What Are Some Biblical Examples of Fasting?

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What Are Some Biblical Examples of Fasting?

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What Are Some Biblical Examples of Fasting?

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Fasting is the well documented biblical custom of abstaining from food and drink for a period of time in order to draw near to God. It is frequently referenced as an act of worship that is accompanied by prayer and repentance. There are numerous circumstances that have prompted God's servants to fast throughout history, and the New Testament teaches that fasting is an indispensable spiritual tool for Christians today. This partial list of biblical examples of fasting highlights when and why a Christian should incorporate fasting into their worship of God.

Fasting is a tool that has been widely used by God's people throughout history, and it continues to be a powerful way for Christians to deepen their relationship with God.

Ezra proclaimed a fast when the Jews faced a hazardous travel situation as they returned to Jerusalem from their exile in Babylon (Ezra 8:21-23 Ezra 8:21-23 [21] Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. [22] For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken to the king, saying, The hand of our God is on all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him. [23] So we fasted and sought our God for this: and he was entreated of us.
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). While the desire for safe travel was the immediate reason for the fast, Ezra stated the ultimate goal in verse 21: "that we might humble ourselves before God, to seek from Him the right way for us." The fast of Esther 4:15-16 Esther 4:15-16 [15] Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, [16] Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast you for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in to the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.
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provides another example of drawing near to God when asking Him for protection.

In 2 Samuel 12:14-16 2 Samuel 12:14-16 [14] However,, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die. [15] And Nathan departed to his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bore to David, and it was very sick. [16] David therefore sought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night on the earth.
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, David fasted to seek God's healing for his sick child. It was during this intense seven-day fast that David wrote Psalm 51, one of the most heartfelt expressions of repentance in the entire Bible. The overall purpose of David's fast was not to get God to do what he wanted, but rather to be humbled and reconciled with God as he beseeched Him in prayer. Even though God chose not to save the child's life, the fast still served its purpose of bringing David closer to God after being separated by sin. Isaiah 58:3-9 Isaiah 58:3-9 [3] Why have we fasted, say they, and you see not? why have we afflicted our soul, and you take no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exact all your labors. [4] Behold, you fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: you shall not fast as you do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. [5] Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? [6] Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? [7] Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? when you see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh? [8] Then shall your light break forth as the morning, and your health shall spring forth speedily: and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. [9] Then shall you call, and the LORD shall answer; you shall cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If you take away from the middle of you the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
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further elaborates on the proper attitude we should have when fasting.

When Jonah preached to the Gentile city of Nineveh, the whole city came together and fasted in an incredible act of repentance (Jonah 3:7-10 Jonah 3:7-10 [7] And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: [8] But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. [9] Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? [10] And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them; and he did it not.
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). The king of Nineveh ordered every person and their animals to fast and "cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way" (Jonah 3:8 Jonah 3:8But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
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). God was moved by their reverence and showed mercy by not destroying the city.

Luke 2:36-37 Luke 2:36-37 [36] And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; [37] And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
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records a righteous woman, Anna, who "served God with fastings and prayers night and day" as she awaited God's promised Messiah. Her ongoing testimony to us shows that fasting is an act of worship and service before God. Another righteous person, Cornelius, worshiped God with fasting in Acts 10:30 Acts 10:30And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
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. Cornelius' fast (and faith) opened the door for Peter to begin preaching to the Gentiles, a vital step in the spread of the gospel throughout the world.

The book of Acts documents the apostles fasting to seek God's will when making decisions within a congregation, such as in Acts 13:2-3 Acts 13:2-3 [2] As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. [3] And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
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and Acts 14:23 Acts 14:23And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
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. On both occasions, the apostles fasted in order to seek sound, godly judgment when appointing local leaders.

Paul stated that he fasted "often" as he listed the various ways he had suffered for the gospel (2 Corinthians 11:27 2 Corinthians 11:27In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
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). The indication is that Paul fasted because he constantly felt the need for God's help in facing his many trials, and fasting strengthened him spiritually. Paul also references "fasting and prayer" as a regular part of Christian life in 1 Corinthians 7:5 1 Corinthians 7:5Defraud you not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
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.

Perhaps the most famous account of fasting in the Bible is when Jesus went 40 consecutive days fasting, and this miraculous fast was done in preparation for His confrontation with Satan (Luke 4:1-13 Luke 4:1-13 [1] And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, [2] Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungry. [3] And the devil said to him, If you be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. [4] And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. [5] And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. [6] And the devil said to him, All this power will I give you, and the glory of them: for that is delivered to me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. [7] If you therefore will worship me, all shall be yours. [8] And Jesus answered and said to him, Get you behind me, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. [9] And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down from hence: [10] For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you: [11] And in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. [12] And Jesus answering said to him, It is said, You shall not tempt the Lord your God. [13] And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.
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, Matthew 4:1-11 Matthew 4:1-11 [1] Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. [2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. [3] And when the tempter came to him, he said, If you be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil takes him up into the holy city, and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple, [6] And said to him, If you be the Son of God, cast yourself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning you: and in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him, It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God. [8] Again, the devil takes him up into an exceeding high mountain, and shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; [9] And said to him, All these things will I give you, if you will fall down and worship me. [10] Then said Jesus to him, Get you hence, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. [11] Then the devil leaves him, and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
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). Jesus' own example teaches us that fasting can be instrumental in preparing us for future trials and helping us to overcome temptations.

Fasting is a tool that has been widely used by God's people throughout history, and it continues to be a powerful way for Christians to deepen their relationship with God. As we've seen, it is appropriate to fast when faced with temptations, trials, or potentially dangerous situations. Fasting can also accompany heartfelt repentance, enhance prayer, or be offered as an act of deep worship and praise.

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