In this study, we look at what fasting really should be and examine how powerful a tool it is in getting answered prayers and hearing from God. We also discuss how fasting is used to achieve personal breakthroughs including breaking sin patters, ending addictions and breaking bad habits.
- Matthew 4:2
- Mark 2:18-20
- 2 Samuel 12: 22-23
- Ezra 8:21-23
- 2 Chronicles 7:14
- Isaiah 58:3-10
- Joel 2:12-13
- Matthew 6:16-18
- Matthew 4:1-4
- Acts 13:1-3
- Mark 9:25-29
- Luke 11:1
- Matthew 11:18
I didn’t know much about fasting. I heard in churches they would say we’re going to fast and pray for a certain number of days before Easter, or we’re going to fast when trying to get a new building. They never told us why we were fasting though, or what the purpose of fasting was in general. I knew it was in the bible as “fasting and praying”, but that was about it. So I studied it decided to study it out...
What is Fasting?
And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.
- What was Jesus fasting from?
- Did any of the disciples or apostles fast from fishing? ...or Did Paul fast from tent making?
- Is it still considered fasting if you abstain from something other than food?
Biblical fasting is going without food. The noun translated "fast" or "a fasting" is tsom in the Hebrew which means "not to eat." in the Greek language it’s nesteia which means "no food." It’s the voluntary abstinence from food.
it also means to “cover your mouth and refuse to eat”
Fasting from Facebook or TV is like being celibate...from pork
Fasting is the spiritual discipline of abstaining from food for spiritual purposes
You shouldn’t just redefine the meaning of the word unless you know what it means or its purpose.
There are examples of partial fasts in the bible. In Dan 10:3, Daniel said I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips. Since you are fasting to ask something of God your motive and your heart is the primary concern to God. Even if your theology is wrong, God may still respond to motives that are congruent with His will. He honors your heart.
Some people define fasting as taking away pleasurable things.
Only fasting of food puts your body into spiritual subjection. It allows your spirit to be more in control over your flesh.
Many religions view fasting as an activity which serves to purify man and bring him closer to God. Many also view fasting as a way to make their prayers more effective. Remember that Ghandi fasted for 21 days during India’s freedom movement.
Even the World Fasts
- The world recognizes the benefits of fasting more than the church
- They have juice diets and lemon water with hot sauce flushes ...cleanses
- Many people do cleanses at the beginning of the year.
Jewish Day of Atonement
Leviticus 16:29-30 commanded Jews to fast on the tenth day of the seventh month. This was the only fast that was commanded in the law, but this ritual was done away with with the coming of Christ. So all fasts now are voluntary. Demonstrating humility and repentance was true of the mandatory fast on the Day of Atonement. On that day the Israelites were to “humble [their] souls”.
The Jews practiced fasting two days a week - Mondays and Thursdays. The Catholic church began to establish mandated periodic fasts. They took over the Jewish practice of fasting two days a week, changing the days from Mondays and Thursdays to Wednesdays and Fridays. At my work they serve seafood every Friday because many Catholics only eat seafood on Friday as a partial fast.
The Catholic church sets apart the 40 days prior to the resurrection as a holy period known as lent. During this period many Catholics take part in a partial fast.
Now many Protestant churches do various types of fasts at this same period.
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
Jesus and the disciples didn’t follow the ritual fasts of the Day of Atonement and the weekly fasts. But they did fast when there was a spiritual need.
What Fasting Is and Isn’t
The goal of fasting is requesting for God’s will to be implemented right now. --ML
- God’s will is that you live a life according to your purpose
- God’s will is that you be free from sin
- God’s will is that you be physically healthy
- God’s will is that you be free from the influences of Satan
- Fasting is an invitation from God it’s not a commandment
- it’s displaying your hunger to God
- it heightens your connection to the Holy Spirit
- fasting can make the bible “come alive”
- it is an act of worship and a display of humbling yourself to God
- it makes you more sensitive to sin in your body
- it allows your spirit to have more control over your flesh
many believe that fasting is also a means to better control your sexual desires
- controlling your appetite will give you more control of your sexual appetite
fasting is also known to aid people in breaking addictions and bad habits and sin patterns
fasting is not a hunger strike
- “I’m not going to eat until I get an answer”
- we shouldn’t use it to try to manipulate God
- it’s not “hey God I’m fasting, so hurry up and give me what I want”
- It’s a way of saying I trust you and I’m going to serve you
- It’s not supposed to just be a ritual done based on the calendar.
Fasting is most effective when it’s accompanied with repentance from sin, helplessness, forgiveness, and dependence on God.
David fasting to get God to change His mind
2 Samuel 12: 22-23
22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
- Why did David fast?
- he was pleading to change God’s mind after God told him his son would die
- Did it work?
- fasting is how we ask God
- we need to understand that God may say no
Why Do We Fast?
In the Old Testament they fasted for the following reasons:
- as an aid in prayer
- as a sign of repentance and seeking forgiveness for sin
- as a sign of grief or mourning over a death or disaster
- as an act of ceremonial public worship
- as a sign of humility
“The main purpose for fasting in the Old Testament by the nation or individuals was to avert or terminate a calamity by eliciting God’s compassion. When calamity struck, a fast was proclaimed. It was a spontaneous reaction to emergencies. In the Old Testament a fast was a means of demonstrating a humble heart, a repentant spirit. A fast without true humility and repentance was considered ‘valueless and senseless’.”
21 There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. 22 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.
- Why did Ezra proclaim a fast?
- so that they might humble themselves
- so that God would provide them with protection
- the term “humble yourself” in the old testament is often used to refer to fasting
Where else do we see the term “humbling yourself”?
2 Chronicles 7:14
14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
- Is prayer the only thing needed for this promise?
- What else is needed?
- humbling yourself - fasting
- seeking God’s face - His presence - His will
Would our country ever do that?
- we did
Abraham Lincoln actually called for a national day of prayer and fasting on March 30, 1863
- Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
The National Day of Prayer is an annual day of observance held on the first Thursday of May, designated by the United States Congress, when people are asked "to turn to God in prayer and meditation". Each year since its inception, the president has signed a proclamation, encouraging all Americans to pray on this day.
God’s Response to Improper Fasting
3 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?' "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. "If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
- Why were the Israelites fasting?
- so God would “answer their prayers”
- Did it work?
- Why not?
- because they didn’t humble themselves, and change their behavior
- it’s not just about not eating
- What did God say the results of fasting are?
- healing v8
- to become righteous v8
- for protection from God v8
- so God will answer your prayers v9
Fasting is supposed to be accompanied with repentance of sin, fear of judgment, helplessness, and dependence on God. It’s not supposed to just be a ritual done based on the calendar.
12“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
- What does it mean “rend your heart and not your garments”
- In the Jewish tradition people would tear their clothes as a sign of mourning or sorrow. God was saying don’t worry about the outward demonstrations, but the change in the state of the state of your heart is what’s important. He cares about the state more than your actions.
How Not to Fast
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others 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.
- Did Jesus command the disciples to fast here?
- no but based on all He knew He assumed that they would
- What will God do for you when you fast in secret?
- He will reward you
- What is the wrong reason to fast?
- to impress others by showing how religious we are
The Jews would fast when they were mourning. During those times they would not bathe, shave or keep themselves up. Jesus is saying that you no longer need to have the outward indicators of mourning. You no longer need to let others know, it’s all about your relationship with God, and the relationship with other religious people is now secondary (for example: #1 love God, #2 love your neighbor).
New Testament Fasting
In the New Testament, fasting was done in times of spiritual need. When people fasted it was to:
- prepare for a new role/ministry
- get direction from God
- cast out evil spirits
To Prepare for a New Role/Mission/Assignment
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]”
- We see throughout the bible that 40 days (or years) is the period of preparation. Jesus was preparing for his role as the Messiah. Jesus fasted during this preparation period.
23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
We see that the apostles prayed and fasted when appointing new apostles, and elders. This was part of the anointing ceremony.
To Get Direction From God
1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Carter and Earle suggest that fasting on that occasion emphasized “a state of uninterrupted concentration which made it possible to ascertain the will of the Lord.” The need to hear from God is especially heightened when individuals are about to embark on a new assignment.
Casting Out Demons
25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”
- Why couldn’t the disciples cast out the demon?
- because it required prayer and fasting
- Did Jesus pray or fast before casting out the demon?
- Did Jesus or the disciples ever pray to cast out a demon?
- So what did Jesus mean?
- let’s take a look
Jesus prayed every morning. Jesus often prayed and fasted. This prayer and fasting prepared Him to be in a state where He could perform miracles.
The disciples finally figured out where Jesus got His power through his connection with God. They never asked Him to show them how to feed 5,000, heal the sick, raise the dead, or turn water to wine. But in the whole bible they only asked Jesus to teach them one thing.
- What was that?
- How to pray
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."
They finally got it, and said well if that’s how He is able to do the miracles then that’s what we need to learn.
When he cast out demons...He didn’t pray to God. When He healed the sick...He didn’t pray. When He raised the dead...He didn’t pray. Yet He prayed daily.
Jesus’ prayer was the preparation that was needed to perform the miracle.
So fasting and praying prepares you to do God’s work.
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’
- Why did they say he has a demon?
Just like Jesus prayed and fasted to get in a spiritual state to do what he needed to accomplish, the Jews believed that people who had demons needed to pray and fast to get rid of them. This assumes that fasting and praying would aid in putting the body in a spiritual state that influences the demons to leave. Therefore since John the Baptist was constantly praying and fasting, they assumed that he must have been possessed with a demon.
Fasting helps reveal the things that control us
So we may not be roaming the streets casting demons out of people, but we can cast out the demons from our own lives.
Fasting For Breakthrough
Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.
Fasting and Prayer Put You into the Best Possible Position for a Breakthrough
That breakthrough might be in the realm of the spirit. It may be in the realm of your emotions or personal habits. It may be in the realm of a very practical area of life, such as a relationship or finances. What I have seen repeatedly through the years-not only in the Scriptures but in countless personal stories that others have told -- is that periods of fasting and prayer produce great spiritual results, many of which fall into the realm of a breakthrough. What wasn't a reality . . . suddenly was. What hadn't worked . . . suddenly did. The unwanted situation or object that was there . . . suddenly wasn't there. The relationship that was unloving . . . suddenly was loving. The job that hadn't materialized . . . suddenly did. --cbn.com
“communication with God is only possible when you have a clear conscience”
If we fast but do not forgive our enemies – our fasting is of no use. If we fast and do not find it drawing us into humility – our fasting is of no use. If our fasting does not make us yet more keenly aware of the fact that we are sinful before all and responsible to all then it is of no benefit. If our fasting does not unite us with the life of God – which is meek and lowly – then it is again of no benefit.
How to Fast
- write down your fasting plan
- what kind of fast and how long
- it can be a specific meal, half day, full day, multiple days
- it can be a juice fast
- devote extra time to prayer and studying the word during the fast
- limit negative intake - TV, Facebook, internet
Fasting is not dieting. Fasting is about hunger and humility (which is increased as we allow ourselves to become weak). Fasting is about allowing our heart to break.
- Fasting should be abstaining from food.
- Fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God
- Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.
- While fasting the Holy Spirit will quicken the Word of God in your heart and His truth will become more meaningful to you!
- Fasting can transform your prayer life into a richer and more personal experience.
- Fasting can aid you in achieve personal breakthrough like breaking bad habits, addictions and sin patterns
- Fasting can make you less susceptible to the influences of the flesh
- Fasting is most effective when combined with: repentance, humility, forgiveness, and surrender to God in order to be effective
- Fasting can allow you to clearly hear/understand God’s will in a situation
- Reasons to fast don’t include
- to look religious or to impress people with our spiritual discipline.
- as a ritual on particular days
- as a diet
The goal of fasting should be to request that God’s will to be implemented right now.
Presenter: Michael Leadon
10 This is what the Lord says about this people:
“They greatly love to wander;
they do not restrain their feet.
So the Lord does not accept them;
he will now remember their wickedness
and punish them for their sins.”
11 Then the Lord said to me, “Do not pray for the well-being of this people. 12 Although they fast, I will not listen to their cry; though they offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Instead, I will destroy them with the sword, famine and plague.”
- Why were the Israelites fasting?
- so that God would listen to their cries
- Why wouldn’t God hear their cries?
- fasting was meant to be accompanied with repentance, surrender and humility, but they continued to worship false Gods and listen to false prophets
18 Then once again I fell prostrate before the Lord for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed, doing what was evil in the Lord’s sight and so arousing his anger. 19 I feared the anger and wrath of the Lord, for he was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the Lord listened to me.
9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
- Part of the Jewish tradition of fasting involved being humble. Since the Pharisee saw himself as better than the tax collector we see that he wasn’t humble. Jesus felt that being humble was more important than ritual fasting.
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Acts 9: 7-19
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
So he [Moses] was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread, and he did not drink water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
- similar to Jesus’ fast
Fasting While Mourning
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war.[a] The understanding of the message came to him in a vision.
2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.
Here is precedent for a partial fast.
When Catholics put the cross of ashes on their forehead it symbolized mourning Jesus’ death.
- Satan tempted Eve with food. Satan tempted Jesus with food.