Is fasting Biblical?
"When you fast, do not look sober as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others 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 6:16-18).
Fast definitely is Biblical principle. In nowadays the true fasting's application has mostly lost its real meaning and purpose, and those who fast do more just because somebody says so as it is the practices in some churches.
However true fast always has been and must be a spiritual exercise with purpose to drive closer to God. Fast is never to be done apart from prayer, it is always go hand in hand with prayer and under the Holy Spirit's leading and guiding. Fast is humbling oneself before the Almighty God when the time of need has come. Fasting is always voluntary. Religious fasting has never been and never will be acceptable. "I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get." (Luke 18:12).
Bible is overloaded with examples why, when and how people did fast and so we are amply supplied with the examples.
In the time of our fasting we are with meek attitude, gentle to others, placable, calm, feel broken hearted, downcast, dejected, depressed, law in our spirit, subdued because it was some great need or trouble why we start fast, and we definitely keep our eyes on Jesus.
By fasting we afflict our bodies depriving it from food so that all our attention is on God only. Fasting is a deep personal matter. Fasting is not to be a religious ritual! If it is done because somebody says so, than, apart from a right relationship with God, it is unacceptable and ineffectual.
Biblical fasting is never for physical health or ascetic practice. Fasting is not a guarantee that one's prayer will be answered but fasting is seeking God's will, His grace, mercy and favour in particular matters.
Fasting can be private and corporate.
Private fasting should be done when you feel that the Spirit of God is leading you to that. Private fasting should be done when you need breakthrough. In cases of sickness, financial trouble, before making important decision or anything else, along with the prayer, fasting is done in order to enquire from the Lord, and give Him glory.
Examples for private fast:
• David pleaded with God and asked Him to heal his child who was dying because of his own sin committed with Bathsheba. (2 Samuel 11:2). "David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground..." (2 Samuel 12:16-23).
• Hannah was loved by her husband more than his other wife, but Lord closed her womb so she was barren. But she prayed and fasted, and Lord opened her womb, and gave her desired son.
"...This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the LORD, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat...." (1 Samuel 1:7).
• Ahab fasted for himself to receive forgiveness after he did great evil when he listened to his evil wife Jezebel and because of that God said to bring disaster on him because of that.
"... When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly...." (1 Kings 21:27).
• Daniel fasted in order to receive wisdom. "So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes." (Daniel 9:3).
• Before making important decisions and in order to enquire from the Lord what to do and how.
"While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." (Acts 13:2).
And many others.
Examples for corporate fasting:
• Israel fasted for victory in war.
"Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD." (Judges 20:26).
• People fasted spiritually supporting Esther on behalf of Jewish nation before she had conversation with king. Fast was done in order to receive God's favor and wisdom to speak with king and turn king's heart to be good to the Jews. "Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai -"Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther's instructions. (Esther 4:16).
In Esther 4:3 we can read about those days of trouble and how people fasted for deliverance and protection. "In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes."
And many others.
When should we fast?
In times when we are tempted - Matthew 4:2.
In times when we need wisdom and understanding which way to turn etc. - Daniel 9:3.
In times when need mercies from God - Jonah 3:5; Ezra 8:21
In times when need protection; in times of fear and despair - 2 Chronicles 20:3; Ezra 8:21
In times when need victory over demonic powers - Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29.
In times when certain need must to be met - 1 Samuel 1:5-7.
In times of pain and suffering - 2 Samuel 1:12.
In times when do not know which way to take; to proclaim the Word of God - Acts 13:2-3; Acts 14:23.
In times when need revival, help and restoration - Joel 1:14, 2:12-15; Nehemiah 9:1-2.
For other people - Psalm 35:13.
Corporate fasting can be done and helpful when is done by those who follow the Word of God apart from religious performances, with true repentance in heart and sincere plea for whole nations or communities, or families, or friends etc. ,etc..
But fasting is never to be done just because someone says to do so.
Jesus fasted when tempted in the wilderness - Matthew 4:2
Jesus promised that the Father would bless fasting - Matthew 6:17-18
Jesus said His disciples would fast later - Matthew 9:14-15
Fasting is necessary for overcoming some demonic strongholds - Matthew 17:21
Fasting was part of Anna's service to God - Luke 2:37
Fasting was part of the ministry of the workers at Antioch - Acts 13:2-3, 14:23.
Paul and all God's servants have practiced fasting throughout the centuries to enquire wisdom from God - 2 Cor. 11:27; Daniel 9:3.
People fasted for victory - Esther 4:16; Esther 9:3.
Nehemiah fasted in mourning and for help upon Jerusalem - Nehemiah 1:4.
The length of the fast is entirely up to you. It can be just one meal (if it is done sincerely, God will reward you for that). It can be one or more days.
I do not think it could be done for 40 days.
Only Moses and Jesus fasted for 40 days but they were extraordinary people. God Himself helped and supported them. No one of us should be so bold as to dare fast for 40 days.
In regard to religious rules, traditions and regulations I am saying the same what apostle Paul said - they indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Colossians 2:23.
But you who believe in one and true living God do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head (Jesus), from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow. Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!" Colossians 2:18-21.
So see to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Colossians 2:8.
when you feel that Holy Spirit is leading you into that;
when you are in great need;
when you or your loved ones are sick, distressed or hurt;
when you are before serious decision.
Fast and pray and God will answer you in a way which sooner or later will lead you to the victory.
Do not fast
because religion says so;
when the Spirit of God is not moving you to that;
when you are happy and satisfied;
when your mind is busy with many other things rather than with the Lord;
when in your mind, heart and life you do not feel need for that.
Do not fast because others do so. If there in your life is no reason for that it will not be beneficiary to you.
Instead whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do (fast), do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Live as child of God and not the religious performances supporter. And the grace and the peace of God be with you all. Amen.