Category: Fasting


Both Muslims and Christians fast, but their purposes for fasting differ. In order to keep one of the Five Pillars, a Muslim is obligated to fast during Ramadan.

The Bible teaches that fasting merits neither God’s favor nor a place in paradise. Christians may fast for one of the following reasons:

• To demonstrate their satisfaction in God (Matthew 4:4)
• To humble themselves before God (Daniel 9:3)
• To request God’s help (2 Samuel 12:16; Esther 4:16; Ezra 8:23)
• To seek God’s will (Acts 13:2-3)
• To turn from sin (Jonah 3:5-10)
• To worship God without distractions (Luke 2:36-38)

Jesus fasted
At the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, before His great miracles and teaching, He fasted forty days. Afterwards, the devil tested Jesus while He was weak with hunger: “And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. . . . Again, the Devil took Him up into a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, ‘All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.”’ Then the Devil left him. And behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matthew 4:2, 8-11).

Although Satan tempted Jesus to sin, Jesus remained perfect, unlike all other human beings in history.

Jesus’ warning against prideful fasting
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day prided themselves in fasting twice a week, but Jesus challenged their sincerity.

• Don’t fast to appear religious before men
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:16-18).

• Don’t fast to earn forgiveness of sin

(A Pharisee is one who belonged to a religious, fundamental sect of the Jews.)

“The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:11-14). Jesus taught that we cannot earn entrance to paradise through fasting. Our sin renders even our best religious deeds unworthy (Isaiah 64:6).

Jesus’ transformation of fasting
Jesus taught that following God’s will brings more satisfaction than eating: “. . . His disciples were asking Him, saying, ‘Master, eat.’ But He said to them, ‘I have food to eat which you do not know.’ Therefore the disciples said to one another, ‘No one brought Him anything to eat?’ Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work’” (John 4:31-34).

What is God’s will? “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes on Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you also have seen Me and do not believe. All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will in no way cast out. For I came down from Heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all which He has given Me I should lose nothing but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes on Him should have everlasting life. And I will raise him up at the last day’” (John 6:35-40).

Just as we will die if we don’t eat bread, we will die (i.e., be separated from God eternally in hell) if we don’t receive Jesus, the Bread of Life. Because He came “down from heaven,” born of a virgin, Jesus called God His Father. Jesus proved by His perfect life, death, and resurrection that He is divine, the Son of God. Jesus fulfilled His Father’s will: saving believing sinners by taking their punishment for sin on the cross. By raising Jesus from the dead, God showed that He accepted Christ’s sacrifice.

How do you receive the Bread of Life? You must turn from sin and trust in the Lord Jesus’ death and resurrection to save you—not your own goodness through works such as fasting.

After saving you from sin, the Lord will give you the desire and strength to glorify God through good works—even fasting: “But now, being made free from sin, and having become slaves to God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23).

A personal testimony of fasting
A wise man, who spent years of his life serving Muslims in the Middle East, shares his reasons for fasting.

I want fasting to be . . .
• an honest statement of what is most important to me. I want this simple act (going without food for a while) to remind me that spiritual, eternal things are more important than temporal things.

• a symbol of the satisfaction I’m finding in God Himself: loving Him, learning of Him, doing His will.

• a celebration of God’s setting me apart, granting me forgiveness through the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and rescuing me from the sinful habits that were enslaving me.

• a time of gladness, praise, and intercession on behalf of my family and friends in many countries.

• a means of deeper contentment in the Lord. Thus, I will be more motivated and better able to share my material and spiritual gifts with others. The Lord Jesus said, “And your Father . . . will reward you” (Matthew 6:18b).

The concept of a Daniel fast comes from Daniel 1:8-14, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.’

Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’ So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.”

The background of the Daniel fast is that Daniel and his three friends had been deported to Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians conquered Judah (2 Kings 24:13-14). Daniel and his three friends were put into the Babylonian court servant “training program.” Part of the program was learning Babylonian customs, beliefs, laws, and practices. The eating habits of the Babylonians were not in complete agreement with the Mosaic Law. As a result, Daniel asked if he and his three friends could be excused from eating the meat (which was likely sacrificed to Babylonian false gods and idols).

So, a Daniel fast is eating only fruits and vegetables for a certain amount of time and abstaining from meat products. Some people use a Daniel fast as a dieting method. Some people use a Daniel fast instead of fasting from food entirely. The Bible nowhere commands believers to observe a Daniel fast. As a result, it is a matter of Christian freedom whether to observe a Daniel fast. Please also see our article on Christian fasting.

To learn more on the Daniel Fast and your health visit “Daniel Fast.”

 I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. Daniel 10:3

 

Scripture does not command Christians to fast. God does not require or demand it of Christians. At the same time, the Bible presents fasting as something that is good, profitable, and beneficial. The book of Acts records believers fasting before they made important decisions (Acts 13:2; 14:23). Fasting and prayer are often linked together (Luke 2:37; 5:33). Too often, the focus of fasting is on the lack of food. Instead, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world to focus completely on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God.

Although fasting in Scripture is almost always a fasting from food, there are other ways to fast. Anything given up temporarily in order to focus all our attention on God can be considered a fast (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). Fasting should be limited to a set time, especially when fasting from food. Extended periods of time without eating can be harmful to the body. Fasting is not intended to punish the flesh, but to redirect attention to God. Fasting should not be considered a “dieting method” either. The purpose of a biblical fast is not to lose weight, but rather to gain deeper fellowship with God. Anyone can fast, but some may not be able to fast from food (diabetics, for example). Everyone can temporarily give up something in order to draw closer to God.

By taking our eyes off the things of this world, we can more successfully turn our attention to Christ. Fasting is not a way to get God to do what we want. Fasting changes us, not God. Fasting is not a way to appear more spiritual than others. Fasting is to be done in a spirit of humility and a joyful attitude. Matthew 6:16-18 declares, “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 secret, will reward you.”