Fasting is a ritual act of worship and submission to God, just like prayer is. The origin of fasting is uncertain, but some speculate it might have originated in the ancient Near East.
The considerable importance that fasting possessed for Judaism and later, Christianity, was probably given in part by Leviticus 23, which established the most important day of fasting for ancient Jews: Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement.
In this day, Jews were instructed by Moses to deny themselves or afflict their souls, and this was interpreted throughout time as meaning that they should abstain from any pleasure, indulgence or joy during the fast. Food, drink, wearing luxurious clothing, perfumes, washing one’s body and having intimate relations are forbidden activities during a fasting.
In the Bible, we see that Biblical personages such as Esther, David, John the Baptist, the prophets, Paul, the early church, and of course, our Lord Jesus himself, all practiced fasting.
But fasting was not just important for ancient Israel; It continues to be absolutely relevant and important for the modern Christian today. It will never cease to be important for a Christian’s life until the rapture and it can be the key to the breakthrough you’re hoping for in your life.
The Following Bible Verses Show The Impact and Necessity Of Fasting:
1. Esther 4:16:
16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
Esther, the Biblical woman that many Christian women love to read about, emphasized the importance of fasting in her famous quote “If I perish, I perish.”
This verse signals for us the salient importance of fasting in that Esther did not approach the king and engage in this crucial action on which the fate of her nation depended on, without having fasted before.
2. Jonah 3:4:
4 “Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.”
Historical context can be helpful here; It has been posited that Jonah did not want to go to the Assyrians to bring them the words of God that could save them for one reason: the Assyrians were evil, widely hated, and known for savagery that earned them their infamy in the Ancient Near East.
If you are familiar with the story of Jonah, you know that the Assyrians repented and God decided to relent on the judgment, but it is powerful that through fasting they were able to obtain mercy despite being one of the most savage people in the Ancient Near East.
3. Daniel 9:1-3:
1 “In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.
3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.”
The great prophet Daniel is an excellent example of fasting in the Bible, and what it means to fast Biblically. He continually abstained himself from all kinds of pleasures as a signal of earnest mourning, humiliation and begging before God.
4. Daniel 10:2:
2 “At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.”
He believed in the special importance of engaging in fasting to make a request to God. The fasts of Daniel were answered in a conspicuous manner by God, who revealed himself personally to Daniel.
5. 2 Samuel 12:22-23:
22 “He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
In the book of Samuel, after David committed a sin by having an affair with Bathsheba, the theme of fasting not only as a demonstration of mourning but to request something of God is expressed again.
6. Jeremiah 36:9:
9 “In the ninth month of the fifth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, a time of fasting before the Lord was proclaimed for all the people in Jerusalem and those who had come from the towns of Judah.”
7. Ezra 8:21:
21 “There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions.”
Similar to Esther, before facing a dangerous situation, Ezra presented his request to God by fasting. We learn again the importance of fasting before we face any delicate circumstance.
8. Zechariah 7:4-5:
4 “Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: 5 “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?”
In this verse from Zechariah, we are presented with a new Biblical teaching regarding fasting; as with any other act of devotion towards God in life it must be accompanied by the proper corresponding deeds and behavior.
9. Isaiah 58:3-5: Fasting must be accompanied by good deeds to be true
3 “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?”
In this verse, God rebukes Israel for fasting that is not accompanied with acceptable behavior. There is no way to trick God; withholding food and water from the body is not sufficient if the heart does not withhold from sin.
Bible Verses About Fasting In The New Testament
10. Matthew 4:1-3:
1 “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
This example is the most salient and beautiful example of fasting for us in the Bible. We are to imitate everything our Lord Jesus did, and if the Lord Jesus engaged in fasting, then this means we must completely do the same as well.
If our Lord Jesus, being the Son of God had to fast, then imagine how much more we will have to fast as well.
11. Matthew 6:16-18:
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,
18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Here we are given important guidelines regarding fasting as well. God knows fasting is hard, and in the Old Testament, some people used to fast to show how pious they were. Now it must be done in such a way that no one knows we are fasting.
12. Matthew 9:14-15:
14 “Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”
This Bible verse is beautiful in that the disciples were questioned by the Jewish community as to why they did not fast, and the Lord responded beautifully to this by explicating that as long as he was with them on Earth, they only had reasons for joy and not fasting.
Paying attention to our amazing Lord’s words: “then they will fast,” we learn that now that Christ is no longer on Earth, we are commanded to fast relentlessly again, and was emphasized for us in the New Testament by our precious Lord himself.
13. Acts 13:2-3:
2 “While they were worshiping 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 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
14. Mark 9:26-29:
26 “The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
This is the NIV translation, but other translations of this Bible verse state “only by prayer and fasting.” Again, the Lord is reminding us that for some breakthroughs to happen, fasting is completely necessary.
In our modern times, after the death and resurrection of our Lord and following His commandment to fast covertly, in lieu of tearing your clothes and putting dust on your head to fast, tear your heart.
I encourage you to fast in the same way Christ our Lord showed us. Fasting is important, and we should never cease to do it until he returns again, with a contrite heart and faith. God bless!