Christian Fast – Table of Contents
- Christian Fast –3 Categories of Myths
- Define a Christian Fast
- Christian Fasting – No fixed Day
- Christian Fast – Partial Fast?
- A Day to Seek God
- How to seek God
- A Day to Approach God
- Who and How to Approach God
- How Jesus Christ Changed Approaching God
- A Day to Mourn
- A Day to Afflict the Soul
- The Lord Has Chosen a Day
- A Day the Lord Accepts
- Do’s and Don’ts During Christian Fasting
3 Categories of Myths About the Christian FastThere are many myths in circulation concerning the Christian fast. However, Believers need not be confused because the holy Lord God is very clear. He provides a lucid definition and precise instructions in His Word concerning this. He also supplies guidance concerning choosing our fasting days. Believers never have to assume about fasting. As a result, I shall investigate three categories of these fairy tales: What is a Christian fast; Where to fast; and what activities do we embrace while we conduct our Christian fasting? There are two basic ways to approach a Christian fast: as a body of Believers (the church), or as an individual. Today, I will focus on the latter; later, I will address the former. Consequently, the Scriptures when clarifying the definition of a Christian fast, emphasize it as an acceptable day to the Lord; a time for seeking God; a day for approaching God; a day for afflicting the soul; a time for mourning; and finally a duration that the Lord has chosen. Go to top of page.
What is a Christian Fast?“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? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?”(Isaiah 58:5). “You fasted for three days and three nights?” Michael asked Althea in disbelief. “What did you eat?” He continued. “Nothing!” She replied very surprisedly. “Did you drink anything?” He asked. “It is a fast” She replied. “When Believers fast they neither eat nor drink.” She said. “I couldn’t fast. I love my food!” Michael told his friend. However, as we mature as Believers in Christ, we must, of necessity, undertake Christian fasting. This is when we decide that for a prearranged duration we will neither eat nor drink anything. During this duration, we maximize certain activities. Similarly, our fast could last for twelve hours; twenty-four hours; thirty – six hours; forty – eight hours, or seventy – two hours but we decide (2 Samuel 1:12). Go to top of page.
Christian Fast – No Fixed DayTherefore, a Christian fast is essentially an acceptable day to the Lord our God. As we discuss Christian fasting, bearing in mind both the spiritual and the natural aspects of it. Naturally, the Jews observe specific fast days at various times within a year. The Lord commands them to fast. He has “chosen” a day for them to fast. They make it acceptable by conforming to His chosen activities for that day. While, the remainder of us, (the church and all the Gentiles), has no biblical commandments from God to fast. Spiritually, though, we could choose whichever day we desire and make it acceptable and chosen to God. If it is acceptable to Him, then it is also chosen. If we obey God, He will always accept our actions.
Jesus Expects Us to Fast!Nevertheless, there are some who shall say that Jesus Christ gave no commandment to fast. However, he expects us to fast. He reveals his expectations when he says: “when ye fast”. “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward”, (Matthew 6:16-17). Go to top of page.
Types of Christian Fasting?Seeing that a Christian fast is a duration of total abstinence from foods, drinks, and sexual indulgence, how could there be types of Christian fasting? No Scripture reveals any partial-fast. Consequently, there are no types of Christian fasting in the Bible (Esther 4:16). So, the advocates of partial-fasting have erred greatly not knowing the Scriptures. They misunderstand the Bible. They impose their opinions on the Word of God. Moreover, partial-fast is a contradiction by its very nature. There is no contradiction in the Bible, not if you allow the Word to interpret itself. Again, partial-fasting is not biblical. There is no example of it in the Bible, our supreme guide. There is only the Christian fast!
What are the Criteria for Types of Christian Fast?However, the Bible cautions that married couples should never enter into a Christian fast unless each spouse agrees to the duration. Therefore, married Believers should first accept the fast duration of their spouse which legitimizes it in the eyes of the Lord God. However, to the single Christians, you are only answerable to yourselves and to God. So, while fasting, even married Believers should abstain from sexual intimacy. “The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife” (1 Corinthians 7:4). “Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency” (1 Corinthians 7:5). “But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment” (1 Corinthians 7:6). Go to top of page.
1). A Day to Seek God“And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” (2 Chronicles 20:2-3). God is not lost. He is hidden from the unforgiving hearts. However, for us to know the will of God, in any situation, we cannot scripturally and spiritually have this confidence in our hearts unless we seek Him by praying and fasting. Fasting is a seeking for God’s will. Therefore, a Christian fast is also a fixed duration that the Lord chooses for Believers to seek His advice and direction for various decisions that we should take. And this makes that fast an acceptable time to Him. “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” (Ezra 8:21). Go to top of page.
Christian Fasting – How to Seek God?However, to the contrary, Daniel, the great prophet of God, seeks the Lord via fasting and prayers. He achieved his intended results. “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). Owing to the fact that a Christian fast is also a show of seeking God and a demonstration of our repenting of our sins are two reasons the Lord desires us to turn to Him as we execute it. “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12). As a result, if we never go on a fast we will never turn with all our hearts to God. There will always be reservations. Christian fasting surrenders us completely to God. Go to top of page.
2). Christian Fast – a Day to Approach God
Nevertheless, a Believer, in seeking directions from God, must of necessity approach Him. We are mere mortals before Him. Christians cannot go to God as we would go to a friend or a relative. People cannot even approach earthly kings as they desire, and He is the King of kings. Fasting describes the manner and the time to get near to God. Seeing that the Lord God is a Spirit (John 4:24), approaching Him is not natural but spiritual. It’s of the heart. If our hearts are not submissive and broken we cannot access God. “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18). And this too is a prerequisite for Him to hear our prayers. We need broken spirits before Him. Therefore, the Lord asks “and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me: for who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me, saith the Lord,” (Jeremiah 30:21)? A person with a broken and contrite heart! Go to top of page.
Who and How to Approach God?For this reason, the Jews follow a ritual. To indicate that they are seeking God and that they desire to get near to Him they would publicly wear sackcloth, sprinkle earth on their head, and they would sit in ashes, weeping and mourning as they fast, (Nehemiah 9:1 & Esther 4:3). However, Israel was merely carrying out this ritual, their hearts were not in it; therefore, Isaiah 58:5. They delight in putting on a show for onlookers to see and to say that they are fasting. But Christ teaches us not to fast publicly. However, Daniel utilizes a similar private ritual and achieves the intended results because his heart was in its proper mode and state (Daniel 9:3). So, initially, only priests, leaders, and leaders like Moses could get close to the Lord. Neither the people nor their animals could approach. “And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. Moses alone shall come near the Lord: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him”, (Exodus 24:1-2). Go to top of page.
How Jesus Christ Changed Approaching God?However, after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ this change. Anyone with a broken and contrite heart can approach the Lord in fasting and prayer. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8). Have you ever approached the Lord God in fasting according to His Words? “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22). Are you approaching God with regular prayers and Christian fasting? Go to top of page.
3). Christian Fast – A Day to Mourn
A biblical fast is also a time to mourn. It’s not mourning as one would grieve for a loss of love-ones. No! It’s more a time of repentance. It’s a lamenting for sinning against God. “In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled”, (Daniel 10:2-3). No wonder the Lord instructs us to understand fasting as a time of weeping. “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil”, (Joel 2:12-13). As we enter into a Christian fast our motive is very important. It determines the outcome of our fasting. Is our time of fasting and languishing, to God? “Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?” (Zechariah 7:5). So a Christian fast is also a day to mourn for sinning against God and a time to turn from them to Him. Go to top of page.
4 ). A Day to Afflict the Soul
A Believer, having recognized the imperative to mourn and to repent for his or her sins, must then afflict the soul. Afflict your soul in solitude. Therefore, it represents the stance a Christian takes, which demonstrates that he or she is seeking, approaching, and is in mourning before God. Many people feel that they need to “connect” with nature while fasting. As a result, they fast in the woods, in bushes, or in the mountains. Some even sit by a river or the sea. However, Jesus and the others didn’t fast in some of those places just to connect with nature, but to isolate themselves to focus on the job of praying and meditating on the Word of God and in doing they were afflicting their souls. This is one method to afflict the soul. Deprive it of its usual earthly pleasures and indulgences for a fixed time. They were ensuring that their fast was an acceptable day to the Lord God. If God does not accept our Christian fast, what is the sense of fasting? Go to top of page.
Find Creative Ways to Afflict Your SoulConcerning connecting with nature as we fast, everyone does not live in close proximity to isolated areas and mountains and lakes and so on. Many Believers live in big cities and apartments and very busy places. But we could be creative in identifying ways to afflict our souls. We could retreat to the roof or basement of our homes to be alone with God. And there afflict our souls as we fast and qualify to approach God. On my part, as a matter of observation, the more I learn about fasting, through the Word of God and by way of my personal experience, the more I perceive that it is not about God but us. We fast because fasting benefits us. Christians fast to the Lord. And Believers afflict their souls to qualify to get near to God. Go to top of page.
5). A Day the Lord Chooses
Therefore, an apt guideline to adhere to, to ensure that our fast is chosen and acceptable to God includes the following: is our fast an acceptable day to the Lord; is it a duration for seeking God; also is it a time that we approach the awesome presence of God; is it a day in which we afflict our souls, and is it a day to mourn and weep for our sins? If your answer is yes, your fast is the one that the Lord God has chosen. So, if our fast conforms to His Words and our hearts are broken before Him, I believe with my entire heart that God has chosen our fast. Is a person awake and asleep at the same time? Could one be tied and untied simultaneously? Or is a person dead and alive at once? If no, then how can a person water-fast, juice-fast, partial-fast, or even Daniel-fast concurrently? It is not possible! These are mutually exclusive events. It’s one or the other. Therefore, in the context of a chosen fast, how can we eat or drink? And if we eat or drink we are not afflicting our souls but pampering them! Let us fast according to the Word of God! What do you eat or drink while you execute your Christian fast? Explain in the comments below! Go to top of page.
6). A Day the Lord Accepts
Seeing our fast, at least, has a specific goal, we need God to hear us when we call. And if He doesn’t our fasting was not accepted; but, if He does, He accepts it. How would we know that he hears and accepts it (Jeremiah 14:12)? He will respond. He will give us direction for decisions and we will always have good success. The day the Lord accepts is the one He chooses. It’s the chosen fast. He accepts it because we obey His directive for it. If we disobey Him and impose our own parameters on His fast, He rejects that day. Then we cannot attain our spiritual objectives while on such a fast. This is a futile attempt. Obey Him. As a result, our Christian fast maybe chosen but not accepted. Did we fast according to His directives? That was Israel’s predicament, (Isaiah 58:1-7). When are you going on a fast? Share your thoughts on Christian fasting by commenting below. Go to top of page.