Christians have been fasting for the past 2,000 years, yet the Bible never commands us to fast. So, why do we fast? Is it to lose weight, or appear to be more spiritual in church? According to teachings from the Bible, the motivation to fast should be centered on a relationship with God, and not with our bodies or others. There are therefore multiple reasons why every Christian should make a point to fast. Below we explore 8 reasons why it is important.
Before we get into reasons for fasting, let us understand what fasting really is. A generally accepted definition among Christians is temporary self-denial of something good [like food] for purposes of intensifying the need for something greater (God).
Fasting in Christian lives is quite different from fasting in Islam. Muslims fasting during the month of Ramadhan is a requirement of every Muslim. You cannot claim to be a Muslim if you do not fast during Ramadhan. In Christianity, it is quite the opposite. But while it is not equally required, there is plenty of indication in the Bible that fasting is expected for people that claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. Wearing a crucifix necklace is not the only way that identifies Christians, their actions and dedication tell it all.
Let us look at some reasons:
- Christ Expects Us to Fast
When speaking to His disciples in Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus does not use words of command. Instead of commanding us to fast, he says “when you fast…”, making an assumption that a Christian is going too fast. He follows this statement by explaining that fasting should be a personal and private affair, and should not be known by the whole world. Its focus should be on a personal relationship with God. Later in Matthew 9, Jesus tells the Pharisees that even though His disciples were not fasting at the time, they would fast once he was not with them anymore, showing that he expected them to fast.
- To Get Guidance
When Paul needed help in making tough decisions about leading the churches he has started, he prayed. We also see the Israelites fasting and seeking the Lord when they were facing defeat in battle against the tribe of Benjamin (Judges 20:26-28) because they did not know how to proceed. Likewise, Christians should take time and seek guidance through fasting when unsure of the best decisions to make.
- For More Intense Praying
When David sired a child with Bathsheba, he knew he had sinned. He fasted and prayed for the life of the child to be restored. This fasting was not an attempt to restore his fellowship with God, because that was already taken care of. Even though his request to God was not granted, the king was satisfied with the outcome after he had fasted. This showed that he had moved from blaming God to trusting God. The same can be possible with Christians if we take the time to fast.
Additionally, in Ezra 8:21-23, Ezra prayed in fasting and asked God to protect his countrymen as they traveled to Jerusalem. He had already proclaimed that God would be with them, and would take care of them, and his prayer was a request to God to show Himself strong, and raise a testimony among the Israelites.
- As a Sign of Mourning
When Nehemiah heard about Jerusalem’s destruction, the Bible says that he fasted and wept for his city. The purpose of his fasting was to repent for the sin on his nation before the Lord because he knew the destruction was a punishment from God for their sins. In his case, Nehemiah prayed and confessed because the Israelites’ sin had caused an in that could only be healed through prayer and fasting.
- As A Show of Humility Before God
David fasted solely to humble himself before God (Psalms 35:13), and God calls him ‘a man after God’s heart’ because of this. David seemed like a man that could boldly walk into God’s throne room and made his request, just like we are told to do in Hebrews 4:16. There is, however, a big difference between being bold and being arrogant. Like David, we should know how to humble ourselves before God through fasting if we are to be called Christians.
- For Worship
Fasting can be used to worship God, just as it can be used to show our humility before Him. Psalm 51 says that God is more interested in a person with a humble and contrite heart that He is interested in fasting and sacrifices. This does not mean that we should not fast, or that fasting is less important, on the contrary, it means that a wrong attitude when fasting does not interest God.
- To Get Spiritual Strength
Just after baptism but before He started his ministry, Jesus fasted for 40 days and then faced temptation from Satan. Jesus demonstrates spiritual strength in the way he dealt with the devil, and this was achieved through fasting (Luke 4:1-11). We also see that the disciples needed God’s power that could only be had through fasting (Mark 9:29). Matthew 17:20-21 also mentions that you can experience spiritual miracles when fasting and prayer are combined with faith in God.