In the previous
chapters, we have been talking about prayer, its purpose, and how it is
important to reserve time for praying. However, in addition to prayer you can
also fast, which is like continuous and speechless prayer. When fasting, we are
in a way praying and searching for the will of God even when we are not saying
it aloud. Therefore, fasting should be a part of our spiritual life, but it is
unfortunate that this is not often the case. In modern congregations, this
issue has mostly been neglected.
However, if we look at the time of the early church, we can
see that fasting was used in those times. Jesus, for example, said that after
He had gone away the disciples would fast. He warned us also about being
hypocrites when fasting. He also said that certain people cannot be released by
any other means than by prayer and fasting. These words of Jesus alone prove
that fasting was used in those times:
- (Matt -15) Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do
we and the Pharisees fast oft, but your disciples fast not?
15 And Jesus said to them, Can the children of the bridal chamber mourn,
as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the
bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.
- (Matt )
Moreover when you fast, be not, as
the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they
may appear to men to fast. Truly I say to you, They have their reward.
- (Mark -29) And when he was come into the house, his disciples
asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?
29 And he said to them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but
by prayer and fasting.
In addition, a good example is Apostle Paul who most certainly fasted
during his life. He did it privately but also together with other people –
obviously based on an agreement. The Acts also includes references to the
prayers and fasts of Paul and Barnabas before they went on their first mission
- (2 Cor 11:27) In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in
hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
- (Acts 13:1-4) Now there were in the
church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and
Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been
brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
2 As they
ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate
me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
3 And when
they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them
4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed to Seleucia;
and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
Fasting not only appears in the New Testament, but was also used during
the Old Covenant in many special situations. For example, Joel urges people to
declare a holy fast and cry out to the Lord.We can also find several other similar references to fasting.
One of the most interesting cases is the situation in
when this city declared fasting and turned to God, it avoided its judgment and
received extra time. Perhaps this also applies to many towns in the world
- (Joel 1:14) Sanctify you a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all
the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry to
- (Jonah 3:5,10) So the people of Nineveh
believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the
greatest of them even to the least of them.
10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and
God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them; and he did
- (Ezra 8:21-23) 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.
22 For I was
ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us
against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken to the king, saying, The
hand of our God is on all them for good that seek him; but his power and his
wrath is against all them that forsake him.
23 So we fasted and sought our God for this: and he
was entreated of us.
- (Neh 1:4) And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I
sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed
before the God of heaven,
- (Dan 9:3,21-23) And I set my face to the Lord God, to seek by prayer
and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes
21 Yes, whiles I
was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at
the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the
22 And he
informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to
give you skill and understanding.
23 At the
beginning of your supplications the commandment came forth, and I am come to
show you; for you are greatly beloved: therefore understand the matter, and
consider the vision.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF FASTING TO HEALTH AND WHEN NOT TO FAST
Talking about fasting and health, we can note that it can be very
beneficiary to you. Especially in the Western countries, where people stuff
themselves with food, fasting can certainly be a good thing for your health. It
has been proven that the majority of illnesses in Western countries are caused
by excessive eating. When people limit their eating, their health will start to
improve. Illnesses such as heart and vascular diseases, old age diabetes, and
cancer, for example, may be the results of excessive eating. Therefore, fasting
or reducing the amount of food you eat is reasonable in these cases.
However, there are some situations and illnesses when
fasting is not generally recommended because it can be do more harm than good.
These include diabetes that requires insulin treatment, pregnancy and
breastfeeding, serious coronary and vascular diseases, liver or kidney
deficiency, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, serious mental disorders or
psychosis, and long-term fasting of teenagers.If you do not have prior experience of fasting, it is good to start with
a fast of one to three days. If you are suffering from one of the
above-mentioned conditions, it may be wise to avoid fasting, or try a half
fast. If you are not sure about your own situation, talk to your doctor.
There are some guidelines to ending a fast. The longer the fast is, the
more important it is to end it correctly. End fasts by drinking natural juices
first, then add extremely light foods such as fruits and vegetables, mild gruel
and berry soups. Stay with these foods longer if your fast was a long one. (When
shifting to solid foods, allow yourself a transition time of at least one week.)
If you start eating solid foods too soon, you can suffer pain or become
ill. In some cases, you might place yourself in danger. Fasts that last for 1–2
days, for example, that are carried out at regular intervals, are easier because
ending them is simpler.