What Is Biblical Fasting?
Fasting is spoken of many times throughout the Bible. There is a proper way to fast and an improper way to fast. According to the Bible, under the New Testament will, there is no set command that requires fasting to be implemented as an act of worship or obedience to the new Testament Scriptures. Under the Jewish Old Testament law, fasting was mandatory on an annual basis on the Day of Atonement. Interestingly enough though, some Pharisee's voluntarily fasted two times a week in an attempt to impress the people with their “holiness” (Luke 18:12).
Fasting is often associated with prayer. In Ezra 8:15-36 one can read of an account where there was a request made for God to grant a safe journey and the people not only prayed to God they also refrained from eating for an allotted duration.
Fasting can be practiced improperly. Or, fasting can be done for spiritual purposes. If one is to fast they must do so with the right motives (for in actuality fasting is a matter of trained discipline). So the question is how can one fast properly? “Matthew 6:16-18 says, “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. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” The thrust of verses 16-18 is that God will know the situation of the one who is choosing to fast; and thus, there should be no reason to act gloomy, or walk around in sorrow, but rather to “wash up” and not appear to the world to be fasting.
However, “fasting” has become a real popularized ms-defined concept in the realm of general religion. Some claim that God does not want people to eat red meat on Friday’s. Some say one should give up a type of food for a while for God, like chocolate. Other’s claim God does not allow the eating of any meat on the “week of the Easter event”. There are many other morphological renditions of these false concepts of Biblical fasting. But they are summarized by Paul, when he wrote, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith...speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1-3). The fact is: a Christian can eat all foods at any time. There are no examples in the New Testament of “universal fasts” that were practiced by Christ’s universal church.
However, there are instances in scriptures, within the New Testament, of individual’s choosing to fast on their own. When one chooses to fast, the purpose is suppose to be to draw the person’s thoughts back to a spiritual goal. Two such individuals who were know for fasting were Paul and Timothy. 2nd Corinthians 6:4-5 says, “but in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes... in fastings...O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you our heart is wide open. (1 Corinthians 6:4,5,11). Here one can see that “fasting” is not wrong. A Christian can fast for many reasons, even in spiritual crisis circumstances. However it aught to be stated that Jesus Christ did not set forth a precedence for his disciples to mandate fasting. There is no apostolic example of others being required to fast under the New Testament dispensation.
No one should force another to fast. Yet no one should withstand the spiritual stamina some self-invoke that causes one to make the choice to occasionally refrain from food.
God is not silent about the power of prayer coupled with fasting and the words of Jesus Christ made it clear that after the bridegroom departed (e.g. Jesus ascended to heaven) then his disciples would fast. (Mark 2:22).
The choice is yours. But the burden should never be imposed on another, by types of persuasion tactics that are un-scripturally merited. By: J.R. Rosado