Fasting has become an important part of my life. I was introduced to fasting by my older sister years ago during a very difficult stage in my life. Before that, I knew that my sister fasted, but honestly I thought that fasting was a little bit extreme.
And then I was in crisis, and my sister suggested that we fast together and shared verses with me to help me understand why there are Biblical reasons for a fast.
My first fast lasted seven days, and although it was an extremely difficult time due to what I was experiencing in my life, it was also a time in my life where I felt extremely close to God.
Today, I am going to teach you about fasting and tell you about 8 reasons for a fast.
What is a fast?
The Webster’s Dictionary defines fast as to abstain from all or certain foods or a period of fasting. There are times that I have abstained from social media or television and called it a fast (a Facebook fast), but technically a fast pertains to food.
Fast comes from the Old English word fæstan, which is thought to come from the Proto-Germanic word fastijaną.
Different Hebrew and Greek variations of fast show up in the Bible.
One variation is the Greek word néstis which translates to without food or not eating.
Another variation is the Hebrew word צוּם, which transliteration is tsum (pronounced tsoom). Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines this word as “to cover over (the mouth) i.e. To fast”.
3 Types of Fasts
Absolute Fast – During an absolute fast the person takes in neither food or water and is only done for short periods of time.
Normal Fast – During a normal fast the person eats absolutely no food but does drink a lot of water. This type of fast can last for days and some people choose to drink broth or juices to maintain a certain amount of strength. I personally drink a limited amount of freshly squeezed juice while I fast.
Partial Fast -There are numerous types of partial fasts. It can be a fast where you give up certain foods and drinks for a length of time (like during a Daniel Fast).
What does the Bible say about fasting?
There are quite a few examples of people in the Bible fasting and for quite a few reasons.
People who fasted included Moses, the Israelites as a nation, David, Elijah, Esther, the Ninevites, Daniel, Jesus, early Christians, and Paul.
And for the early Christians, “fasting was frequently joined with prayer that the mind, unencumbered with earthly matter, might devote itself with less distraction to the contemplation of divine things.” (The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary)
8 Reasons for a Fast
So…why would we want to fast?
The Bible shows examples of 8 reasons for fast and I believe they are relatable to our lives today.
These examples of when fasting is done include: because of public disasters, private emotions, grief, anxiety, approaching a dangerous situation, repentance of a nation, after receiving sad news, and as a sacred ordination.
Public Disasters –
In 1 Samuel, Israel was fighting against the Philistines and the men of Israel were killed on Mount Gilboa. The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons. His sons Jonathon, Abinadab, and Malchi-shua were killed. Saul ended up falling on his sword in an attempt to prevent being tormented and abused. The Philistines cut off his head, fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan, and hung up his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth (which was a female fertility counterpart to Baal). This devastating event led to the following:
Now when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men rose and walked all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. They took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.
1 Samuel 31:11-13
While a battle scene is not something that many of us have experienced, in this day and age, turn on the news and public disasters are a regular occurrence.
Private Emotions –
The following story is one that I have always related to. It is the story of Hannah, who was one of two wives to a Levite man. She was barren but the other wife Peninnah had many children, and she would taunt Hannah bitterly.
It happened year after year, as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she would provoke her; so she wept and would not eat.
1 Samuel 1:7
I understand the despair that Hannah felt about not being able to have children! I was thirty-seven before I had a child. And you would be surprised how hurtful it would be when other women would say to me, “You wouldn’t understand. You’re not a mom.”
Of course, what they said was true, but to a woman who only wanted to be a mom, those words stung.
And I imagine other childless women have felt the same way. Motherhood can feel like a private club to women who long to have children.
I think it’s pretty certain that you have heard the story of how David committed adultery with Bath-sheba.
And the result was that Bath-sheba became pregnant. David tried to hide this by having Uriah spend some time with Bath-sheba. Uriah refused to do so out of loyalty to his men. Finally, King David had Uriah murdered by putting him on the frontlines.
David received severe consequences for his actions.
And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick.
2 Samuel 12:15
His response was:
David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground.
2 Samuel 12:16
If you or someone you know are grieving check out –
In the following story, the King endures a restless night after he realizes he has been tricked into punishing Daniel by having him thrown into a den of lions.
Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him. Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”
If you have read this blog for even a little while you know that anxiety is something that I struggle with. And if you struggle with anxiety, then I am sure you are familiar with sleepless nights.
If you or someone you know struggle with anxiety check out –
Approaching a Dangerous Situation –
Another of my favorite stories in the Bible is the story of Esther. Specifically, when she was preparing to approach the King in order to save her people.
“Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.”
Repentance of a Nation –
In the next story, Israel had turned to idol worship. When Samuel began to judge the nation he led them to repent and return to worshipping the Lord.
Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord for you.” 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.” And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah.
1 Samuel 7:5-6
After Receiving Sad News –
When Nehemiah learns that the wall of Jerusalem had been broken down and its gates burned down he is overcome with sadness.
As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
Similar to grief this is another emotion that many of us can relate to.
Sacred Ordination –
In the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit spoke to a group of men that were in the church at Antioch. He told them to set Barnabas and Saul aside for a work that the He had called them for. The men’s response was to do the following:
Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and send them off.
For more information about how to behave during fasting read 5 Important Things to Remember While Fasting.
Are you struggling with something? Consider praying and fasting!
Did any of these reasons hit a chord with you? If so I want to ask you to seriously consider praying and fasting about whatever you are struggling with.