead thank God, for He is the sustainer of your life.
Fasting from Social Media
You can take several days or close to a week and fast from different types of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Take the time to draw closer to God by reading the Bible and praying. During that time, write down what you have learned from the teachings of the word of God.
Fasting from Television
Instead of sitting down for extended hours and watching TV, you can spend that time reading the Bible and praying. You can identify a few minutes or hours and swap time for something heavenly.
Fasting from Exercise
There are Christians who find a lot of peace in taking care of their bodies by exercising. Identify a few days from the week to exercise and seek the Lord. You can replace the thoughts of exercising by thanking God for his goodness and kindness in your life.
There are many things that you can give up for a specific time and instead choose to fast. Look at your life and discover the areas you spend the most time. It will be easy for you to identify what to forego and spend a few days fasting. It is a great way to grab the attention of God and open your eyes to the reality of the good things he has done to your life.
Steps to Successful Fasting
To experience breakthroughs during fasting and prayer, you need to prepare yourself well. You can do so by following the below steps.
1. Prayer Requests
Creating a prayer guide will be of significant importance because it will help with your spiritual growth. Write your objective and goals of fasting. Pray to the Holy Spirit to gain clarity for you to have a good intent of the fast.
2. Prepare Physically
Fasting is not easy for beginners. You are advised not to go for a lengthy fast for a start. If you have medical issues, you need to adhere to your doctor’s precautions. You can do certain things to make the transition easier, such as avoiding high fast or sugary foods and eating fruits and vegetables before the fast.
Decide on the length of fast suitable for you. Some individuals choose juice fast while others fast for an entire day. During this time, you need to focus on prayer and meditate on the word of God. Write down your list of commitments so that you can get the motivation to keep going.
When fasting, you need to limit physical activity and take much rest for physical and mental comfort. If you intend to fast for more than three days, it is expected that you will challenge your flesh and spirit. Drink a lot of water as you can to avoid feeling tired throughout the day. Seeking the Lord sincerely will help you experience His goodness and miracles.
Spiritual Benefits of Fasting
1. Instills discipline
Fasting is an excellent opportunity to master discipline in our lives. It involves setting a specific number of days aside and engaging in prayer and meditation. Going the extra mile helps control greediness and instead focus on God.
2. Humbles Christians
With the many distractions such as having a lot of money, it is easy for you human beings to feel like gods. Fasting helps us remember that the incredible things that happen to us result from God’s blessings. As a Christian, you need to be grateful to God for his blessings upon your life. It would help if you did not boast when fasting because it is not a competition.
3. Strengthen your Resolve
When you feel like you are struggling to decide or wonder what is happening in your life, fasting with prayer helps dissolve these distractions. Being in touch with your spiritual needs puts you in a good mental space to make the best decisions. Fasting teaches stillness which helps repel temptation.
A Final Appeal
Fasting is a form of spiritual discipline. Jesus, the Son of God, fasted, which means He created an excellent example for Christians to follow. In the wilderness, Christ fasted for 40 days to overcome temptation by the devil. It should be a motivation for Believers to follow in his footsteps and seek God in truth and spirit to experience His goodness. Decide on the most appropriate length to fast and commit your needs to the Lord through prayer. God, in turn, will hear and answer your prayers.