Fasting is defined as voluntarily going without food in order to focus on prayer and fellowship with God. The Hebrew verb sum conveys the explicit meaning “to abstain from food.” Fasting is not a way of manipulating God into doing what you desire, rather, it is simply forcing yourself to focus and rely on God for the strength, provision, and wisdom you need. Fasting is found throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, over fifty times as well as throughout the founding of the United States by its founding fathers! Fasting and prayer is one of the most powerful spiritual combinations on earth. True fasting brings humility and alignment with God and breaks the power of flesh and demons. It kills unbelief and brings answers to prayer when nothing else works. Of all the things we can do to enhance the power and focus of prayer, fasting is doubtless the most potent. This is where the power is at, because fasting puts us in harmony with an All Powerful God who demands humility from those who wish to be close to Him.
What if there were a way to overcome our habits, addictions, and burdens? What if there were a way to gain sufficient confidence in the Lord that you could call down the powers of heaven? What if there were principles you could teach your loved ones that, if applied, would allow them to overcome personal weaknesses and draw closer to God?
As we properly understand and live the law of the fast, these desired blessings can be ours.
“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).
Our Father will free us from the bands of wickedness, He will lift our heavy burdens, and He will let the oppressed go free. In fact He promises to empower us to break every yoke. What an enabling promise, to have the power to break every yoke! Proper and consistent fasting can help us overcome sins, bad habits, and addictions. Is there any of us who would not want to be freed from the personal burdens we carry? Fasting allows us to avail ourselves of this cleansing and purifying power. The key is to develop the faith and spiritual strength necessary to receive the blessings of fasting.
To develop spiritual strength, we need to do our part. If we are not willing to work and be obedient, we should not expect the miracle. In my experience, miracles are always found through obedience and hard work.
A person who can discipline himself to fast on a regular basis in the way God has designed can resist every temptation, overcome any burden, and become free from any yoke.
Paul said, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
As we better understand and use this tool as Father in Heaven intended, it will change our lives. We will then be able to go to the Lord in confidence and call down the powers of heaven. When we bless others, God blesses us. Isaiah teaches the principle of fast offerings. He teaches us that to receive promised power and blessings, we must not only fast but also care for the poor and needy.
We qualify for God’s promised blessings and power as we care for all of His children in accordance with the fast He has chosen.
“Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:7).
Isaiah 58:10 teaches the same fast offering principle: “And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday.”
The Lord promises not only the power to overcome all of our sins but also light, health, and righteousness in our lives. And, just as with the children of Israel, He promises that His glory will surround and protect us.
“Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward” (Isaiah 58:8).
In the following verses we receive the promise that He will hear our prayers. We can approach Him with complete faith and confidence. Our hunger will be satisfied with the bread of life; our thirst will be quenched with the living water that never fails.
“Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; …
“And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (Isaiah 58:9, 11).
Fasting requires discipline. Fasting helps us accomplish one of the vital purposes of life: developing self-mastery. Our physical bodies are created in such a way that we can have a spiritual victory over the natural man each time we properly fast.
“When a person starts a fast, biochemical adjustments begin in the bloodstream to compensate for the lack of food. A carbohydrate substance known as glycogen is released from storage areas in the liver and the muscles. The body uses glycogen as food to keep cells supplied with energy. After 24 hours this food source is used up, and another source of energy is needed.
Dr. Siegfried Heyden of Duke University’s Department of Community and Family Medicine says when this happens, the body starts looking for other energy sources. ‘The first thing happening after a 24-hour fast is the breakdown of fat cells. And these fat cells, when they break down, produce ketone bodies, as they are called. And these ketone bodies seem to have an effect on our psyche in that they make us no longer hungry.’”
After 24 hours without food or drink, the body (the natural man) submits to the spirit (the spiritual man). When the spiritual man is victorious, we experience greater sensitivity to the influence of the Holy Ghost.
Examples of Fasting and Prayer and the Purpose God Had in It
- Ezra the priest fasted for God’s protection while carrying valuable things for God’s temple. We too can fast for God’s protection. (Ezra 8:21-23)
- Daniel the prophet fasted for the fulfillment of God’s promises, and received mighty revelations from God. (Daniel 10:3).
- Jesus fasted and spoke the Word of God to overcome Satan (See Matthew 4:1-10; Luke 4:1-13).
- Jesus fasted to begin his public ministry, and have the power of God and the anointing. (Luke 4:14).
- Elijah needed to fast 40 days before he heard God’s voice again. (1 Kings 19:8)
- Moses fasted to receive the Ten Commandments and the Law of God, and to see God’s glory and goodness.
- The elders, prophets and teachers in Antioch fasted and ministered to God, which resulted in the launching of Paul and Barnabas’ apostolic ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 13:2,3). Likewise we should fast and pray before getting involved in full time ministry and mission work.
- Jesus says to us in Matthew 6:16, “When you fast…” not “If you fast”. A true disciple of the Lord will fast at times.
- God made it clear through the prophet Joel that the last days outpouring of the Spirit will be in proportion to our fasting and crying out to God in humility, hunger and repentance. (Joel 1:5; Joel 2:12).
- Even wicked King Ahab’s fast moved God so that he did not bring full judgment down on him in his own lifetime (1 Kings 21:27).
The Science of Fasting
Fasting is not a new idea. People have been fasting for centuries and the scientists of the 1800s and 1900s were interested in what happens to our bodies when we fast. They worked out how the different hormones control how we store food for use during fasting. Fasting was used as a treatment for diabetes before the discovery of insulin in 1922 and was also used as a treatment for obesity until the mid-1960s, but the prolonged fasting used to cure obesity in those days proved dangerous and so it fell from favour – until quite recently. The discovery that short bouts of intermittent fasting could prolong the life of mice and rats has reignited scientific interest.
The science of intermittent fasting is still in its infancy, but nonetheless there have been some fascinating scientific studies done in animals and more recently in humans that have shown that fasting can be a powerful tool to help our bodies resist disease.
Learn more about the science of fasting in these articles:
- Human metabolism: how we process the food we eat and use it for fuel and to repair our bodies
- What happens when we fast: changes in our bodies when we fast
- The health benefits of fasting: what scientific studies into intermittent fasting have revealed
- Finally, read a summary of the current state of research into intermittent fasting
BELOW: Soviet researchers have provided a body of clinical studies of exceptional health…only published in Russian, and thus unknown in the West. Young biologists from the University of Los Angeles have overturned conventional wisdom and used molecular biology to demonstrate the powerful effects of fasting. This research suggests a wide-ranging potential, which could include treatments for the disease of the century, cancer.
Dr. Felice Gersh discusses different types of fasts and their benefits. Find out how our body clock plays a role and what you should know about when you eat and the importance of that first meal of the day, whenever it may be.
Chronological History of Events Related to Fasting & Prayer
International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church: Christians Around the World United in Fast and Prayer for Persecuted Christians.
Lee v. Weisman: Supreme Court Ruled 5-4 that Prayers During School Graduation Violate the Establishment Clause