Fasting According to the Bible

Biblical Fasting is not governed by laws regarding when, how, and where to fast. There are no laws in the New Testament regarding what a person can eat or not eat during fasting, what a person can wear or not wear during fasting, or when a person should start or break his fast. Also, the New Testament does not command fasting as a compulsory religious act. However, the New Testament does recommend fasting in various ways.

The Importance of Fasting in the New Testament

  • Jesus Himself Fasted. In Matthew 4:2, we are told that Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights when, after His baptism, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
  • Jesus Expected His Disciples to Fast. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus said, “When you fast…” He didn’t say, “If you fast…” but, “When” which indicates that He did expect His disciples to fast. He also declared to the Jews that when He is taken away, His disciples would fast (Matt.9:15).
  • Jesus Declared the Importance of Fasting in the Ministry of Deliverance. In Matthew 17:21, Jesus mentioned in connection with casting out demons that a certain kind don’t leave except through prayer and fasting. Of course, this verse is missing in some manuscripts and modern versions such as the NIV skip it. Nevertheless, the very fact that Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights during His temptation by the devil does confirm the importance of fasting in the spiritual empowerment of Christian. It is worth noting, though, that the word “fasting” is missing from phrases where prayer is mentioned in these manuscripts that the NIV and others think to be authentic (Mark 9:29; 1Cor.7:5).
  • The Early Church Ministered to the Lord through Fasting and Prayer (Acts 13:2)
  • The Church Fasted and Prayed Before Sending the Apostles into the Missionary Journey (Acts 13:3).
  • The Apostles Fasted and Prayed When Appointing Elders in the Churches (Acts 14:23).
  • Paul Expected Christians to Devote Themselves Time to Fasting and Prayer (1Cor.7:5)

Fasting in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament,

  • Fasting was often an expression of sorrow over sin (1Sam.7:6)
  • Fasting was also often an expression of sorrowful mourning (1Sam.31:13; 2Sam.1:12)
  • Fasting was a way of refraining from any bodily pleasure in order to express extreme sorrow over a situation and one’s serious submission to God (Esther 4:16)
  • Fasting was usually a way of humbling self to petition and pray to God for help (2Sam.12:6; Ezr.8:23; Neh.1:4; Psa.35:13)
  • Sometimes a Holy Fast was declared to gather people to cry out to God in intercession (Joel 1:14)

Fasting in the New Testament

In the New Testament,

  • Fasting is always accompanied with prayer (Matt.17:21; Mark 9:29; Luke 2:37; 1Cor.7:5; Acts 13:2; 14:23)
  • Fasting is done in order to seek God’s will in prayer (Acts 13:3; 14:23)
  • Fasting is an act of worshiping and ministering unto God (Acts 13:2)

Divinely Acceptable Fasting Involves

  • Love to God and One’s Neighbor (Isaiah 58:3-11)
  • Genuineness; Not, Hypocrisy (Matt.6:16-18)
  • Humility; Not, Pride (Luke 18:12-14)
  • Concern for Others (1Cor.7:5; Isaiah 58:6)

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