Here's A Thought...

Here are some "THOUGHTS" that will hopefully answer some of the questions that you may have about what the Bible has to say about our everyday lives. These articles are here to provoke thought; provide answers, guidance and resources; all in an effort to bring you into a closer relationship with your Heavenly Father!


Friday, January 28, 2011


I find it very ironic; just a few moments ago, while I was taking a break from researching to write this article, I was chuckling to myself as I was eating cake and ice cream that was left over from my wife’s birthday yesterday. Cake and ice cream while I write about fasting; keep that in mind about my own shortcomings as we continue forward. Know that I am not perfect and know also that these articles have done for me and my search for greater understanding and greater relationship with my Heavenly Father than they will probably do for you!

So let’s begin by defining what fasting was in biblical times; that is, let’s put them into the context in which they were written. First of all, I must say that I could not find anything written in the Bible that specifically defines what fasting is; nor could I find any specific verses outlining how fasting was to be performed. So I will give you the references that I have found outlining how it was used then. I’m sure there are some great biblical scholars who will undoubtedly refute some of the details of what I have to say; and to them I say I welcome your knowledge, your insight and your wisdom.

Why there was fasting.
In biblical times, that is to say the times of the writings of the Old Testament, leading up to and through the writings of the New Testament, fasting was used for several reasons. For instance, fasting was used as a social custom as a standard part of mourning the death of a loved one. Depriving yourself of food was a way of showing your grief and sense of loss. When the Philistines defeated the army of Saul on Mt. Gilboa; Saul’s family had all fallen and he took his own life. All the bodies were collected, “And they buried their bones under the oak in Jabesh and fasted for seven days.” (1 Chronicles 10:12)
Fasting was used as a way of offering confession and supplication. Samuel called all of Israel to repent for their idolatry and; “So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the LORD and fasted on that day and said there, ‘We have sinned against the Lord.’” (1 Samuel 7:6) This passage also alludes to the pouring out of water being in addition to fasting food, water being the additional sacrifice. In the 9th chapter of Nehemiah vs. 1-5; Israel spent the day fasting, confessing, worshiping, praying and reading from the “Book of the Law of the Lord”.
Fasting was used as a way to offer up humility, prayer or emphasize the need for intervention. In 2 Samuel 12:16, David fasted in hopes of saving his son from death. In Ezra 8:21-23, Ezra declared a fast, “that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey…” on their way back to Jerusalem. In Ezra chapter 9, she fasted and prayed for guidance in dealing with interracial marriages. Nehemiah 1:4 was a prayer for the distress and destruction that was going on in Jerusalem. Esther chapter 4 describes fasting and prayer for protection from Haman in Persia who vowed to kill all the Jews.

How did they fast?
“Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord, their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the Lord their God…” (Nehemiah 9:1-3). King Darius, when faced with knowing he would have to cast Daniel into the lion’s den, “Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.” (Daniel 6:18) Daniel prayed for his people, “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession…” (Daniel 9:3-4)

Fasting was a way to show mourning, reverence and humility or repentance. Also, fasting was used to seek Gods help, guidance, or forgiveness. Fasting was performed by abstaining from food for a meal up to several days. Typical ritual fasting was done for 1 day at a time on pre designated days. Refraining from water would be an added deprivation. In most instances of fasting was included wearing of sackcloth which would be comparable to burlap; an attempt to deprive the body of further comfort. The covering the head with dirt or ash also contributed to decreased comfort.

New Testament
The 4 Gospels refer to fasting on several occasions. In Matthew 4th chapter, Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert. In the book of Acts, at the church at Antioch, it was during fasting and prayer that the Holy Spirit called Barnabas and Saul into service. Acts 14:23, fasting and prayer was conducted over the elders selected for the church.

There are multiple warnings against fasting improperly.
The Bible cautions multiple times about true and false fasting; against fasting for ritual or appearance verses fasting in righteousness: Zachariah 7:1-14, Isaiah 58, Hosea 6:6 and Jesus warns us in Matthew 6:16-18.

Fasting is not mentioned much in any of the letters of the New Testament; however, there are many references to self-discipline and self-control. Galatians 5:23 mentions self-control as one of the fruits of the Spirit. In 1 Timothy 3:2 lists self-control as a quality of overseers. In 2 Timothy 1:7 Paul writes, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” In 2 Timothy 3, Paul lists lack of self-control as one of the signs of Godlessness in the last days. In Titus, self-control is listed multiple times in the 1st and second chapter as positive qualities.

I hope that I haven’t muddied the waters with attempting to give a little history of where and how fasting was used in the Bible. The real question is, do we fast today and how do we go about doing it.

Fasting in today’s world
It is mentioned throughout the Bible of our struggle between our spirit and our flesh; our spirit that desires the things of heaven, of service, of eternity and of GOD; and our flesh that desires things of this earth, selfish, self-serving and sinful. In Romans chapter 8 and Galatians chapter 5; Paul clearly outlines the differences in the results of either focusing our attention on our spirit or on our flesh. So how does that apply to fasting today.

When I pray and study about fasting, this is what the spirit says to me. Fasting has 2 necessary and equal elements. (1) The physical: depriving the body of a desire; and (2) the spiritual: spending that time in prayer. Let me explain:

The Physical – Denying the flesh:
The first element of fasting is about self-discipline and self-control. It is us taking control of our will and telling our flesh NO! In a world today where addiction, laziness, self-service, fast service, obesity, health problems and so on; we have become a people lacking in self-control (myself included). I suggest that any restriction we put on ourselves for any length of time is a needed exercise in self-control. Limiting any self-gratification is always a good exercise, but if you are looking for real spiritual breakthrough, I recommend a total restriction from the world. That is to say no food, no comforts, no electronics and no distractions; shut it all down! Start with just a few hours and 1 meal, build up to and shoot for 24 hrs. (If you have health problems, please take that into consideration.)

The Spiritual – prayer:
During your time of fasting, it is most important to spend that time in prayer. If you’re not sure how to pray, use the example Jesus gave us in Matthew 6. Acknowledge God for who He is, give Him praise and worship, ask for forgiveness for the things that you have done, let him know your needs and ask Him for His help, and thank Him for all that He has done for you. In your time of fasting, spend time in His Word. Read the Bible for crying out loud! It is the Living Word of God and the Spirit will speak to you through it!

These are the 2 elements necessary for a fast. Separately; they are good for you and will give you positive direction for your life. Exercised together and I promise you a real spiritual awakening.

How long should you fast?
Fasting is exercised in many ways today. Around the time of Lent, people will fast by giving up a small portion of their flesh for that season. I guess, let me be succinct; If you have identified (or the spirit has brought to your attention) an area of your life you need to get under control; STOP IT. Declaring you’re going to stop deserts for a week and then return to the same habit is hardly a productive exercise. If the spirit lays it on your heart to stop something you’re doing; STOP IT! The common response I hear is “I can’t”. Listen; I love you, your Father in Heaven loves you; but you can stop, you just don’t want to.

Go to your Father in prayer, spend some time fasting, be willing to listen to and follow what the Spirit has to say to you. You will find that you are capable of so much more than you have or will ever realize.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with GOD. For all things are possible with GOD.” (Mark 10:27)

For those who have never spent time in fasting and prayer, they will tell you that it is not a necessary part of your spiritual walk. For those who have, they will tell you that they wouldn’t be where they are without it. For me, I will tell you that you can never spend too much time with your Father; and sometimes it is necessary to shut off the world, shut off your flesh, and just spend a little time with Him.

God Bless; keep smilin’; and remember,
Your Father is calling!

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