Biblical Fasting:
Is There More than One Way to Fast
"God's Way?"

Christian Fasting - Man Looking at CarrotThere is much debate in the church today over what is and is not considered Biblical fasting.  

Can you fast the television?  

What about a complete media fast? Cutting out all of those loud voices that seem to constantly drown out God's - that has to be pleasing to Him, right?

Well, as always, if we want to know the truth, we can't just take man's word for it.  We can only take God's.  

And, where do we find God's final Word on anything?  Well, in the Bible of course!

So, the logical thing for us to do would be to look and see what God really meant when He spoke about fasting in the Bible.

Lets Start by Looking at Fasting in the Old Testament.

Christian Fasting-Man Covering His MouthThe word for Biblical fasting used in the Old Testament is tsuwm (Hebrew). It literally means to cover over the mouth.  

Wow!  Now that is a very clear picture as to what is expected from us when we fast for God.  
God used this term, tsuwm, to describe both individual fasting and corporate fasting in the Bible.  

When we take the time to examine followers of God who fasted in the Old Testament, we see that food was ALWAYS involved.  

Of course, that may not be what we would like to hear...but you can't argue with God's Word.

What About Biblical Fasting in the New Testament?

In-Home Christian Fasting Retreat Many Christians may think that, although fasting in the Old Testament always required the sacrifice of food, this may no longer apply to us after Jesus' birth, death and resurrection.  

But, is this new practice of picking and choosing what we give up for God based on Biblical fact, or simply an assumption rooted in human logic?
To find out, let's take a closer look at the word that God uses to describe Biblical fasting in the New Testament: nēsteia (Greek).  

This word comes from the root word nēsteuō.  Nēsteuō means "to abstain as a religious exercise from food and drink: either entirely, if the fast lasted but a single day, or from customary and choice nourishment, if it continued several days."

When looking at this definition, we can see once again that God continues to reveal to us the true nature of Biblical fasting.

As I explain in the Beyond the Veil In-Home Christian Fasting Retreat, though Christian fasting does not require that we abstain from food and drink entirely, especially if it is for an extended fast, we should always be trading in some of our physical nourishment for spiritual food.

We see confirmation of this by looking at Jesus' fast in the desert.  

Why is it so important that we look at Jesus' example?  Because He, not other human beings, is always supposed to be our standard.  

Christian Fasting: Jesus Praying in the Desert We are told that during His fast, "Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry." (Luke 4:2 NLT)

If Jesus Himself needed to forsake physical food in order to build up and refuel His spirit, how much more do each of us need this time set apart unto God?  

One thing that has been lost to many over the years is that Biblical fasting for God is designed to be a time of total consecration.

Consecration means the, "sanctification of something by setting it apart as dedicated to God" (Princeton University's WordNet).

When we make the decision to engage in a true fast, we are making the decision to set ourselves apart unto God.  The forsaking of food is our denying our most prominent physical need in favor of our spiritual needs.  

It reminds each of us:
I am a spirit.  
I have a soul (mind, will and emotions).  
I only live in a body.

Fasting for God takes us before Him to put the 3 parts of our being into proper balance.  But, it is making the conscious decision to  deny our body that opens us up to receive the work that God wants to do in us, through us, and for us.

If you can sense in your heart a need to put your life back into ballance through biblical fasting, don't just think about it, DO IT. But, you don't have to do it alone. Beyond the Veil is a step-by-step guide to designing the fasting experience that is right for you. It helps you combine fasting, prayer, and scripture meditation for your own personal encounter with God.

And that is what real fasting is - Reaching out to connect with a living God, and knowing without a doubt that He's reaching out to connect with you.

Biblical Fasting: Is There More Than One Way To Fast for God?

Bible Study Reflection Questions

  1. Have you ever heard that you do not have to give up food to fast?  Why do you think this idea has been so prevalent in the church today?

  2. We learned in this lesson that the true purpose of fasting is consecration, or setting ourselves apart unto God.  What does that mean to you?

  3. We discussed the fact that you are a spirit, you have a soul, and you live in a body.  How do you think forsaking physical nourishment, in favor of spiritual food, during a fast helps us to put who we truly are into perspective?

  4. Though giving up all non-Christian media is not truly Biblical fasting, how do you think it could play a part in a Believer's consecration experience?  In order to truly set ourselves apart unto God, do we need to take a break from these influences?  
In-Home Christan Fasting Retrear

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Copyright (C)
The New Testament Greek Lexicon based on Thayer's and Smith's Bible Dictionary plus others; this is keyed to the large Kittel and the "Theological Dictionary of the New Testament." These files are public domain.

NAS Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries. Copyright © 1981, 1998 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved. 

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