Monday, January 12, 2009


You probably knew that Moses was the first recorded faster in the Bible. And perhaps you also knew that the longest time of fasting was for 40 days. You may have even guessed all three of the men who fasted for 40 days. [The answer is in the section below entitled "Some Biblical Principles on Fasting."] But the last question is a bit different from the first three. It may even be a little threatening, because it involves an evaluation of our life - not just head knowledge of Biblical facts. If you are like me, I would try and squirm out of it by asking what you mean by "a periodic basis." But we should not avoid the question. This fourth question is very important. Even more important than the other three.

Fasting has been out of vogue for at least 150 years. In the twentieth century church, the idea seems alien to us. God's Word assumes that fasting will be a regular part of a Christian's life. Yet for most of us, it's not. If we were to make a study of fasting in the Bible most of us would find ourselves very challenged about this neglected area of Christian discipline. I'd like to encourage you to do something about that problem. But before I make that challenge I want to talk to you about what fasting really is, some Biblical principles on fasting, and some of the appropriate occasions for fasting according to the Scripture.

What Is Biblical Fasting?

First of all, let's look at the root word which is used for "fasting." The Greek word for fasting is nesteia -- a compound of ne (a negative prefix) and esthio which means "to eat." So the basic root meaning of the word simply means "not to eat."

But what does this "not eating" food mean? Why did people in the Bible "not eat?" We find a clue in Leviticus 16:29. This verse says that fasting is synonymous with "afflicting one's soul." We gain some insight here about how the Hebrews viewed fasting. Fasting is more than just "afflicting one's body". It is "afflicting one's soul." In other words, fasting in the Hebrew mind is something my soul participates in. Fasting is denying my self. It is denying not only my own body, but also my own wants. It is a way of saying that food and my desires are secondary to something else. Fasting is "afflicting one's soul" -- an act of self-denial. But it is not only an act of self-denial and here is where the monks and hermits went wrong.

Biblical fasting is "not eating" with spiritual communication in mind. How do we know this? Because Biblical fasting always occurs together with prayer in the Bible - ALWAYS. You can pray without fasting, but you cannot fast (Biblically speaking) without praying. Biblical fasting is deliberately abstaining from food for a spiritual reason: communication and relationship with the Father.

Wealth is not just what you have, but what you are.

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