Different Types of Biblical Fasting

Different Types of Biblical Fasting

I think fasting is one of the most underrated and underused practices in Christianity today. Very few churches speak about the importance of fasting, the purpose of it, and what a fast actually is. Fasting is one of the greatest tools we have to grow closer to God and see breakthroughs in our life.

Biblically, there is only one type of fast.

A fast means you intentionally don’t eat for a set period of time. Both the Greek and Hebrew words in the Bible that are used for “fast” mean to abstain from food. There are other things that people abstain from, but that’s not ever referred to as a fast in the Bible. You can consecrate yourself to God, but you’re not fasting.

I know that seems like a small nuance, but it’s important to understand.

In the Bible, there is only one type of fasting, which is abstaining from food for a period of time.

Note: This article is not intended to provide any medical advice. If you have any concerns about fasting, please talk to your doctor.

What was Jesus talking about when He told His disciples to fast?

Jesus makes it clear that fasting should be a regular part of our life. He said “when you fast” not if you happen to fast. Fasting was a regular practice for the religious people of that time. They usually fasted for one day every week. The problem was, they had the wrong heart.

The purpose of their fasting was recognition from other people.

They were fasting so they could boast to their friends and colleagues about how spiritual they were—not because they wanted to seek God.

“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.”
Matthew 6:16 NIV

When we fast, no one should know about it. The purpose of the fast is to draw closer to God and seek Him on a deeper level.

Jesus also wasn’t talking about not looking at Instagram for a day, or giving up candy for a month. That’s wonderful if you’re giving up something you enjoy to intentionally seek God, but it’s not a Biblical fast.

What is a biblical fast?

The Hebrew word for fast is tsum and the Greek word is nésteuó.

Both of those mean to abstain from food.

Not to abstain from certain types of food, or other activities that you enjoy doing. It also doesn’t mean to put your food in a blender and turn it into a smoothie.

When you’re fasting, you’re not eating any food in any form. You’re only drinking water. Some people choose to drink things that have no calories, like black coffee or tea. And some people will add some salt to their water to stay hydrated.

It’s very important that you understand this, because you need to know whether you’re actually fasting or not. And you need to abstain from food if you want to see results from your fast.

The Bible doesn’t provide any specific timelines for fasting. That’s up to you.

Jesus did a 40-day fast. I know a few people who have done that, but it’s very extreme. I’ve also heard about a pastor that starved to death attempting a 40-day fast. That’s not something you want to take lightly.

When you’re fasting, it’s better to take it slow at first. 

When you suddenly stop eating food, your body naturally starts to freak out and go into starvation mode. You can start out with a mini half-day fast and not eat until after lunchtime. Or fast until the sun sets. Most people experience hunger pains and headaches when they first try fasting. It’s essential to drink plenty of water and talk to a medical professional if you have any questions.

No matter how long you decide to fast, you need to remember that the purpose is to seek God deeper. Fasting and prayer go hand-in-hand. Fasting without prayer is more like a diet or hunger strike. Make sure you’re praying and reading the Bible during your fast.

The Daniel fast is not a fast

The Daniel Fast is one of the most common types of fast I hear people talk about. This is outlined in Daniel 10:3, “I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” (NKJV).

This shows us that a Daniel fast means removing sugary foods, meat, and alcohol from your diet—usually for 21 days. But there’s no verse that refers to this as a fast. And, whenever a person or group of people were fasting, the Bible would say they were fasting.

What Daniel is doing isn’t technically a biblical fast.

Daniel is consecrating himself to God and spending time in prayer. He has removed some of the distractions in his life and is making a sacrifice. By all means, doing something like this is effective. It’s just not the same as abstaining from food.

The same is true for abstaining from sex with your spouse to seek God, as Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians, “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
1 Corinthians 7:5 NIV

What are the results of fasting?

Let’s talk about the results of doing a biblical fast. 

You’re fasting for a purpose. Jesus even said that there are rewards for fasting, when it’s done the right way. 

“Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Matthew 6:18 NIV

What type of reward is Jesus talking about? When you fast, you draw closer to God and enjoy more of His presence in your life.

The Pharisees questioned Jesus why His disciples didn’t fast like they did. Jesus’ answered them that it was because He was with them. When Jesus left the earth, His disciples would practice fasting. 

“Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 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.”
Matthew 9:14-15 NIV

When you fast you also unlock greater spiritual authority. 

The disciples were trying to cast out a demon from a little boy and they couldn’t do it. When they asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast it out, Jesus explained that prayer and fasting is required. 

“However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Matthew 17:21 NKJV

The third thing that fasting does is help us control our flesh. 

Food is the ultimate thing that our physical body needs to live. Deciding to give up food for any amount of time is telling your flesh “No.”

Paul explains that our flesh and our spirit are at war with each other. Our flesh is always trying to please our human desires. While our spirit is trying to please God. Paul says that we can deny what our flesh desires and live and walk in the Spirit.

Fasting is the ultimate practice of self-control. So, if you’re struggling to break free from sin or addiction, fasting can lead you to freedom.

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”
Galatians 5:16-17 NIV

Email: hello@infaithblog.com

Leave a Comment

Article by Category

More resources