Bible Study: What Is Fasting and What Is the Purpose?
Written by Christi Given | September 1, 2016
You may know about fasting from reading the Bible or have possibly heard about it. Many people think that fasting is only regarding food, but nowadays some people fast from social media, games, TV or things that maybe are distracting or causing them to not rely on the Lord.
It’s important to seriously consider your health before refraining from eating, so please do not stop eating, of course. It is important to understand WHY you are doing something before just jumping into it. Read about fasting, pray about it and seek a mentor about it. Of course you can ask the Lord if he is asking you to fast from something that is taking up first place in your heart or your time with Him.
There are many types of fasting. Some things you can refrain from that may distract you from reading the Bible or hearing God’s voice are certain kinds of secular music, your phone, secular films or TV shows, or social apps. Maybe when you’re craving chocolate, you have no self-control and eat it whenever, and/or just never say no to yourself—so you could try to fast from sugar for a set time. You can research and read about the most current and/or popular fasts for health food. Learn more about the Daniel Fast here.
Ask the Lord if you should fast, and if so, what should you fast from? Fasting is personal between you and God, and isn’t really something to be announced to everyone to brag or to show off about your faith. It’s personal and is for those who want to grow closer to hearing the Lord, refraining from the flesh and increasing in the Spirit.
But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:17-18)
Make sure you’re not only fasting for breakthrough; make sure you’re also seeking God’s face first, then the requests are second. We must enter worshipfully, not demanding God to come through for us, although the effects of fasting can be very powerful.
There are different times where there is feasting and fasting. Fasting is a time to focus on the Lord in prayer and in the Word. The Lord doesn’t necessarily require us to do it, but it’s mentioned many times in His Holy Word.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:6-7)
The Bible addresses us to not deprive ourselves too much of whatever we are fasting, as it could be destructive.
Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:5)
Why Should We Fast?
First and foremost, like baptism, Jesus Christ (the Messiah and Son of God) fasted and prayed (Luke 4). We can receive deliverance, clarity and breakthrough, and can hear God more clearly, with the removal of normal comfort, addictions or distractions. Jesus even fasted and was tempted, but overcame sin, and we see the power of God’s Word at work (read Matthew 4:4).
For forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. (Luke 4:2)
Biblical Fasting Facts and Purposes
1. We fast to grow closer to Jesus and to rid ourselves of fleshly distractions: We want to seek God’s face genuinely, not to show off or to seem better than others.
So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty. (Ezra 8:23)
2. We fast because of pure motives: Our reasons for fasting should be of a pure motive, because God either called us to fast something and/or we desire to hear from God and to remove distractions or addictions. We want to decrease our fleshly desires and increase the spirit (John 3:30).
3. Jesus fasted: We seek to be Christ followers and reflections of Jesus’ image in how he lived his life on earth reflecting the Father. We desire to know God and want to be close to our Maker. The reasons behind fasting may vary, but because our Savior did, we too should acknowledge and discover why.
4. Fasting is personal: Even if you’re consulting your parents or a health administrator, fasting is private and personal. Many follow the Daniel Fast for occasional periods of time where they refrain from sugar, caffeine and meat, and only eat fruits and veggies. You can always speak to an adult about this kind of stuff and can also ask questions, of course, but never fast under pressure and do NOT go without eating, because that is not healthy. God is not going to ask you to do something unhealthy, but there are different versions of fasting, so ask your youth pastor what’s best for you and pray!
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:27)
5. Fasting is a self-discipline of saying no to what our body craves: The Daniel Fast isn’t about losing weight or a physical purpose. There is a war between the flesh and the spirit, and when our body signals us (“I NEED COFFEE”)…well, we don’t always have to listen. Yes for water and for nutritional food, but for sugar and caffeine, we can develop self-control to saying no. During the time we would watch our favorite show or be on social media, we can rather be in God’s Word, or let’s say instead of spending $5 on a Frap at our favorite coffee joint, we can refrain and fast that expense and give it to God’s Kingdom, amen?
He must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:30)
PI Girls, as I mentioned, fasting is not only limited to food, but can be an amazing time of drawing near to the Lord. We don’t fast 365 days a year, but God can give us set times where He wants to speak with us and we need to have the discipline to listen and be still.
Do you fast or refrain from something that makes you addicted or not pay attention to God’s voice? Comment below!