What is a fast according to the Bible?


By BibleAsk Team


Fasting according to the Bible is a sacred time in which Christians abstain from food, or other pleasures, and take the time to focus on God. Many people in the Bible fasted. Moses fasted on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28). Hannah fasted when she wanted a son from God (I Samuel 1:7). David fasted on several occasions. John the Baptist taught his disciples to fast (Mark 2:18, Luke 5:33). Cornelius fasted before his Caesarean vision (Acts 10:30). The church at Antioch fasted when they sent Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:3).

In Bible times, fasts were generally one day in length. Judges 20:26 says, “Then all the sons of Israel and all the people went up and came to Bethel and wept; thus they remained there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening. And they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.” But occasionally, fasts in Bible times were three days (Esther 4:16) or even seven days (1 Samuel 31:13).

Jesus’ Fast

The most significant fast of all took place when Jesus fasted forty days. Before He began his ministry on this earth, He set aside time to pray and fast. In Matthew 4:2 we read, “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.” Since Jesus was also human, he prepared Himself to combat the desires of the flesh by choosing to fast, and was victorious over the devil (Matthew 4:1-11).

Prayer and Fasting

Although we are never commanded to fast, it should be an important part of a Christian’s life. Fasting and prayer are often linked together (Luke 2:37; 5:33). Too often, the focus is on the lack of food. Instead, the purpose should be to take our eyes off the things of this world and focus completely on God.

There are other ways to fast. Anything given up temporarily in order to focus all our attention on God can be also considered a fast (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). Anyone can fast, but some may not be able to fast from food due to health reasons.

The Fast that God Requires

To fast is not merely abstaining from food but it also involves prayer, repentance, and helping others. The true purpose of religion is to free people from their bondage of sin, to get rid of prejudice and injustice, and to promote love and peace.

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day: And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (Isaiah 58:6-11).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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