8 Things You Should Already Know About Fasting

1. Christ Expected it to be a Normal Part of Your Life

The Pharisees were wondering why the disciples weren’t fasting. So they asked Jesus. And Jesus told them it wasn’t appropriate for them to fast (which is usually done in times of repentance and mourning) while the bridegroom (Jesus) was here.

But he also said the time would come when the bridegroom would be taken away and then they’d fast. Well… guess what. The bridegroom was taken away (Christ ascended). In the end, Jesus expected for you to be fasting. If John’s disciples and the Pharisees asked Jesus why you didn’t fast… he might not be able to defend you. 

18John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they came and said to Him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” 19And Jesus said to them, “While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20“But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.

-Mark 2:18-20

2. A 40 Day Fast is Possible – Not Miraculous

Jesus fasted for 40 days (Matthew 4). He was hungry, not satiated. Satan tempted him with the idea of turning stone into bread but Jesus resisted, not because he was being physically nourished by the Spirit but because He hadn’t finished fasting yet. Angels tended to him after these 40 days but not before. The story of Jesus fasting isn’t a demonstration of Christ’s Divine nature but rather a demonstration of his human nature.

Plenty of secular people have fasted for secular reasons for 40 days and survived. You can even find online forums of people doing this today. A How Stuff Works article asserts

“Medically speaking, most doctors agree that healthy humans can go up to eight weeks [56 days] without food as long as they have water.”

If you desire to pattern yourself after Christ but haven’t fasted yet, consider this a wholehearted challenge.

3. A Spiritual Fast is Not an Extreme Diet

The first time I fasted, my friend and I decided to go 40 days on a can of slim fast per day and half a cup of V8. It wasn’t a fast from food but it was an all liquid fast with a limited and specific supply of juice. Here’s the thing… it didn’t really do much for us spiritually. We didn’t get anything out of it. It wasn’t a spiritual fast for us… in the end it was just an extreme diet.

Why? We were doing it all wrong and for the wrong reasons. Here’s the right way to do it:

Pray More.

Pray during your meal times.  Every time you feel hungry, it’s a reminder that you’re fasting which should be a reminder to pray. So pray during times when you’d normally be eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner and pray when you feel hungry. Every spiritual fast ought to be marked by a dramatic increase in prayer. Otherwise you’re not fasting. You’re just withholding food.

Pray with Purpose.

Every time that people fast in the Old Testament and New Testament, it’s done with purpose.

  • Jesus fasted to prepare for his ministry (Matthew 4).
  • The Disciples are told to fast in order to exorcise demons (Matthew 17:21)
  • Barnabus and Paul Fast when they appointed elders in a church plant (Acts 14:23)
  • Israel fasts to repent for their sins (1 Samuel 7:6)
  • David and his men fast in mourning (2 Samuel 1)
  • Ezra fasts to ask God for protection and clarity (Ezra 8:21-23)
  • Esther fasts for protection (Esther 4:16)

The first time I fasted, I fasted just because I thought it’d be cool to. I wanted to show God I could sacrifice for him. It was a display of my strength and willpower and willingness to deny myself for God but I didn’t spend more time with him than usual and I wasn’t asking him for anything.

4. Fasting Reveals Our Need For God, Not Food

Sometimes people don’t like to fast because they get cranky with other people. They get short. Their tempers flare easier and they’re overall just a little more nasty than usual. The truth is, fasting shows us who we are without creature comforts. Fasting puts light on the darkness of our souls. Whoever I am when I’m fasting is who I really am. So if I’m short and prone to anger and impatient and cranky while I’m fasting than God is showing me areas in my life that need improvement.

When Satan tells Jesus to turn stones into bread, Jesus says, “Man doesn’t live on bread alone.” Jesus knew that His time with God was more spiritually necessary than bread was physically necessary. Fasting reveals our need for God by revealing how sinful, fragile, weak, and ugly we are when we aren’t inhaling hot fries and monster energy drinks.

5. Fasting Has Health Benefits

I’m not a doctor, maybe you want to ask yours for evidence. Obviously fasting doesn’t have health benefits for everyone and there needs to be safe guidelines when fasting.

This article from Scientific American and many others like it, claim that intermittent fasting can lead to longer living. Some articles suggest your metabolism increases when fasting (unless it’s over a two day period). “Starvation” mode on really goes into effect when you’re actually starving. You aren’t actually starving when you don’t eat for a day. 

I do want to slow down and say, “I have no medical background, I’m a pastor and a theologian and so I’ve wandered out of my depths and I’m totally fine if you don’t want to agree with me on this point.”

6. Telling Others You’re Fasting Is Not a Sin

Apparently in Jesus’ time, fasting was cool. The in-crowd was doing it. People were fasting just so other people would think highly of them. They’d even make themselves look hungry so that their fasting would be obvious to people around them.

So Jesus said,

“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.”

Well guess what… people generally aren’t impressed by your fasting these days. A lot of times they judge you rather poorly for it. It’s not something “normal” people do and therefore you’re not going to receive any sort of praise or applause when you tell someone you’re fasting.

So, say your friend Pete invites you over to dinner and you’re fasting. You can tell him. If you don’t want to be rude and also desire to be honest then for Pete’s sake, tell your friend that you’re fasting and who knows, God may even use it to create an opportunity for you to share the gospel. Jesus’ reason for wanting fasting to be hidden would be a non-issue in today’s culture. 

7. Fasting Unlocks Supernatural Power

It’s strange to talk about doing something and receiving spiritual power in exchange for it. Sounds like a vending machine or even witchcraft. Yet Jesus makes it quite clear when he tells the disciples that they couldn’t cast out a demon because some will only come out through fasting and prayer. It’s a bizarre thing to read but fasting is a means of grace and it unlocks supernatural power. If you’re embarking on a dangerous, risky, exciting new mission… consider fasting! I had a roommate in college who claimed to be a Christian but could care less about living for God. So my friend and I fasted and prayed for him often and for our other roommates. Each one of them had drastic moments in which they made a positive change in their life’s projection.  One of them is now my accountability partner and he loves God passionately and is incredibly mature and I love him to pieces and had no idea that God was going to do such a powerful work in his life. I believe fasting unlocked or unleashed transformational power and grace into their lives.

8. Fasting shows up more times in the NT than in the OT 

This one’s just interesting. The OT is a lot bigger than the NT. Yet the Hebrew word for fasting is used 17 times in the OT and the NT words for fasting are used a total of 21 times. I know people who have been Christians all their lives and yet they’re afraid to fast. If you haven’t fasted yet and you desire to take your relationship with God even deeper consider this option. Christ expected you to fast, Christ fasted himself, the apostles fasted, and the power of God is unlocked when we fast. What are you waiting for?

Bonus: Fasting Is Easier When You Drink A Gallon of Water Or More Each Day

Drinking a gallon of water or more each day that you're fasting will help you feel hungry less and will help you have more energy throughout the day.

Shout out to Greg Saldi for naming the article.