People fast for different reasons. Most people fast to lose weight, correct medical conditions, and even protest against an oppressive government. However, when it comes to Christianity, fasting seems to be the last thing on people’s mind. The majority of Christians today sees fasting as something archaic, and it has nothing to do with their calling.
We all have our opinion about fasting. Nevertheless, when the Bible speaks, we all need to listen. So what does the Bible actually say about fasting and is it commanded by God? Should a Christian fast?
What is fasting?
Fasting is going without food and drink. This is evident as we let the Bible defines it. Esther 4:16 tells us:
“Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”
The word fast here came from the Hebrew word tsum, meaning to cover the mouth. In the New Testament, Fast came from the Greek word nesteuo, meaning to abstain from food.
The longest fast recorded was done by Jesus, Moses, and possibly Elijah. They were able to fast for forty days and forty nights. Obviously, this fast includes supernatural help as ordinary people today won’t be able to do this.
The Day of Atonement
There is one particular day when we are commanded by God to fast. It is during the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27), also called as The Fast (Acts 27:9). The fast that we do on the Day of Atonement lasts from sunset to sunset or 24 hours.
In this particular period, let me add a side note. Some people dismiss that the Day of Atonement is just an Old Testament practice, and it is done away with after the death of Christ. However, there’s no Biblical evidence supporting that claim. As a matter of fact, Paul – the Apostle to the Gentiles – continued to observe this day even many years after Christ’s death.
From this scripture, we are sure that God expects Christians to fast.
What does Jesus teach about fasting?
We have already seen that we are commanded to fast on the Day of Atonement. But are we also commanded to fast on other days of the year?
It is worth noting that Christ expects His followers to fast. When asked by the disciples of John why Christ’s disciples do not fast, Christ answered with a short parable and responded:
“But the days will come when the bridegroom (referring to Himself) will be taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matthew 9:15).
When Christ explained to His disciples how to fast, He clearly said, “WHEN you fast” (Matthew 6:16-17), He didn’t say, “If you fast.” This clearly tells us that Jesus/Yeshua is telling us that we need to fast.
When we think about it, we all fast. When we go to sleep, we go on without food and drink for several hours. That’s why we call it “breakfast.” People do this type of fasting out of necessity. The kind of fasting that God expects from us is a deliberate chose. Fasting for our spiritual growth does not come naturally. It should be a choice. Therefore, since God commanded us to fast, then we need to choose to do it.
Will you fast or not?
Fasting is the most neglected powerful spiritual tool that can help us grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord and Savior Yeshua/Jesus. Fasting can draw us closer to God and build a deeper understanding of His will for us. Fasting makes us realize that we are nothing without God and we are completely dependent on Him.
So when was the last time you fasted? Discover the power of fasting today and become a better Christian by developing the habit of fasting!