However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” Matthew 17:21 NKJV
There are many different forms of fasting, and for different reasons. In the Bible, fasting is a spiritual practice that involves voluntarily abstaining from food or certain types of food for a specific period of time. The purpose of fasting is multifaceted and can be found throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Here are some of the key biblical purposes of fasting:
- Seeking God’s Guidance: Fasting is often associated with seeking God’s guidance and direction in important decisions or challenging situations. Individuals in the Bible would fast to gain clarity and wisdom from God, as seen in examples such as Esther’s fasting before approaching the king (Esther 4:16) and the early church leaders’ fasting before making decisions (Acts 13:2).
- Repentance and Humility: Fasting is also a means of expressing repentance for sins and humbling oneself before God. In times of national or personal crisis, individuals in the Bible would fast as an act of contrition and seeking God’s forgiveness (e.g., Jonah 3:5-9).
- Spiritual Discipline and Focus: Fasting can serve as a spiritual discipline to develop self-control and focus on spiritual matters. By denying the physical needs of the body, individuals can redirect their attention and energy toward prayer, worship, and communion with God (Matthew 4:1-2).
- Expressing Grief and Lament: Fasting can be a way to express deep sorrow, grief, or lamentation in response to tragic events or difficult circumstances. It is a way to show intense sorrow and seek God’s intervention and comfort (1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 1:12).
- Overcoming Spiritual Strongholds: Fasting can be used as a weapon to overcome spiritual strongholds and break the power of certain spiritual challenges. Jesus taught that some demons could only be driven out through prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21).
- Drawing Closer to God: Fasting can be a means to draw closer to God and experience a deeper level of intimacy with Him. By setting aside distractions and focusing on spiritual matters, individuals can grow in their relationship with God (Psalm 42:1-2).
- Preparation for Special Tasks: In the Bible, individuals fasted when preparing for significant tasks or events that required spiritual strength and consecration (e.g., Jesus’ 40-day fast before beginning His public ministry in Matthew 4:1-11).
It’s important to note that fasting, like any spiritual practice, should be done with a sincere heart and not merely as a religious ritual. Jesus also warned against fasting for show or to gain praise from others (Matthew 6:16-18). The specific practices and purposes of fasting can vary among different Christian denominations and interpretations of the Bible.