What Is Fasting and Why Should I Do It?

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What Is Fasting and Why Should I Do It?

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What is fasting?

Unger's Bible Dictionary explains that the word fast in the Bible is from the Hebrew word sum, meaning "to cover" the mouth, or from the Greek word nesteuo, meaning "to abstain." For spiritual purposes, it means to go without eating and drinking (Esther 4:16).

The Day of Atonement—also called "the Fast" (Acts 27:9)—is the only fast day commanded by God (Leviticus 23:27), though other national fast days are mentioned in the Bible. Also, personal fasts are clearly expected of Christ's disciples (Matthew 9:14-15).

We encourage those with health problems to consult a qualified medical practitioner before fasting.

Why do we fast?

The Bible gives examples of God's people occasionally combining fasting with their prayers so as to stir up their zeal and renew their dedication and commitment to Him. King David wrote that he "humbled [him]self with fasting" (Psalm 35:13). Fasting is a means of getting our minds back on the reality that we are not self-sufficient. Fasting helps us realize just how fragile we are and how much we depend on things beyond ourselves.

The Bible records that great men of faith such as Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Paul and Jesus Himself fasted so that they might draw closer to God (Exodus 34:28; 1 Kings 19:8; Daniel 9:3; Daniel 10:2-3; 2 Corinthians 11:27; Matthew 4:2). Jesus knew that His true disciples, once He was no longer there in the flesh with them, at times would need to fast to regain and renew their zeal to serve Him (Mark 2:18-20).

James tells us, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:8). Constant prayer and occasional fasting help us to do this.

We are not to fast to have people feel sorry for us or to think we're pious (Matthew 6:16-18). Isaiah 58 gives both bad and good examples of fasting, contrasting wrong attitudes and actions (Isaiah 58:3-5) with the right approach of outgoing love (Isaiah 58:6-10). Daniel and Nehemiah set the example of having a repentant frame of mind (Daniel 9:3-4; Nehemiah 9:1-2).

Fasting also helps us learn the lessons of the Day of Atonement: forgiveness, reconciliation to God and the need to resist Satan and pray for the time of his removal (Revelation 20:1-3), which was portrayed in type by the Azazel goat on Atonement (Leviticus 16:20-22).


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  • Smith family

    My heart is broken. Every choice I have made has only made the life of those living with me almost unbearable and beyond stressful. My wife has left me because of my complete selfishness, my explosive anger issues, my refusal to see the horrible truth about myself and being honest with myself of how abominable my spirit is, how hurtful and wrong my attitude is towards my children who didn't ask to be born. I am numb, dead inside, I am afraid to even speak to anyone or draw myself close to anyone for fear of ruining their lives too. With much grief and sorrow I admit I do not know how to love or how to give it. I am a total mess and see very little that matters in life anymore.

    I know God is with me, calling me by name. I know He is there to comfort, help, heal, revive, renew, resurrect, forgive and sanctify. I'm afraid that my habits, my sins, my lack of commitment to change and grow and be more, be better, to love unconditionally and obey completely now (considering the train wreck I am) will not only push my family away permanently but will also turn God away because I'll fail Him too. Please, pray for me.

    God's will be done.

  • Lena VanAusdle

    Hi Michael,
    I'm so sorry to hear of the difficulties that you've been facing. It's good that you are admitting to the part you have played in your circumstances; it's the first step in turning your life around. God is always willing to forgive you and help you, as long as you turn to Him and repent (2 Peter 3:9; 2 Corinthians 7:10). You may wish to consider seeking family counseling to help repair your family.

  • Skip Miller

    Hello Michael, What you have said is sad, to say the least. But you said something that gives me hope -- for you : You admit to being selfish. I'm going to suggest that you stop focusing on all the things that you have done wrong and find out something real that you can do for someone else -- then just do it. It won't make up for anything but it will put you on another path, going another direction. Help someone else.

  • Life

    I'm going to fast . I loved this article. I'm tired of all the pain I bring to myself by making poor decisions. I feel trapped. I feel like I have chains around me that don't let me live in peace. I don't even know how to love myself or to love others. I don't know what love is. I know God exists. I love Him. He's the only that I can imagine what love is . I'm so low in my life right now. I'm the worse I'm sure. I never thought I'd get this low. I'm exhausted emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually from pain. I have no friends to talk to or hang out. I'm going to fast to get guidance friom God. I've wrote him many letters but now I will fast. Can someone pray for me? Thank you.

  • MissVee

    Hi Danni,
    I decided today for the first time ever to go on a religious fast. Your post caught my eye because that is the same place that I am in right now as I type this message. I hope you are doing better!

  • jefferytia

    I just came across your request from four months ago. I hope things have improved for you. I will pray for goods friends to come into your life. I was requesting the same for me. I agtend for the first time tommorw at The United Church of God. Will u pray the same for me? Thank you and may god bless u

  • johanbruyns

    Danni. How is it going with your fasting. Hope you had the breakthrough in your life you needed. Remember God loves you and you are very important to Him. So much so that He have His one and only begotten Son to die on the cross for your sins and rised out of the dead in three days so that you may have redemption and everlasting life in Jesus. Good luck and may God walk with you throught the lenght of your days.

  • Cloudwalker

    Many of us, I think most, have been at the bottom at some point. It really isn't a bad place to be. It connects us with God and ourselves. I shall pray for you. If you lived near by, you could "Hang out".

  • Steven Britt

    Hi, Danni - I'm really sorry to hear about your difficulties, but if they bring you to a greater dependence on God then be thankful for them, because God will deliver you and uplift you. Hebrews 11:6 says that God "is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" - so continue to seek Him diligently! Fasting is a great way to do that. I will be praying for you, as I'm sure many who have read your comment also are.

  • Skip Miller

    Hello Danni,
    Yes, I will pray for you!
    If you honestly are asking God for the help (that We all need)
    God will honor that request. (And I am going to write your name
    on my personal prayer list right now!) Jere 31: 18

  • donswank


  • Diana Bangerter

    Can anybody tell me what day is FASTING

  • Diana Bangerter

    What day is "Fast"

  • Skip Miller

    Hello Mulima,
    I think the above article is pretty clear about why a person fasts:
    We fast to draw closer to God and to say, "I do not live by food alone but by ... (God's will.)"
    But here is my point: if you just fast to GET whatever, then you probably won't (get it.)
    On the other hand, if you fast and ask God to show you what He wants you to do, to have, to be -- then you just might get an answer. One other thought: God has rules. If we are trying to keep them it seem logical that God will notice and approve. Give it a try.
    Skip Miller

  • blasiosteven

    what's good in fasting or which benefits do I get in it, I should like to know God more deeper than everything in the world, but sometimes I feel like doing my only things and I leave God apart and afterwards I get pain, instead of praying or reading bible I just go to you tube and I watch romantic movies, porn videos and betting football all in all i end up in regrets , and this time around I want to force on God fasting the all month praying reading the bible and I believe my life will change please beyond today stand with me

  • Lisasatcher

    I have fasted to grow closer to God, to learn self control, also when my marriage was falling apart...I can honestly say each time I've fasted I've been blessed with prayers being answered and a deeper relationship with God.

  • ministerkarl

    We should not follow what theologians or churches preach about the subject. Read all the verses related to fasting and then you will understand, even this article is actually pretty scriptural and most still seem confused; now what is fasting and why according to scripture?
    The biblical (not the church) fast is not eating nor drinking, simple. I usually recommend when you start fasting biblically do it a day at a time, from sunset to sunset, and ideally in that time spend time meditating and reading Gods word. Believe me it is not so easy, like the fake christian 'church' or the 'worldly' (fasts)....
    When you rise above your physical temptation on food and water and incredible spiritual happening occurs in your spirit.... you start receiving strength, spiritual strength...this is invaluable in one's walk as a believer.
    In love and truth, minister karl, Shalom.

  • St Fahrenheit
    I've read this article, but I still ask, "what is fasting?" if it's staying away from food to study and pray, and get closer to God, what if food is not an issue for me. I can pray and study and may or may not even eat within that period. I need someone to qualify the emphasis on "not eating". I thought the emphasis should be on separating yourself unto a spiritual walk, because some people eat (maybe in little quantities that will not make the flesh lazy), and they concentrate on the spiritual walk, while some religiously focus on staying away from food, but they don't finally get much out of the spiritual exercise. The one who eats during "fasting" is almost condemned, not knowing the depth of his spiritual walk, and the one who is not eating is confirmed, not minding the depth of his spiritual walk. or Is fasting penance?
  • Lena VanAusdle

    Fasting isn't about the amount of food one does or does not normally eat. It is about humbling ourselves before God. It should lead us to recognize that our bodies are human and frail, and without God and His sustenance we are nothing. We need Him. Some people eat more, some eat less, but everyone needs nutrition, and absolutely everyone needs water (fluids) to live. Can people build a relationship with God and still eat? Absolutely they can. Can someone fast and never build a relationship with God? Absolutely they can. But God says His people will fast (Matthew 6:16-17 "When you fast" not "IF you fast"). He wants us to want to draw near to Him; He wants us to humble ourselves before Him (Isaiah 58:1-14).

  • wal321
    Begin your fasting by giving God all the honor and Glory for what is to come and be. Start this day onward by never ever writing "God" with a little g. I say this with love. There is only one God and He deserves honor and glory given to, even writing God. In true sense we shouldn't be worthy of writing the word "God" this is why you see G-d by Hebrews. When I heard this I totally got it and each time I write God, i do want to put the space in between but I do capitalize for He is the one and only God. But thank goodness, that we have the bible and it is written that God is a loving God and that he loves us even when we fall short. God doesn't think like we do but we should try nonetheless giving Him all the honor and glory! Your Christian growth and fasting starts a righteous path. In regards to a divorce I commend you for wanting to mend your marriage. I encourage you to hold on to that desire. It is commendable and it is pleasing to the Lord. God is the inventor of marriage. Now, no matter what I do have to say,if your bed has been defiled (cheating) or if your divorce goes on through, (and you have sex with others) you can not go back to your ex. It is displeasing to the Lord. It won't work. Fast and read the bible for answers. I can not be the one to say what you should do or not do, the word of God tells us what we should do and not do. I applaud you for wanting to leave the bottle (if I understood that you have) because excess drinking is habit forming and it becomes your master. Take every thought captive! If you want to quit something offensive to God, stop thinking about it so much...what you think and desire most of becomes your master. What we love more is what we think more of. Don't be weak in your thoughts but be strong in God. It is only imagination that makes you feel wine helps and numbs. You have the ability and inner power through God (Jesus) to have self control-you can do it! I have faith in that you can restore self and marriage. Fast and Ask God to show you how to mend your marriage and pray earnestly that your husband has eyes for you only. That which you desire (that God opposes)has been allowed to be your god.CAST DOWN every thought/imagination 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.Fasting is to restrain the flesh-be humbled.Urge you to taste the new wine of Christ presence and long for Him.He is the one your soul should joyfully desire-mend 1st
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