top of page

A Quick Exploration of Fasting

Fasting appears frequently throughout the pages of the bible. Defining fasting in its basic sense is not difficult. When it is mentioned, it is almost always when a bible character is abstaining from food for a period of time to engage in some kind of spiritual exercise. So fasting is abstaining from food for a spiritual reason. Though it can also be abstaining from any worldly pleasure for a period of time to pray (1 Corinthians 7:5).

Fasting is very frequently associated with prayer (Acts 14:23). It is also very often linked to mourning (Nehemiah 1:4).

In the New Testament, fasting is not commanded of us. We’re not told that we must fast, and there aren’t any biblical rules regulating its frequency or duration with any kind of specificity for Christians. But even though it isn’t commanded of us, it is expected of us as illustrated by Jesus’ direction that when we fast, we shouldn’t do it in a way that accentuates our suffering, or selfishly projects an air of piousness (Matthew 6:16-18).

So what is fasting for? Well it isn’t to move the hand of God. He is sovereign and doesn’t have to respond to our fasting (Jeremiah 14:12). It isn’t something we do for weight loss. It isn’t a spiritual exercise we do for a physical health benefit. It isn’t something that makes us a super Christian. In fact, as far as we know Jesus didn’t fast on a regular basis – we only have one known instance of him engaging in something that has been labeled a fast. Instead, he is described as one who came “eating and drinking” and who was falsely portrayed as “a glutton” and a “drunkard” (Matthew 11:19). Nor did his disciples fast when he was physically with them (Mark 2:18-20). Instead, fasting appears to be something we do to humble ourselves before God and that demonstrates how he is more important to us than food. Jesus argued that his disciples could not fast because of his presence, but that when he died they would fast (Mark 2:19-20).

In almost all instances in which fasting is mentioned in the Old Testament, the common element among them appears to be one in which people are humbling themselves before God and recognizing his ultimate necessity in their lives. And this seems to be how Jesus defines its purpose as well. Fasting is an activity of mourning, humility, and longing for the presence of God. It is one in which we spiritually exercise self-control over our fallen bodies, and place our focus on God. With fasting, we are seeking out the most desirable food of all, the bread of life (John 6:25-59).

31 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page