Reading your Bible. Praying. Stewardship.
If you’re a Christian, then you probably have practiced these disciplines to help you grow in your walk with Jesus. But what about fasting? A clear biblical principle found in both the Old and New Testament, many of us aren’t sure what the Bible states about fasting and why we should continue to practice this form of self-denial.
Why Did People Fast in the Bible?
Fasting was an important aspect of life for the Hebrews. People in the Bible fasted not for dietary reasons as made popular in today’s culture. Rather, they fasted as a reaction to certain situations.
God required His people to maintain fasts on the Day of Atonement to maintain purity and humility (see Leviticus 16:31-34). In a similar fashion, when faced with their sinful actions, people would react by fasting to show their repentance, like when the king of Nineveh ordered a communal fast after Jonah’s message (Jonah 3:5-9). Fasting was also a response to grief and loss. When King Saul died, the nation of Israel abstained from food for 7 days (1 Samuel 31:13).
Fasting wasn’t just a communal act; individuals like Moses, David, Hannah, and Daniel fasted – usually to seek God’s deliverance (Exododus 34:28; 1 Samuel 1:7; 2 Samuel 12:16; Daniel 9:3, 4).
In the New Testament, we find the early Church and its Apostles practiced fasting (Acts 13:2; 14:23; 2 Corinthians 6:4-5). Even Jesus fasted. Prior to His temptation in the desert, Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights (Matthew 4:1-2) – preparing and strengthening Himself for His ministry ahead.
Should Christians Today Fast?
We may not observe nation-wide fasts as Israel did or observe the Day of Atonement; however, fasting is a practice that has proven to bring people closer to God much like the disciplines mentioned at the beginning of this article.
In fasting, we turn away from an activity or desire and turn to the presence of God. Throughout the Bible, food was the primary element people deprived themselves. In modern times, people have expanded fasting to include any activity or desire that isn’t sinful.
Take social media for example. It’s not sinful to participate in social media; however, when social media becomes our main source for love, identity, refuge – that is when we should seek to turn away from it (i.e., fast) and turn instead to God’s presence.
Fasting isn’t easy; it’s hard work. Depriving ourselves of simple pleasures or activities is not natural. Just remember, fasting is an act of surrendering. Jesus calls us to surrender ourselves to Him (Luke 9:23). When we surrender those things in life that challenge or take away from Jesus, we make room for God to enter and change us to be more like His Son.
Content in this article taken from the NKJV Open Bible. The Bible is a collection of 66 books written by many writers over a vast time period, and yet it’s the unified Word of God. The Open Bible offers clean and easy navigation through the connectivity of Scripture with a time-tested complete reference system trusted by millions. Plus, The Open Bible gives you even more access into the pages of the Word with book introductions and outlines to provide context and themes from beginning to end.
For more information on fasting or other Christian disciplines, check out the Open Bible.