What Is Christian Fasting?
When I answer the question, What Is a Christian Fast, I shall do so by explaining its seven features? They describe every Christian fasting in the Holy Bible.
There are two basic ways to approach Christian fasting: as a body of Believers (The Church), or as an individual.
Today, I will focus on the latter; later, I will address the former.
Consequently, the Scriptures when clarifying the definition of Christian fasting, emphasize it as an acceptable day to the Lord; a time for seeking God; a day for approaching God; a day for afflicting the soul; a time for mourning; and finally a duration that the Lord has chosen.
There are many myths in circulation concerning the Christian fast. However, Believers need not be confused because the holy Lord God is very clear. He provides a lucid definition and precise instructions in His Word concerning this. He also supplies guidance concerning choosing our fasting days. Believers never have to assume about fasting. As a result, I shall investigate three categories of these fairy tales: What is a Christian fast; where do we fast; and what activities do we embrace while we conduct our Christian fasting?
Understanding these features of Christian Fasting shall assist you in navigating how to fast as a Christian.
What is a Christian Fast?
“Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?”
“You fasted for three days and three nights?” Michael asked Althea in disbelief.
“What did you eat?” He continued.
“Nothing!” She replied very surprisedly.
“Did you drink anything?” He asked.
“It is a fast, Michael!” She replied.
“When Believers fast they neither eat nor drink,” She said.
“I couldn’t fast. I love my food too much!” Michael told his friend.
However, as we mature as Believers in Christ, we must, of necessity, undertake Christian fasting.
This is when we decide that for a prearranged duration we will neither eat nor drink anything. During this duration, we maximize certain activities. As a result, that duration could last for twelve hours; twenty-four hours; thirty – six hours; forty – eight hours, or seventy –two hours but we decide (2 Samuel 1:12).
#1. An Acceptable Day To The Lord – No Fixed Day!
Therefore, a Christian fast day is essentially an acceptable day to the Lord our God.
As I expound on Christian Fasting, I want you to keep in mind both the spiritual and the natural aspects of it.
Naturally, the Jews observe specific fast days at various times within a year. The Lord commands them to fast.
He had “chosen” a day for them to fast. They make it acceptable by conforming to His chosen activities for that day.
While, the remainder of us, (the Church and all the other Gentiles), has no biblical commandments from God to fast on a specific day. Yet, He expects us to fast to Him!
Spiritually, though, we could choose whichever day we desire and make it acceptable and chosen by Him.
If it is acceptable to Him, then it is also chosen. If we obey God, He will always accept our actions.
Jesus Expects Us To Fast!
Nevertheless, some shall say that Jesus Christ gave no direct commandment to his Twelve Apostles to fast and they would be correct.
However, he expected them and us to fast. He revealed his expectations when he said: “when ye fast”.
“Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.”
Types of Christian Fasting?
Seeing that a Christian fast is a duration of total abstinence from foods, drinks, and sexual indulgence, how could there be types of Christian fasting?
No Scripture reveals any partial-fast. Consequently, there are no types of Christian fasting in the Bible (Esther 4:16).
So, the advocates of partial fasting have erred greatly not knowing the Scriptures. They misunderstand the Bible.
They impose their opinions on the Word of God. Moreover, partial fasting is a contradiction by its very nature.
There is no contradiction in the Bible, not if you allow the Word to interpret itself. Again, partial fasting is not biblical.
There is no example of it in the Bible, our supreme guide. There is only the Christian fast!
What are the Criteria for Types of Christian Fast?
However, the Bible cautions that married couples should never enter into a Christian fast unless each spouse agrees to the duration. Therefore, married Believers should first accept the fast duration of their spouse which legitimizes it in the eyes of the Lord God. However, to the single Christians, you are only answerable to yourselves and to God. So, while fasting, even married Believers should abstain from sexual intimacy. “The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife” (1 Corinthians 7:4). Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency” (1 Corinthians 7:5). “But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment” (1 Corinthians 7:6). Go to top of page.
#2. A Day To Seek God
“And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.”
2 Chronicles 20:2-3
God is not lost. But He is hidden from the unforgiving hearts.
However, for us to know the will of God, in any situation, we cannot scripturally and spiritually have this confidence in our hearts unless we seek Him by praying and fasting.
Thus, fasting is a seeking for God’s will. Therefore, Christian fasting is also a fixed duration that the Lord chooses for Believers to seek His advice and direction for various decisions that we should take.
And this makes that fast an acceptable time to Him. Additionally, the duration doesn’t have to be a day.
It could be any duration that the Believer sets aside to fast to God! Nevertheless, I’m using the phrase, “a day to seek God” as the Bible does.
“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.”
Christian Fasting – How to Seek God?
However, to the contrary, Daniel, the great prophet of God, seeks the Lord via fasting and prayers. He achieved his intended results.
“And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).
“Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12).
As a result, if we never go on a fast we will never turn with all our hearts to God. There will always be reservations.
Christian fasting surrenders us completely to God.
#3. Christian Fasting – A Day To Approach God
What; When; Where; How, and Why do Christians approach God?
People cannot even approach earthly kings as they desire, and the Lord God is the King of kings. But Christian Fasting describes the manner and the time for us to get near to God.
Therefore, a Believer, in seeking directions from God, must of necessity approach Him. We are mere mortals before Him. Christians cannot go to God as we would go to a friend or a relative.
The Believers who ignore this see no results from praying to the Lord! Don’t make that mistake!
Seeing that the Lord God is a Spirit (John 4:24); therefore, approaching Him is not natural but spiritual. It’s of the heart.
If our hearts are not broken and submissive before God we cannot access Him. We need broken hearts to get close or near to God!
We need them to approach Him!
“The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
And this too is a prerequisite for Him to hear our prayers. We need broken spirits before Him.
Therefore, the Lord asks
“… I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me, saith the Lord”?
The answer is, a person with a broken and contrite heart!
How And Why Do Christians Approach God?
For this reason, the Jews follow a ritual. To indicate that they are seeking God and that they desire to get near to Him they would publicly wear sackcloth, sprinkle earth on their head, and they would sit in ashes, weeping and mourning as they fast, (Nehemiah 9:1 & Esther 4:3).
However, Israel was merely carrying out this ritual, their hearts were not in it; consequently, Isaiah 58:5.
They delight in putting on a show for onlookers to see and to say that they are fasting. But Christ teaches us not to fast publicly.
However, Daniel utilized a similar ritual but privately and achieved the intended results because his heart was in its proper mode and state (Daniel 9:3).
Initially, only kings, priests, and leaders, (those like Moses), could get close to the Lord. Neither the people nor their animals could approach.
“And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. Moses alone shall come near the Lord: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him.”
How Jesus Christ Changed Approaching God?
However, after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this changed. Now, anyone with a broken and contrite heart can approach the Lord in fasting and prayer.
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.”
Did you observe that anyone who desires to “draw” near to God must first “purify” his or her heart?
Have you ever approached the Lord God in fasting according to His Words? Again, Apostle Paul teaches us how. He says,
“Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Are you approaching God with regular prayers and Christian fasting?
#4. A Day To Afflict Your Soul
“Is it such a fast that I have chosen? [A] day for a man to afflict his soul? [I]s it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? [W]ilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?”
What Is The Affliction of The Soul?
A Believer, having recognized the imperative to approach God must then afflict his or her soul. However, punish it in solitude!
To afflict your soul means that you are flogging, beating, or punishing it!
Therefore, the affliction of our souls represents the stance Christians take, which demonstrates that we are seeking, approaching, and mourning before God.
How To Affliction The Soul?
Christian Fasting is the most effective method to beat our souls. It deprives them of their usual earthly pleasures and indulgences for a fixed time while seeking God.
This is one of the main reasons we never eat or drink as we afflict our souls. We cannot punish them and celebrate them simultaneously.
It’s one or the other.
Many people feel that they need to “connect” with nature while fasting. As a result, they fast in the woods, in bushes, or in the mountains.
Some even sit by a river or the sea.
However, Jesus and the others didn’t fast in some of those places just to connect with nature, but to isolate themselves to focus on the job of praying and meditating on the Word of God, and in so doing they were afflicting their souls.
They were ensuring that their fasting was an acceptable day to the Lord God. If God does not accept our Christian fast, what is the sense of fasting?
Find Creative Ways To Afflict Your Soul!
Concerning connecting with nature as we fast, everyone does not live near isolated areas and mountains and lakes and so on.
Many Believers live in big cities and apartments and very busy places. But we could be creative in identifying ways to afflict our souls.
We could retreat to the roof or basement of our homes to be alone with God. And there afflict our souls as we fast and qualify to approach God.
On my part, as a matter of observation, the more I learn about Christian Fasting, through the Word of God and by personal experience, the more I perceive that it is not about God but us.
We fast because fasting benefits us. Christians fast to the Lord. Believers afflict their souls to qualify to get near to God.
#5. Christian Fasting – A Day To Mourn?
A biblical fast is also a time to mourn. It’s not mourning as one would grieve for the loss of loved ones. No! It’s more a time of repentance.
It’s a lamenting for sinning against God.
“In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”.
In other words, Daniel was fasting.
No wonder the Lord instructs us to understand fasting as a time of weeping.
“Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.”
As we enter into a Christian fast our motive is very important. It determines the outcome of our fasting.
This Is A Synonym For Fasting
Is our time of fasting and languishing, to God?
“Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?” (Zechariah 7:5).
So Christian Fasting is also a day to mourn for sinning against God and a time to turn from them to Him.
Consequently, a biblical fast is synonymous with mourning. Each day, as you read your Bible, note how it uses mourning or to mourn to describe biblical fasting.
Most people don’t eat or drink while mourning. As a matter of fact, they don’t even desire food or drink at that time.
#6. A Day The Lord Chooses
Our fasting is a chosen one by God because we obey all His directives for it. Not only that but He accepts our fasting because it pleases Him!
Therefore, an apt guideline to adhere to, to ensure that our fast is chosen and acceptable to God includes the following: is our fast an acceptable day to the Lord; is it a duration for seeking God; also is it a time that we approach the awesome presence of God; is it a day in which we afflict our souls, and is it a day to mourn and weep for our sins?
If your answer is yes, your fast is the one that the Lord God has chosen. So, if our fast conforms to His Words and our hearts are broken before Him, I believe with my entire heart that God has chosen our fast.
Is a person awake and asleep at the same time? Could one be tied and untied simultaneously? Or is a person dead and alive at once?
If no, then how can a person water-fast, juice-fast, partial-fast, or even Daniel-fast concurrently? It is not possible!
These are mutually exclusive events. It’s one or the other.
Therefore, in the context of a chosen fast, how can we eat or drink? And if we eat or drink we are not afflicting our souls but pampering them!
Let us fast according to the Word of God! What do you eat or drink while you execute your Christian fasting? Explain in the comments below!
#7. A Day The Lord Accepts
Seeing our fast, at least, has a specific goal, we need God to hear us when we call. And if He doesn’t our fasting was not accepted; but, if He does, He accepts it.
How would we know that he hears and accepts it (Jeremiah 14:12)? He will respond.
He will give us direction for decisions and we will always have good success. The day the Lord accepts is the one He chooses.
It’s the chosen fast. He accepts it because we obey His directive for it. If we disobey Him and impose our own parameters on His fast, He rejects that day.
Then we cannot attain our spiritual objectives while on such a fast. This is a futile attempt.
Obey Him. As a result, our Christian fast maybe chosen but not accepted. Did we fast according to His directives?
That was Israel’s predicament, (Isaiah 58:1-7). When are you going on a fast? Share your thoughts on Christian fasting by commenting below.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts of biblical fasting.
We should maximize the activities that will ensure that our Lord God accepts and chooses our Christian fast.
These, of necessity, include meditation, frequent prayer periods, and Bible reading. However, the meditation that we undertake must be on the Word of God.
Think on it. Ponder it! (Joshua 1:8). So, there is no fasting to the Lord Jesus Christ without praying.
We cannot pray enough especially during a fast. Pray as often as your circumstances allow you. Audible prayers are powerful. They are effective for the person praying and for whomever is overhearing them.
Our prayer could bless someone who hears it. But the audio is mainly for us. The Lord hears every prayer even the silent ones, (Genesis 24:45 & 1 Samuel 1:13).
Reading or listening to the scriptures or both is empowering. Most times, as I’m reading my Bible I’m listening to a reading of the same scripture that I’m reading.
The regular affliction of a Believer’s soul through fasting is essential for all seeking the Lord’s will. And when we say fasting we also mean praying. There’s no Christian fast without prayer.
What Activities do you Maximize During Your Christian Fast?
Finally, some of the great men and women of the Bible fasted. Men like Daniel, David, Job, Jesus, Apostle Paul, John, and Esther respectively.
In scriptures and in contemporary life, the Believers with the power and influence of God are those who indulge in much fasting and praying.
To conclude, if we are Believers in Christ Jesus, our fasting should emulate the people of the Bible. They are our examples to follow (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11).
None of them consumed any food or drink during a fast and we shouldn’t. All of our biblical fasts should contain these seven features.