Posted by pastorsloan on February 5, 2014 at 1:45 PM

Will you please explain in detail the biblical view of fasting?  Why, what motives should we have, what are we trying to accomplish by doing it, etc?  Besides someone with a medical condition who cannot fast, should every Christian fast and when?

Matt 6:16-18

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But whenyou fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And you rFather who sees in secret will reward you.


“ First, fasting is an expression of humbling oneself before God. It is to humble yourself before God. … The second thing that fasting is, is an expression of buffeting one's body, bringing your body into subjection. …The third definition of fasting is, it is the expression of seeking the grace of God. Seeking the grace of God!” (David Legge,

WHEN SHOULD WE FAST -Jonathan Edwards

1.  Under special difficulties, 2. or when in great need of,  or great longings after, any particular mercy,for yourself or others,  (Ezra 8:21- 21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.)



set apart a day for secret prayer and fasting by yourself alone; and let the day be spent,

1. not only in petitions for the mercies you desire,

2. but in searching your heart, and in looking over your past life, and confessing your sins before God, not as it wont to be done in public prayer, but by a very particular rehearsal before God of the sins ofyour past life, from your childhood hitherto, before and after conversion, with the circumstances and aggravations attending them, and spreading all theabominations of your heart very particularly, and fully as possible, before him[Jonathan Edwards, "The Young Professor"].

John Calvin

This consists in three things — viz. the time, the quality of food, and the sparing use of it. By the time I mean, that while fasting we are to perform those actions for the sake of which the fast is instituted. For example, when a man fasts because of solemn prayer, he should engage in it without having taken food. The quality consists in putting all luxury aside,and, being contented with common and meaner food, so as not to excite our palate by dainties. In regard to quantity, we must eat more lightly and sparingly, only for necessity and not for pleasure. [John Calvin, Institutes ofthe Christian Religion 12:18].

I speak not, indeed, of such a fast as most persons keep,but of real fasting; not merely an abstinence from meats; but from sins too.  For the nature of a fast is such, that it does not suffice to deliver those who practice it, unless it be done according to a suitable law.

I have said these things, not that we may disparage fasting,but that we may honour fasting; for the honour of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it. Dost thou fast? Give me proof of it by thy works! Is it said by what kind of works? If thou seest a poor man, take pity on him! If thou seest an enemy, be reconciled to him! If thou seest a friend gaining honour, envy him not! If thou seest a handsome woman, pass her by!

In regard, then, to the discipline of which we now treat,whenever supplication is to be made to God on any important occasion, it isbefitting to appoint a period for fasting and prayer. Thus when the Christians of Antioch laid hands on Barnabas and Paul, that they might the better recommend their ministry, which was of so great importance, they joined fasting and prayer (Acts 13:3). Thus these two apostles afterwards, when they appointed ministers to churches, were wont to use prayer and fasting (Acts14:23). In general, the only object which they had in fasting was to render themselves more alert and disencumbered for prayer. [John Calvin, Institutes ofthe Christian Religion]

Acts 13:3- 3 Then after fasting and praying they laidtheir hands on them anmod sent them off.


A holy and lawful fast has three ends in view. We use it either to mortify and subdue the flesh, that it may not wanton, or to prepare the better for prayer and holy meditation; or to give evidence of humbling ourselves before God, when we would confess our guilt before him (Daniel9). . . In regard, then, to the discipline of which we now treat, whenever supplication is to be made to God on any important occasion, it is befitting to appoint a period for fasting and prayer. [John Calvin, The Institutes ofChristian Religion].

The first thing is constantly to urge the injunction ofJoel, “Rend your heart, and not your garments” [Joel 2:13]; that is, to remind the people that fasting in itself is not of great value in the sight of God,unless accompanied with internal affection of the heart, true dissatisfaction with sin and with one’s self, true humiliation, and true grief, from the fear of God . . . There is nothing which God more abominates than when men endeavour to cloak themselves by substituting signs and external appearance for integrity of heart. [John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion].

There are different types of fasts:

1. Partial fast – Daniel 10:1-3.  Abstaining from certain foods for the purposeof devotion.

Daniel 10:1-3

1 In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a word was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar. And the word was true, and it was a great conflict. And he understood the word and had understanding of the vision. 2 In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks. 3 I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks.


2. Normal fast - no food only water.

3. Absolute fast- no food or water.  Moses did this – Exodus 34:28-29.  Very dangerous

28 So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. 29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai,with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.


4. Non food fast - television, video games, or other thingsthat we enjoy.

1 Cor 7:5 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.



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