FAST: Hotan de nesteuete (2PPAS)
(Mt 9:14,15; 2Sa 12:16,21;
Nehemiah 1:4; Esther 4:16; Psalm 35:13; 69:10; 109:24; Daniel 9:3; Luke
2:37; Acts 10:30; 13:2,3; 14:23; 1Corinthians 7:5; 2Corinthians 6:5;
Before you read the notes consider
on these passages on FASTING -
Specifically what practice is clearly associated with fasting?
Interesting! Are you practicing (under grace, enabled by the Spirit)
this Biblical truth in your spiritual life (or will you? will I?)?
Matt 9:14 Then the disciples of
John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your
disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “The
attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is
with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken
away from them, and then they will fast.
2Sa 12:16 David therefore
inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay
all night on the ground. 2Sa 12:21 Then his servants said to him, “What
is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you
fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.”
Neh 1:4 Now it came about when I
heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was
fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
Esther 4:16 “Go, assemble all
the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink
for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast
in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not
according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”
Ps 35:13 But as for me, when
they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my soul with
fasting; And my prayer kept returning to my bosom.
Ps 69:10 When I wept in my soul
with fasting, It became my reproach.
Ps 109:24 My knees are weak from
fasting; And my flesh has grown lean, without fatness.
Dan 9:3 So I gave my attention
to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting,
sackcloth, and ashes.
Luke 2:37 and then as a widow to
the age of eighty-four. And she never left the temple, serving night and
day with fastings and prayers.
Acts 10:30 (cf Acts 10:9, 10 =
Peter) And Cornelius said, “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in
my house during the ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in
Acts 13:2 And while they were
ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set
apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called
Acts 13:3 Then, when they had
fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Acts 14:23 And when they had
appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting,
they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
1Cor 7:5 (A different genre
of "fasting") Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a
time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again
lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Recommended resource available
free online - Dr John Piper's entire book (Pdf)
A Hunger for God - Desiring
God Through Fasting and Prayer
Here are some articles from
Theological Journals (annual fee required for full view - access to
over 27 separate journals and 1000's of articles)
People Should Fast
Practice of Fasting in the New Testament
Perspective on Fasting
Whenever - Notice Jesus does
not say "if" you fast but "when" you fast. The implication is not subtle
is it? Have you ever fasted? Jesus takes for granted that his
disciples will observe the custom of fasting. Clearly, Jesus assumed
that fasting was good and that it would be done by His disciples. Jesus
mentioned this discipline later in Matthew 9:15 declaring
The days will come when the
bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
So Jesus is not teaching on whether
we should fast or not. He is assuming we will fast and teaching us how
to do it and, especially, how not to do it.
Rishel has an interesting
Tertullian defended the practice
of fasting in the third century A.D., protesting against the psychics of
his day. These people denied fasting on the basis of the “Christian
liberty” principle in Galatians 5 and 1 Corinthians 8:8. Tertullian
traced the principle of fasting back to Adam who was commanded not to
eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thus making it an
everlasting ordinance of God’s creation.1 1 St. Isaac the Syrian agreed:
“As the first commandment imposed upon our nature in the beginning was
against the tasting of the food, and in this point the head of our race
fell, therefore those who strive for the fear of God begin the building
where the first injury originated.” Whether or not fasting can be traced
back to Adam as a creation ordinance may be debated. But it was
certainly given as part of the Mosaic Law for the Day of Atonement—the
only prescribed day of fasting...
Dissenting Christians will still
insist that fasting in the Old Testament has nothing to do with us
today. Surprisingly, though, fasting is given no less emphasis in the
New Testament, which contains seventeen instances of fasting. It is
predicted by Christ for New Testament Christians in the Parable of the
Bridegroom (Matthew 9:14–15; Mark 2:18–20; Luke 5:33–35), “But the days
will come when the Bridegroom will be taken from them, and then they
will fast.” Despite those who say otherwise, the removal of the
Bridegroom is an obvious reference to the ascension of Christ.3 Calvin
agrees citing the apostles who interpreted the Bridegroom passages as
mandating fasting after the ascension. “The apostles, therefore,
followed what was not new to the people of God, and what they foresaw
would be useful to them.” In response to those who insist that fasting
was only for the Old Testament, Calvin continues: “If anyone declines to
accept the testimonies which can be cited from the Old Testament, as if
inappropriate to the Christian church, the fact remains that the
apostles also followed the same practice.”4
The intent of Jesus’ teaching in the Parable of the Bridegroom is that
fasting is an expression of a real desire for the presence of Christ. So
much so that fasting is not necessary when Christ is present, but when
he is absent, then those who love him will fast. Their fasting gives
evidence to the fact that they yearn, ache, and long for spiritual
realities, which are too easily obscured by the shadows of this world...
An important point to notice in
the Sermon on the Mount is that fasting is paralleled with benevolent
giving and with prayer. Christ spoke on these three subjects using
exactly the same wording: “When you give alms” (Matthew 6:3); “And when
you pray” (Matthew 6:5); “Moreover when you fast. . .” (Matthew 6:16).
Just as giving and prayer are ordinances of God, so is fasting.
It is certainly true that fasting is
especially united to prayer. Andrew Murray states in his book on prayer
that Christ gives the cure for little faith in Matthew 17:19, 20, 21:
“But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Murray
concludes that faith depends entirely upon the state of the spiritual
life. And he draws two lessons: “One, that faith needs a life of prayer
in which to grow and to keep strong. The other, that prayer needs
fasting for its full and perfect development.. .. Prayer is the one hand
with which we grasp the invisible; fasting, the other with which we let
loose and cast away the visible.”...
Now if fasting is to be
performed by Christians today, we must understand the proper motivation
to be obedient to this duty. As with all the spiritual disciplines, it
is not the mere performance that God desires, but the proper motive of
As with all the spiritual
disciplines, it is not the mere performance that God desires, but the
proper motive of the heart. In the Sermon on the Mount Christ teaches us
what would be an improper and hypocritical motive—”that you may not
appear unto men to fast, but unto your Father which is in secret; and
your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:16,
17, 18). Several other false motives are delineated in God’s chapter on
fasting (Isaiah 58) which include afflicting the soul to attract God (Is
58:3), to do fleshly pleasures (Is 58:3), or to be seen in public (Is
58:4). Even the rigor and the formality of habitual fasting are
destructive if that becomes the motive (Luke 18:12, 13, 14).
Actually there is only one motivation that can be the proper basis for
religious fasting. That motive is simply to humble yourself before God
(Isaiah 58; Joel 2:12; Psalm 35:13; 69:10; Ezra 8:21; Daniel 9:3;
Nehemiah 9:1–2). Conversely it can be said from the multitude of
scriptural examples that a true desire to humble yourself before God
ought to result in a life characterized by prayer and fasting. This
motivation to humble yourself before God contains two aspects. First,
humbling yourself involves confession and repentance of sin. Second, the
requirement that it be done before God implies seeking God’s face to
know him and to discern his will.
God’s People Should Fast)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote
Jesus takes it for granted that
his disciples will observe the pious custom of fasting. Strict exercise
of self-control is an essential feature of the Christian’s life. Such
customs have only one purpose—to make the disciples more ready and
cheerful to accomplish those things which God would have done...When the
flesh is satisfied it is hard to pray with cheerfulness or to devote
oneself to a life of service which calls for much self-renunciation...
We have to practice strictest daily discipline; only so can the flesh
learn the painful lesson that it has no rights of its own. (The Cost of
J C Ryle explains that...
Fasting, or occasional
abstinence from food in order to bring the body into subjection to the
spirit, is a practice frequently mentioned in the Bible, generally in
connection with prayer. David fasted when his child was sick (2 Samuel
12:16); Daniel fasted when he sought special light from God (Daniel
9:3); Paul and Barnabas fasted when they appointed elders (Acts 14:23);
Esther fasted before going in to Ahasuerus (Esther 4:16). It is a
subject about which we find no direct command in the New Testament. It
seems to be left to everyone’s discretion, whether he will fast or not.
In this absence of direct command we may see great wisdom. Many a poor
man never has enough to eat, and it would be an insult to tell him to
fast: many sick people can hardly be kept well with the closest
attention to diet, and could not fast without bringing on illness. It is
a matter in which each person must be persuaded in their own mind, and
not rashly condemn others who do not agree. One thing only must never be
forgotten: those who fast should do it quietly, secretly and without
ostentation. Let them not “show men they are fasting.” Let them not
fast to man, but to God.
Having dealt with prayer,
our King now instructs us as to fasting. Fasting took a
leading place in devotion under the Law, and it might
profitably be more practiced even now under the Gospel. The
Puritans called it “soul-fattening fasting”, and so many have
found it. We must, by order of our King, avoid all attempt at
display in connection with this form of devotion. Hypocrites
went about with faces unwashed, and dolorous, that all might
say, “See how rigidly those men are fasting. What good men
the, must be!” To look miserable in order to be thought holy-
is a wretched piece of hypocrisy; and as it makes fasting into
a trick to catch human admiration, it thereby destroys it as a
means of grace. We cannot expect to get a reward both from the
praise of our fellows and the pleasure of God.
We have our choice; and if we snatch at the minor reward, we
leave the major. May it never be said of us, “They have their
reward. ” (Commentary)
(nesteuo from ne- = not + esthío = to eat)
means to abstain from food for a certain length of time. Fasting consisted of abstinence from food to
express dependence on God and submission to His will.
Fast, Fasting - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of
Fasting - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Fasting - Article by Archibald
Thayer - to abstain as a
religious exercise from food and drink:
NIDNTT - says Nesteuo is from
ne-, particle of negation, and edo, eat, i.e. not eating) means, having
an empty stomach.
Abstaining from food, and
possibly drink, for a limited period of time as a mark of religious
commitment and devotion or as an expression of repentance for sins.
Pharisees practiced often,
sometimes twice a week (cf. Luke 18:12; Sept.: Is. 58:3ff.; Dan. 9:3).
In their longer fastings they abstained only from better kinds of food.
The Jews used to call such a fast “The great annual public fast of the
great Day of Atonement”
which occurred in the month Tisri, corresponding to the new moon of
October. It thus served to indicate the season of the year after which
the navigation of the Mediterranean became dangerous (Acts 27:9 [cf.
Lev. 16:29ff.; 23:27ff.]). (Complete
Word Study Dictionary- New Testament- Spiros Zodhiates)
To fast is to abstain for a
limited period from any kind of food. (Total and permanent abstinence
from particular, “forbidden” foods is a quite separate matter.) What is
the real motive for fasting? In the pagan religions of the ancient
world, it was clearly fear of demons and the idea that fasting was an
effective means of preparing oneself for an encounter with the deity,
since it created the right kind of openness to divine influence. For
this reason it belonged in the mystery religions to the ritual of
initiation for novices. In magic and with the oracles fasting was also
often regarded as a preparation necessary to success. The custom of
fasting following a death was widespread. While the soul of the dead
person is still near, there is danger of demonic infection in eating and
drinking. Fasting was also required, for instance, in certain fertility
rites. Thus at Athens he Nesteia is the name given to the fast-day in
the women’s fertility festival in the month of sowing (October).
Abstinence, here including particularly sexual abstinence, makes a
person readier to receive the divine powers of fertility. In practice,
fasting in the setting of religious rites and as a defence against
trouble was common in the whole of the ancient world, but not fasting
for ethical motives (asceticism).
In the LXX the Greek words
represent the Heb. sûm, fast. Along with this the MT has 'innâh nepes,
afflict oneself (lit., humble one’s soul), referring to a purification
rite in which fasting played a part (Lev. 16:29, 31; 23:27, 32; Num.
29:7; Isa. 58:3; Ps. 35:13). Frequently too we read simply of “eating no
bread and drinking no water” (e.g. Ex 34:28).
The forms and purposes of fasting are many. Fasting is practised in
Israel as a preparation for converse with God (Exod. 34:28; Deut. 9:9;
(a) It was practised by the individual, when oppressed by great cares (2
Sam. 12:16-23; 1 Ki. 21:27; Ps. 35:13; 69:10).
(b) It was practised by the nation in imminent danger of war and
destruction (Jdg. 20:26; 2 Chr. 20:3; Est. 4:16; Jon. 3:4-10; Jud. 4:9,
13); during a plague of locusts (Joel 1 and 2); to bring success to the
return of the exiles (Ezr. 8:21-23); as an expiatory rite (Neh. 9:1);
and finally in connection with mourning the dead (2 Sam. 1:12).
Fasting and prayer go constantly together (Jer. 14:11-12; Neh. 1:4; Ezr.
8:21, 23). Fasting usually lasts from morning to evening (Jdg. 20:26; 1
Sam. 14:24; 2 Sam. 1:12), although Est. 4:16 tells of a 3-day fast. In
the description in Ps. 109:24 the torments of fasting during the period
of accusation are at the same time a reflection of the inward torments
suffered by the suppliant.
The Israelite law ordained fasting only on the day of atonement (Lev.
6:29-30; 23:27-32; Num. 29:7). After the destruction of Jerusalem (587
B.C.) four fast-days were laid down as days of remembrance (Zech. 7:3-5;
International Dictionary of New Testament Theology)
Fasting consisted of abstinence
from food to express dependence on God and submission to his will (cf.
Mt 4:1). The fasting Jesus refers to is private fasting, probably done
as an aid to prayer (cf. Luke 2:37). Although the early church
collectively fasted and prayed (e.g., Acts 13:3, 14:23), it seems to
have been done primarily by Jewish Christians. The practice is never
mentioned in any of the NT letters and while Jesus is with them the
disciples do not fast (Mt 9:14). Like alms and prayer, fasting is
to be done as an act of devotion to God and not to win the
approval of anyone else. (Matthew - The Bible Knowledge Key Word
The New Testament Christians
regularly prayed and fasted (Acts 13:3, nesteuo in Greek). Jesus fasted
for forty days and forty nights without food or water, just as Moses
had—an impossible human feat in each case; but God empowered each one
(compare Ex. 24:18; 34:28; Matt. 4:2). We see in these cases that God’s
presence and word was more life-giving than food Jesus Himself indicated
that the time after His ascension would properly be a time of fasting,
for He would be gone (Mark 2:19). But He clearly instructed His
followers to fast with the heart, in secret to God, and not as a show
for other people (Matt. 6:16–18). When fasting, keep your focus on the
Lord and His will for you. (Holman
Treasury of Key Bible Words- 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew Words Explained
and Defined- Philip W. Comfort, Eugene E. Carpenter)
Nesteuo - 20x in 15v but in
seven major segments emphasizing fasting...
Matthew 4:2 And after He had
fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
Matthew 6:16 "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the
hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be
noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have
their reward in full. 17 "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and
wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but
by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done
in secret will reward you.
Matthew 9:14 Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, "Why do we
and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" 15 And Jesus
said to them, "The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as
the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the
bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
Spurgeon: But Jesus was to go.
He says himself, “The Bridegroom shall be taken from them.” Here first
He speaks about His death. Did His disciples note the warning word? When
their Beloved was gone, they would have fasting enough. How true was
this! Sorrows crowded in upon them when He was gone. It is the same with
us. Our Lord is our joy: His presence makes our banquet; His absence is
our fast, black and bitter. All Ritualistic fasting is the husk: the
reality of fasting is known only to the child of the bride chamber when
His Lord is no more with Him. This is fasting indeed, as some of us know
full well. There is no wedding without a Bridegroom, no delight without
Jesus. In his presence is fulness of joy; in his absence is depth of
misery. Let but the heart rest in his love and it desireth nothing more.
Take a way a sense of his love from the soul, and it is dark, empty, and
nigh unto death.
John MacArthur: The Old
Testament prescribed only one fast, the one on Yom Kippur, the Day of
Atonement (see Lev. 16:29, 31, where the phrase “humble your souls”
[from the Heb. ˓āna, “to afflict or humble”] commonly included the idea
of refraining from food). But Jewish tradition had come to require
fasting twice a week (see Luke 18:12), and these disciples were careful
to follow that practice.
Along with alms giving and certain prescribed prayers, twice-weekly
fasting was one of the three major expressions of orthodox Judaism
during Jesus’ day. The scribes and Pharisees looked on these practices
with great seriousness and were careful not only to follow them
faithfully but to do so as publicly and ostentatiously as
possible-ostensibly as a testimony to true godliness but in reality as a
testimony to their own self-styled piety. When they gave alms, they blew
trumpets “in the synagogues and in the streets” in order to “be honored
by men” (Matt. 6:2). When they prayed “in the synagogues and on the
street corners,” they did so “to be seen by men” (Mt 6:5). And when they
fasted, they “put on a gloomy face” and neglected their “appearance in
order to be seen fasting by men” (Mt 6:16). They did not see religion as
a matter of humility, repentance, or forgiveness, but as a matter of
ceremony and proud display. And therefore the external rituals which
they paraded as badges of godly righteousness actually marked them as
ungodly hypocrites, as Jesus declared in each of the three verses just
cited (cf. Mt 5:20).
Religious ritual and routine have always been dangers to true godliness.
Many ceremonies, such as praying to saints and lighting a candle for a
deceased relative are actually heretical. But even if it is not wrong in
itself, when a form of praying, worshiping, or serving becomes the focus
of attention, it becomes a barrier to true righteousness. It can keep an
unbeliever from trusting in God and a believer from faithfully obeying
Him. Even going to church, reading the Bible, saying grace at meals, and
singing hymns can become lifeless routines in which true worship of God
has no part....
The days will come, Jesus
explained, when the bridegroom is taken away. Taken away is from apairō,
which can carry the idea of sudden removal, of being snatched away
violently. Jesus was obviously referring to His crucifixion, which would
abruptly and violently take Him away from His followers, His faithful
attendants. That will be the time for mourning, and then they will fast.
But for the present time, He was saying, fasting was inappropriate. When
there is no reason to mourn there is no reason to fast. Fasting springs
naturally from a broken and grieving heart, but fasting as a shallow
spiritual ritual apart from such brokenness is an affront to God.
J: Matthew 1-7 Chicago: Moody Press)
Mark 2:18 John's disciples and the Pharisees were
fasting; and they came
and said to Him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the
Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" 19 And Jesus said to
them, "While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the
bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom
with them, they cannot fast. 20 "But the days will come when the
bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.
21 "No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; otherwise
the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear
J C Ryle has some interesting
comments: These words, we must of course see, were a parable. They
were spoken with a special reference to the question which the Pharisees
had just raised--"Why do the disciples of John fast, but your disciples
do not FAST?" Our Lord's reply evidently means, that to enforce fasting
among His disciples would be inexpedient and unseasonable. His little
flock was as yet young in grace, and weak in faith, knowledge, and
experience. They must be led on softly, and not burdened at this early
stage with requirements which they were not able to bear. Fasting,
moreover, might, be suitable to the disciples of Him who was only the
Bridegroom's friend, who lived in the wilderness, preached the baptism
of repentance, was clothed in camel's hair, and ate locusts and wild
honey. But fasting was not equally suitable to the disciples of Him, who
was the Bridegroom Himself, brought glad tidings to sinners, and came
living like other men. In short, to require fasting of his disciples at
present, would be putting "new wine into old bottles." It would be
trying to mingle and amalgamate things that essentially differed.
Luke 5:33 And they said to Him, "The disciples of John often fast and
offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but
Yours eat and drink." 34 And Jesus said to them, "You cannot make the
attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can
you? 35 "But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away
from them, then they will fast in those days."
Luke 18:12 'I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'
Comment: Perfect example of
"bad" fasting. Pride puffed up fasting.
Acts 13:2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting,
the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work
to which I have called them." 3 Then, when they had fasted and
prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Nesteuo: 19x in the Septuagint
Ex 38:8; Jdg 20:26; 1Sa7:6;
31:13; 2Sa 1:12; 12:16, 21, 22, 23; 1Kgs 21:9, 27; 1 Chr 10:12; Ezra
8:23; Neh 1:4; Esther 4:16; Isa 58:3, 4; Jer 14:12; Zech 7:5;
Fasting is a valid discipline
and one which Jesus did not annul. The only fast God commanded was once per year on the Day of Atonement.
The Jewish religious teachers had added two fasts to be performed each Monday and
Thursday, a practice which was observed ritualistically by the
Phil Newton writes that...
Fasting has been practiced by
many different religions for centuries. It is personal self-discipline
in which a person denies himself a normal need in order to learn to
restrain his passions and desires, and to express his devotion. Often
God’s people have fasted in order to express humility before the Lord,
and to show an earnest desire for the Lord to work in a particular way.
Most commonly, fasting involves denying oneself a meal or meals in order
to give oneself to the purpose of seeking God’s face. But fasting is
never to be used for drawing attention to one’s spirituality or
devotion... The gloomy, sullen looks on their faces give the pretentious
fasters a ready audience. The language suggests an almost unrecognizable
look, as they leave their hair disheveled, neglect bathing, and maybe
even accentuate a strange pallor to the skin.
In our day it seems the most common thing is for people to announce that
they are fasting or to tell about their fast. I received a booklet from
a Baptist pastor several years ago telling about his 40-day fast, and
how that became the key to his spiritual growth and his church’s growth.
Then he outlined in true-Baptist program fashion how to institute such a
fast in one’s own life. But Jesus tells us... Let this be between you
and the Lord. The Lord sees in secret and rewards accordingly.
What principles for fasting are
given in Matthew
6:16-18? Don't fast like a hypocrite, putting on a gloomy face to
impress men - that's your entire reward! If you give, pray or fast for the
admiration of man, you will lose the smile and reward of your Father! When you fast take care of your
appearance so men don't know you are fasting - then your Father will repay
you. Notice that Jesus says "when you fast" not "if you fast" indicating
it is expected by our Lord. However, He does not command fasting. Thus
fasting is a choice we each must make. It is a voluntary spiritual
Fasting is a Christian’s
voluntary, non-coerced abstinence from food or water for spiritual
Fasting by a
non-Christian has no eternal value since the discipline’s motives and
purposes are to be God-centered.
Fasting runs counter to
America's self-indulgent, "me, my, mine" mindset, and thus it is
not surprising that many Christians have not given serious consideration
to the discipline of fasting. The act of fasting directly opposes the
desires of our fallen flesh, which are continually appealed to by the
world and the tempter. Of course, there are some people who cannot and
should not fast because of medical reasons. However, for the majority of
Christians, it be prudent to consider engaging in the practice of
fasting, as saints have done throughout the Old Testament and in the
early church (cf Acts 13:2, 3, 14:23).
Fasting is not to impress
God not to earn His acceptance, our acceptance having been made full and
complete on the basis of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Fasting does not earn God’s favor! Like alms and prayer, fasting
is to be done as an act of devotion to God and not to win the approval
of anyone else. When we fast, we must not do anything that will
draw attention to our appearance, our hungry state or our dedication to
God. Fasting is between the saint and his God.
Fasting is mentioned in
Scripture more than several other important doctrines including such
teachings as baptism (about 77 times for fasting, 75 for baptism).
believers have been baptized but how many have fasted?
Fasting in Scripture is
almost always associated with prayer. Some feel that fasting
helps one focus our prayers of intercession and supplication. We should
not however assume that fasting is like a "spiritual hunger strike" that
in any way compels or manipulates God. Clearly, if we petition for
something out of God’s will, fasting does not incline Him produce an
affirmative response. In short, fasting does not change God’s
hearing so much as it changes our praying.
Fasting for God's
guidance is clearly seen in Scripture (see Jdg 20, Acts 14:23),
but fasting does not ensure certainty that we will receive clear
guidance. On the other hand, fasting rightly motivated does make us more
receptive to our Father Who seeks to guide us.
Fasting is often a
manifestation of grief or mourning, as when King Saul was killed by
the Philistines resulting in the men of Jabesh Gilead fasting seven days
(cf 1Sa 31:13)
Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote
Fasting, if we conceive of it truly,
must not...be confined to the question of food and drink; fasting should
really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate
in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose. There
are many bodily functions which are right and normal and perfectly
legitimate, but which for special peculiar reasons in certain
circumstances should be controlled. That is fasting.
D. M. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)
David R Smith adds that...
A selfish person is unable to enjoy
the gospel; a Christian is someone who has begun to deny himself, and is
in the continuous process of denying himself. Jesus said “If any man
will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and
follow Me.” Self-denial is not limited to one particular kind of
giving; it embraces all personal disciplines. Fasting is only one
discipline; nevertheless, it is self-denial. This does not mean that to
fast is to embrace legalism; it is gospel liberty which encourages us to
Nobody can maintain a desired state
of mind whilst his bodily condition is not in accordance with it. If a
man is anxious to devote himself to spiritual things, for a time, he is
obliged to ensure that his body is in similar environment, or else he
may not succeed. He cannot be reverent in the midst of his own physical
irreverence. Fasting ensures the correct environment for sorrowful and
serious considerations. Asterius wrote, in the 4th Century, that one
role of fasting is to ensure that the stomach does not make the body
boil like a kettle, to the hindering of the soul...
Fasting does not create faith, for
faith grows in us as we hear, and read, and dwell upon, God’s Word; it
is a work of the Holy Spirit to bring faith to God’s people. However,
fasting has the capacity to encourage faith in the one who is involved
in this discipline. It seems as though the neglect of self feeds the
faith which God has implanted in the hearts of born-again believers.
This doesn’t mean that those who eat the least have the most faith; such
a view is not only untrue, it is extremist. It is simply that regular
self-denial has its benefits, and one of these is seen in a personal
increase in faith. (Fasting: A Neglected Discipline. Christian
Literature Crusade, 1954)
Fasting in the Old
Testament was commonly associated with seeking of God's deliverance
and/or protection before one made a critical decision or pursued a
potentially dangerous or difficult course of action (cf 2Chr 20:1, 2, 3,
4-29, 2Chr 30:3, 4, Ezra 8:21, 22, 23, Neh 1:4). Queen Esther
called for a "cooperative fast" from the Jews of Susa as she prepared
for an uninvited and therefore potentially dangerous entrance into the
presence of King Xerxes. In this hour of great need, Queen Esther
requested Mordecai to...
Go, assemble all the Jews who are
found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink
for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast
in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not
according to the law; and if I perish, I perish. So Mordecai went away
and did just as Esther had commanded him. (Esther 4:16, 17)
Fasting can be associated
with confession and repentance (see Da 9:3, 4-note). In
First Samuel 7 we read a study of
national revival (read the entire chapter 1Sa 7:1-17) in which God raised up
Samuel, who called the people to repentance, confession, and cleansing.
Intercession was made through the blood of a lamb, and there was victory
over the Philistines. Fasting was a component of this
And they (the Israelites) gathered to
Mizpah, and drew water
and poured it out before the LORD (this was a sacrificial act in the
arid land of Israel, symbolic of their repentant hearts as described in
1Sa 7:3-4 where Samuel called them to return to the LORD and they
responded by removing their idols and serving Jehovah), and fasted
on that day, and said there, "We have sinned against the LORD."
And Samuel judged the sons of Israel at Mizpah. (1Sa 7:6, 1-17)
The prophet Joel in light of
impending judgment (The
Day of the Lord) asked
"Who can endure it?" and then provided the "way of escape"...
"Yet even now," declares the LORD,
"Return to Me with all your
heart, and with
fasting, weeping, and mourning; and rend your
and not your garments." Now return to the LORD your God, for He is
gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness,
and relenting of evil. (Joel 2:12, 13)
Here God Himself
with a changed change (repentance) and a return to Him. This passage
also warns that fasting without a changed heart is a meaningless
dead work. Beloved, is God
calling you to deal with a specific sin in your hardened heart, so that
you might return to Him in brokenness and repentance with fasting,
weeping and mourning?
Jesus promised that blessed are those mourn over their sins for they
shall be comforted (see Mt 5:4-note)
Don't try to substitute a spiritual discipline such as fasting, for God'
clear call to confess and forsake that sin which so easily entangles you
(cf Pr 28:13). It is a perversion of fasting from food or drink
when we refuse God's "chosen fast" (cf Isaiah 58:3, 4,
5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, especially v6-7) to cease feeding a sin we want to continue feeding.
Fasting, rightly motivated,
is a physical expression of humility before God, just as kneeling
or prostrating yourself in prayer can reflect humility before Him. For
example first Kings records that one of the most wicked men in Israel's
history, King Ahab, eventually humbled himself before God and
demonstrated it by fasting...
And it came about when Ahab heard
these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted,
and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently. Then the word of
the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, "Do you see how Ahab has
humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I
will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his
house in his son's days." (1Kings 21:27-29)
David, a man after God's Own
heart, illustrates the relationship between prayer, fasting and humility
as for me, when they (David's
enemies!) were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled my
soul with fasting; and my prayer kept returning to my bosom.
Fasting is not always
associated with humility, as illustrated by the
self-righteous Pharisee who boasted...
'I fast twice a week; I pay
tithes of all that I get.' (Luke 18:12)
The Jews of Jesus' day had a
teaching that Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the Law on a
Thursday, and returned with it on a Monday. Consequently, the Pharisees
considered fasting on those two days was considered a special
mark of holiness.
Fasting can be the work of
God in a place that has experienced tragedy, disappointment, or apparent
defeat as seen with Nehemiah when he heard that despite the return of
many Jewish exiles to Jerusalem, the city still had no wall...
Now it came about when I heard these
words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was
fasting and praying before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah
Nehemiah had a deep sense of
Jerusalem’s significance to God and was greatly distressed that affairs
there had not advanced the cause and glory of God. Note that Nehemiah's
focus was toward the God of heaven and for the glory of God.
When I fast is that my focus and
Fasting can be an act of sheer devotion to God as we see with the godly
prophetess Anna, Luke recording that...
there was a prophetess, Anna the
daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years,
having lived with a husband seven years after her marriage, and then as
a widow to the age of eighty-four. And she never left the temple,
serving night and day with fastings and prayers. (Luke 2:36-37)
Anna is one of those people that I
cannot wait to meet. Luke gives details of her life which suggest that for well over
half a century she was at the Temple serving God with “fastings and
prayers.” Clearly for Anna, her fasting as an incredible expression of
worship to her Lord. Here we see fasting can be an expression of finding
one's greatest pleasure and enjoyment in God.
May you and I dear reader yearn
for times when God causes us like Anna to crave the spiritual banquet of
His presence more than any physical, temporal and earthly meal. Remember
that Jesus promises that our Father in heaven will reward us when He
sees a rightly motivated, pure in heart fast for His eyes only.
Happy would it be if both churches
and their individual members, were more frequently to set apart special
seasons of fasting and prayer to seek a renewed communication of divine
influence - John Angell James (The
Church in Earnest)
fasting produce an elevated condition of heart; and if this can be
maintained, we escape the injurious tendency of our surroundings, and in
a sense this corruptible puts on incorruption. (The Salt Cellar)
of God would be far stronger to wrestle with this ungodly age if she
were more given to prayer and fasting. There is a mighty efficacy in
these two gospel ordinances. The first links us to heaven, the second
separates us from earth. Prayer takes us into the banqueting-house of
God; fasting overturns the surfeiting tables of earth. Prayer gives us
to feed on the bread of heaven, and fasting delivers the soul from being
encumbered with the fulness of bread which perishes. When Christians
shall bring themselves up to the uttermost possibilities of spiritual
vigor, then they will be able, by God’s Spirit working in them, to cast
out devils which to-day, without the prayer and fasting, laugh them to
scorn. (Flashes of thought)
Complete Gathered Gold Quotes on
Prayer and Fasting...
is a holy exercise both for the humbling of men and for their confession
of humility, why should we use it less than the ancients did? - John
Prayer is one hand with which we grasp the invisible; fasting the
other, with which we let loose and cast away the visible. - Andrew
By fasting, the body learns to obey the soul; by praying the soul
learns to obey the body. - William Secker
Fasting is calculated to bring a note of urgency and importance into our
praying, and to give force to our pleading in the court of heaven. The
man who prays with fasting is giving heaven notice that he is truly in
earnest. - Arthur Wallis
Few disciplines go against the flesh and the mainstream of culture as
this one. - Donald S. Whitney
Without a purpose, fasting can be a miserable, self-centered
experience. - Donald S. Whitney
><> ><> ><>
There are a number of
books available on this discipline but many are less than
spiritually sound and border on the mystical. In his
A Hunger for God
recommend this excellent resource which is generously made
available at no charge online) Dr John Piper gives
believers wise counsel regarding the spiritual discipline
of fasting writing...
Beware of books on
fasting. The Bible is very careful to warn us about people
who “advocate abstaining from foods, which God created to
be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the
truth” (1Ti 4:1, 2, 3). The apostle Paul asks with
dismay, “Why .. . do you submit yourself to decrees, such
as ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch’?”
(Colossians 2:20, 21-note). He is jealous for the full enjoyment
of Christian liberty. Like a great declaration of freedom
over every book on fasting flies the banner,
not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do
not eat, nor the better if we do eat” (1Co 8:8).
There once were
two men. One said,
“I fast twice a week”;
the other said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.”
Only one went down to
his house justified (Luke 18:12, 13, 14).
The discipline of
self-denial is fraught with dangers— perhaps only
surpassed by the dangers of indulgence. These also we are
“All things are lawful for me, but I will
not be mastered by anything” (1Corinthians 6:12).
masters us has become our god; and Paul warns us about
those “whose god is their appetite” (Php 3:19-note).
Appetite dictates the direction of their lives. The
stomach is sovereign. This has a religious expression and
an irreligious one. Religiously “persons . . . turn the
grace of our God into licentiousness” (Jude 1:4) and tout
“Food is for the
stomach and the stomach is for food” (1 Corinthians 6:13).
Irreligiously, with no
pretext of pardoning grace, persons simply yield to “the
desires for other things [that] enter in and choke the
word” (Mark 4:19).
“Desires for other
things”—there’s the enemy. And the only weapon that will
triumph is a deeper hunger for God.
The weakness of our
hunger for God is not because he is unsavory,
we keep ourselves stuffed with “other things.”
then, the denial of our stomach’s appetite for food might
express, or even increase, our soul’s appetite for God.
(Piper, John. available in Pdf online -
A Hunger for God)
A GLOOMY FACE AS THE HYPOCRITES DO, FOR THEY NEGLECT THEIR APPEARANCE SO
THAT THEY WILL BE NOTICED BY MEN WHEN THEY ARE FASTING: me ginesthe
(2PPMM) hos hoi hupokritai skuthropoi, aphanizousin (3PPAI) gar ta
prosopa auton hopos phanosin (3PAPS) tois anthropois nesteuontes;
(Mt 6:2,5; 1Kings 21:27;
Isaiah 58:3, 4, 5; Zechariah 7:3, 4, 5; Malachi 3:14; Mark 2:18; Luke
Matt 6:2 “When therefore you
give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in
the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men.
Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 5 “And when you
pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and
pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by
men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
1Kgs 21:27 And it came about
when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on
sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about
Do not put on
a gloomy face - Young's
rendering is more literal "be
ye not as the hypocrites, of sour countenances". The
is a command that is coupled with a negative particle (Greek = "me")
which calls for them to stop this practice.
(skuthropos from skuthros = sullen, grim + ops =
countenance) means to look sad, somber, downcast or gloomy.
Spurgeon writes that...
I heard persons speak of certain
emaciated ecclesiastics as being such wonderfully holy men. “How they
must have fasted! They look like it. You can see it in their faces.”
Probably produced by a fault in their digestion much more likely, than
by anything else and if not — if we are to suppose that the spareness of
a man a person is to be the token of his holiness — then the living
skeleton was a saint to perfection. But we are not beguiled by such
follies as these. The Christian man fasts but he takes care that no one
shall know it. He wears no ring or token even when his heart is heavy.
Full often he puts on a cheerful air, lest by any means he should
communicate unnecessary sorrow to others, and he will be cheerful and
happy, apparently, in the midst of company, to prevent their being sad,
for it is enough for him to be sad himself, and sad before his Father’s
Do not imagine that the
appearance of sadness indicates sanctity—it often means hypocrisy. To
conceal one’s own griefs for the sake of cheering others implies a
self-denying sympathy which is the highest kind of Christianity.
Noticed by men - This is
the reward the hypocrites desire. If we are honest, we will all agree
that it is in a sense "rewarding" when others compliment us on our
spiritual discipline, zeal, or devotion?
How you fast depends on whom you
want to impress. If your fast is for your spiritual benefit and God’s
glory, no one else needs to applaud your commitment.
Harry Ironside reminds us that
our Lord Jesus...
was guileless in all His ways,
and He calls for absolute honesty in the behavior of His disciples. Let
him who is abstaining from food or other things in order to have more
time with God, cultivate a cheerful manner as becomes one who enjoys
communion with the Father.
Piper adds that...
Few things feel more
gratifying to the heart of fallen man than being made much of for our
accomplishments, especially our moral and religious accomplishments...
All of this we are prone to do because of our seemingly insatiable
appetite for the praise of men. We want to be made much of. We want
people to like us and admire us and speak well of us. It is a deadly
drive. Jesus warned us, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and
whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). (Ibid)
TRULY I SAY TO
YOU, THEY HAVE THEIR REWARD IN FULL:
amen lego (1SPAI) humin apechousin (3PPAI) ton misthon auton
Reward in full - Jesus is
saying that that if you love to be "rewarded" with praise and
admiration from people, you will receive that "reward" but nothing more.