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Fasting: A Simple Guide


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This guide is meant to be an overview with which to assist you in the wonderful experience of Biblical Fasting. For more information I would suggest you download a free copy of John Piper’s A Hunger for God.

Is it Biblical:

If our actions are not produced from and supported by scripture then those actions will be short lived. God’s word gives us endurance and encouragement in the midst of fasting. The Bible is full of great men and women of God who fasted; Moses, Isaiah, Ezra, Nehemiah, David, Esther, Anna, Paul, and Jesus all fasted. Not only did Jesus fast, he even taught about it (Matthew 6). In Matthew 9 He tells the Pharisees that after He returns to the Father, His disciples will fast. He never tells us how often to fast or how long we should hold a fast, but he does assume that the children of the kingdom of God will fast. The early church understood this and lived it out (Acts 13:2). Take time to read some of the wonderful stories about fasting in the Bible and gain encouragement as you prepare for your fast. (See Scripture Index)

What is a Biblical Fast:

A Biblical fast isn’t abstaining from Facebook, giving up coffee, or getting rid of electronics (although that can be a healthy discipline). It isn’t about losing weight or going on a hunger strike. Rather, it is abstaining from all food, solid or liquid, but not from water. There are instances in the Bible where people practiced an absolute fast, abstaining from both food and water (Esther 4:16), but this was not the most common type of fast. Nor is this the type of fast we are asking you to participate in.

Why Fast:

In the Bible people fasted for a myriad of reasons: to turn back God’s wrath, to ask God to perform a miracle, to avoid destruction, or to gain guidance and direction for the future. All of these are Biblical, yet we must not equate fasting with an equation that forces God to do something. We do not fast in order to force God to do something for us. Rather, we fast to know God, to see His face, and for the world to behold the glory of God. God asked the people in Zechariah 7:5, “When you fasted and mourned…was it for me that you fasted?” Jesus says that when we fast, God will see and reward us. This reward is not the gifts of God, but God himself. Why would anyone want to settle for a secondary pleasure? Seek God in your fasting, not His gifts. Gifts are to be received joyfully, but they should not be elevated to the place of God.

One such wonderful gift when fasting is that God will show us who we truly are. In other words, God reveals to us the things that control us. Pride, anger, jealousy, etc. will surface while you fast. At first, you will want to attribute it to hunger. But it’s important to realize that it came out of you because it was in you. When Isaiah saw God, he cried out, “Woe am I, I am a man of unclean lips.” As you fast, you will see God, and when this happens you too will cry out, “Woe am I; I am a person of unclean…” As you draw closer to God you will begin to hear His voice more clearly. This is why prayer and fasting are intertwined. To hear God’s voice and to know His will is to pray it be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. As we fast together we ask that you spend time praying for specific needs. (See prayer points)

How to Fast:

If this is your first time to fast then I suggest you try a twenty-four hour fast. Start the fast at lunch on Wednesday and break that fast at lunch on Thursday. Be sure to drink plenty of water during this time, especially since Beijing is so dry. You will feel hunger pains; when this happens it is a reminder to pray, to read His word, to go to God, and to depend upon Him…man shall not live on bread alone. During lunch and dinner get alone; remove yourself from the temptation of food. Use that time to pray and worship (in the Bible, fasting is often accompanied with prayer and worship, Luke 2:37). Don’t call attention to your fast. Remember, you’re fasting to be seen by God, not men. Don’t eat a big breakfast on Wednesday morning. Just eat a normal meal. Also, for lunch Thursday try to eat something lighter than usual. Fruits and vegetables are best. Lastly, this discipline will not be easy. You will get hungry. Your stomach will growl. You will see food and desire it. When this happens, drink some water. Ask God for spiritual food. Jesus endured the cross by looking to the reward after the cross. You can endure hunger by reminding yourself of the reward: nearness to God. In the end remember, you are to be the master of your stomach, not its slave. We believe that God will use this fast to renew us as individuals. But since this is a corporate fast, we also believe that God will create a movement among us that results in His blessings and glory being spread to those around us as well. We pray for you as we go on this journey together. May He be glorified in us, as we are satisfied in Him.

Scriptures on Fasting

Isaiah 58:1-7

Zechariah 7:4-7

Matthew 6:16-18

Matthew 9:14-15

1 Samuel 14:24-30

Psalms 35:13

Joel 2:12-15

Nehemiah 1:4

Ezra 8:21-23

Daniel 9:3

Luke 2:37

Acts 13:2-3

Acts 14:23

1 Kings 21:27-29

Ezra 8:21

Psalms 69:10

1 Samuel 7:6

Nehemiah 9:1-3

Joel 1:13-14

Prayer Points

  • Forgiveness for sin (private and corporate).
  • Spiritual awakening and renewal (private and corporate).
  • The unreached in Beijing.
  • New missionaries to be sent out to hard to reach places.

Discussion Question

  • Does Jesus command fasting, or does he only comment on how to fast properly? What should we do and how should we look when fasting? Why? (See Matthew 6:16-18)
  • One key to fasting is motivation. What are the differences in motivation between truly seeking God and fasting to gain power or admiration? (See Matthew 6:16-18)
  • Did Jesus expect his disciples to fast after he was gone? (See Matthew 9:14-15)
  • It is said that fasting brings us closer to God. Could this be one of the reasons Jesus said his disciples would fast after he would no longer be with them? What are other reasons? (See Matthew 9:14-15)
  • Isaiah tells us that the Jews were fasting, but God was not answering their requests. Why not? What kind of fast does God want? (See Isaiah 58:3-10)

Scripture Memory Verse

Joel 2:12Yet even now declares the Lord, “Return to me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning.”