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Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting

December 8, 2019

Self-indulgence is the enemy of gratitude.


Truth is, we live in a gluttonous, instant gratification, and do whatever makes me happy culture right now, so the discipline of fasting seems strange and something we simply don’t want to do, or don’t even think about.


A biblical definition of fasting is a voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.  The Bible distinguishes between several kinds of fast…

  • A normal fastMatthew 4:2; Luke 4:2.  These have to do with Jesus eating no food.  In Luke 4:2 it doesn’t say if Jesus went without water.  Since the body can normally function no longer than three days without water, many assume He drank water during this time.  To abstain from food but to drink water or perhaps fruit juices is the most common kind of Christian fast.

  • A partial fast:  This is a limitation of the diet but not abstention from all food.  For ten days Daniel and three other Jewish young men only had “vegetables to eat and water to drink” (Daniel 1:12).  

  • An absolute fast:  The avoidance of all food and liquid, even water.  We’re told that Ezra “ate no food and drank no water, because he continued to mourn over the unfaithfulness of the exiles” (Ezra 10:6).  

There are more fasts found in the Bible as well.  I’d encourage you to do your own study not only on the various kinds of fasts, but also the why behind fasting.


There are many purposes of fasting given in Scripture.  I’ll only list a few here, but it is encouraged that when you fast, you should do so for a specific Biblical purpose.  You will also notice that some I have listed below (and more you will find in the Bible if you research/study these) have no purpose to earn God’s favor.  We cannot use fasting to impress God and earn His acceptance.  


Benefits of fasting…

  • To strengthen prayerDaniel 9:3

  • To seek God’s guidanceActs 14:23

  • To seek deliverance or protectionEzra 8:21-23; Psalm 109

  • To express repentance and the return to GodJoel 2:12

  • To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to GodMatthew 4:1-11

  • To express love and worship to God:  Luke 2:37, Philippians 3:19

The Holy Spirit will prompt us to fast.   Sometimes through a need in our lives or the lives of those we care about.  If you need stronger prayer about a matter, that too can be an invitation from the Lord to fast.  Fasting adds a dimension to our spiritual life and helps us grow in our discipline to be like Jesus.  Jesus himself not only taught about fasting, he modeled it.


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