Fasting

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Biblically, fasting is to accompany prayer, and is key to working miracles. It must accompany righteousness and good deeds for the poor or GOD will ignore it. (Isaiah 58:3-14; Zechariah 7:5-14; Jeremiah 14:12; Jonah 3:5-10; Isaiah 14:10-14) After all one can fast without doing so to GOD. (Zechariah 7:5-6) Evil Jews fasted without eating or drinking, determined to kill Paul, but did not succeed. (Acts 23:12-21)

Biblically Commanded[edit]

That fasting is important should be evident from the fact that Jesus gave specific details about how to do it. (Matthew 6:16-18) Jesus also said that His disciples would fast. (Matthew 9:14-15) Paul encouraged prayer and fasting for the purpose of holiness in the context of marriage. (1 Corinthians 7:5) Nonetheless, Jesus ended fasts when He realized the people fasting with Him were getting too weak; it was actually why He performed the miracles of creating food for them. (Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:3)

Matthew 6:16 ¶ Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

Joel 2:12 ¶ Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:

1 Corinthians 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

Matthew 9:14 ¶ Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? 15 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.

Finding GOD's Favor[edit]

Prayerful fasts are Biblically Commanded as a way to find GOD's favor.

Ezra 8:21 ¶ Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.

Joel 2:12 Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: 13 and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. 14 Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God? 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: 16 gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. 17 Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? 18 Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people.

Resisting Physical Temptations[edit]

Furthermore, fasting is needed most at specific times when one is vulnerable to temptation; and it therefore takes discretion to determine when it is needed. (Ezra 8:21) Jesus called for fasting as a way to perform miracles (Matthew 17:21) and fasted for 40 days when being tempted of the Devil (Luke 4:2), yet did not worry about eating and drinking in general to the extent that the Pharisaical rigorists accused him of gluttony and partying (Luke 7:34) because He and His disciples did not fast constantly like John the Baptist’s. (Matthew 9:14)

Fasting weakens the flesh (Isaiah 58:5) that one may resist physical temptations. (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5) Note that Paul called to subdue one’s body to ensure salvation (1 Corinthians 9:27) but that this was not through exercise, which he compares to spiritual growth as of little profit. (1 Timothy 4:8) The physical and spiritual natures war against one another (Galatians 5:16-17), so that fleshly lusts cause sexual immorality, the only sin against one’s body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)

Association with Miracles[edit]

Because one's physical nature wars against one's spiritual nature, by weakening one's physical nature through fasting and prayer the ability to perform miracles can be increased. David fasted to intercede for those who were sick. (Psalms 35:13)

Needed to Cast Out Demons[edit]

The most powerful demons can only be cast out through prayer and fasting.

Mark 9:28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? 29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

Chronology[edit]

1 Day[edit]

  • After 1 day of fasting GOD heard the prayers of Israel and helped them defeat the Benjamite army. (Judges 20:26-35)
  • After 1 day of fasting GOD helped the Israelites defeat the Phillistines in battle. (1 Samuel 7:5-11)

3 Days[edit]

  • The Jews were saved under Esther after the whole nation fasted for 3 days without food or water. (Esther 4:16)
  • Paul recovered his sight and became an Apostle only after 3 days without food and water. (Acts 9:9)

1 Week (7 Days)[edit]

  • The valiant warriors of Israel fasted 7 days after capturing the bodies of Saul and Jonathan from the Philistines to give them a proper burial. (1 Chronicles 10:12) They are then recorded as doing amazing military feats, including defeating hundreds of enemy warriors singlehandedly. (1 Chronicles 11)
  • David fasted 7 days, hoping GOD would spare the son caused by his adultery with Bathsheba, whose husband he murdered, but GOD refused. (2 Samuel 12:16-23)

2 Weeks (14 Days)[edit]

  • After 2 weeks of fasting GOD saved 216 crew members from certain death, letting them all safely escape to land. (Acts 27:33-44)

3 Weeks (21 Days)[edit]

  • Daniel had his visions of the end times after 3 full weeks of fasting without eating food. (Daniel 10:2-5; 9:3)

40 Days[edit]

The three greatest prophets in the Bible, Jesus, and His two anointed ones, Moses and Elijah, (Mark 9:4) are the only ones recorded in the Bible as having fasted for 40 days. They were the greatest miracle workers in the Bible, commanding plagues, bringing down fire from Heaven on their enemies, opening and closing the sea at will, creating springs of water, causing droughts, raising the dead, casting out demons, healing sicknesses, creating earthquakes, calming storms, creating food and wine, and walking on water. In Moses' case, he fasted not just without food but also without water, which would have taken divine assistance.

  • After 40 days of fasting without food or water in Mount Sinai Moses was given the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9-18) When he came down his face shone like an angel's. (Exodus 34:30-35) Moses then fasted another 40 days as before to receive a second set of Ten Commandments. (Deuteronomy 9:18-25) This resulted in the creation of the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant. (Exodus 35-37)
  • After 40 days of fasting Elijah reached Mount Horeb and spoke with GOD. (1 Kings 19:8-14)
  • After Jesus fasted 40 days and faced the Devil's temptation He "returned in the power of the Spirit" and began working miracles, raising the dead, healing diseases, casting out demons, calming storms, creating food and wine, and walking on water. (Luke 4:2,14; Matthew 4:23-24)
Luke 4:1 ¶ And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.
Luke 4:14 ¶ And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.

Exodus 34:28 ¶ And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

1 Kings 19:8 And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. 9 ¶ And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?

Other Cases[edit]

  • Hannah was barren and had Samuel only after fasting and vowing him to the LORD as a Nazarite. (1 Samuel 1:8-20)
  • The wicked King Ahab humbled himself, fasting and seeking GOD, so GOD did not punish Israel during his lifetime. (1 Kings 21:27-29)
  • Ezra and the Israelites fasted while seeking GOD, resulting in GOD allowing the nation to escape the Babylonian captivity and rebuild Jerusalem. (Ezra 8:21-23)
  • GOD spared the entire city of Nineveh and turned away the destruction they faced after they prayed and fasted without food and water for days, possibly as many as 40. (Jonah 3:5-10)
  • Paul and Barnabas were appointed as Apostles only after prayer, fasting, and laying on of hands. (Acts 13:2-3)
  • Elders in the early Church were appointed only after prayer and fasting for them. (Acts 14:23)
  • Cornelius, the first non-Jew who resulted in Gentiles (non-Jews) being allowed to be Christians, was only saved after prayer and fasting. (Acts 10:30-32) This then opened the door for all non-Jews to become Christians. (Acts 10:44-48)

Prayer and Fasting Go Together: An Interlinear Analysis[edit]

The following is an interlinear analysis of the commonly used New Testament association between prayer and fasting using PowerBible CD’s Interlinear feature:

Prayer (Deesis) and Fasting (Nesteia)[edit]

Prayer and supplication is a reference to prayer and fasting, which preceded the selection by the apostles of Matthias to replace Judas and the Day of Pentecost. (Acts 1:14) The Greek word translated supplication is the Greek deesis which is used in the clear context of fasting in Luke 2:37 and 5:33, as such it should be better translated as fasting prayer; or a type of prayer where one also fasts. It accompanies the Greek word for fasting, nesteia.

  • Luke 2:37 And <kai> she <houtos> was a widow <chera> of about <hos> fourscore <ogdoekonta> and four <tessares> years <etos>, which <hos> departed <aphistemi> not <ou> from <apo> the temple <hieron>, but served <latreuo> God with fastings <nesteia> and <kai> prayers <deesis> night <nux> and <kai> day <hemera>.
  • Luke 5:33 And <de> they said <epo> unto <pros> him <autos>, Why <diati> do <nesteuo> the disciples <mathetes> of John <Ioannes> fast <nesteuo> often <puknos>, and <kai> make <poieo> prayers <deesis>, and <kai> likewise <homoios> the disciples <ho> of the Pharisees <Pharisaios>; but <de> thine <sos> eat <esthio> and <kai> drink <pino>?

Prayer (Proseuche) and Fasting (Nesteia)[edit]

Note that proseuche (prayer) and nesteia (fasting) go hand in hand:

  • Matthew 17:21 Howbeit <de> this <touto> kind <genos> goeth <ekporeuomai> not <ou> out <ekporeuomai> but <ei me> by <en> prayer <proseuche> and <kai> fasting <nesteia>.
  • Mark 9:29 And <kai> he said <epo> unto them <autos>, This <touto> kind <genos> can <dunamai> come forth <exerchomai> by <en> nothing <oudeis>, but <ei me> by <en> prayer <proseuche> and <kai> fasting <nesteia>.
  • Acts 1:14 These <houtos> all <pas> continued <en> <proskartereo> with one accord <homothumadon> in prayer <proseuche> and <kai> supplication <deesis>, with <sun> the women <gune>, and <kai> Mary <Maria> the mother <meter> of Jesus <Iesous>, and <kai> with <sun> his <autos> brethren <adelphos>.
  • 1 Corinthians 7:5 Defraud ye <apostereo> not <me> one the other <allelon>, except <ei me ti> <an> it be <tis> with <ek> consent <sumphonos> for <pros> a time <kairos>, that <hina> ye may give yourselves <scholazo> to fasting <nesteia> and <kai> prayer <proseuche>; and <kai> come <sunerchomai> together <epi> <autos> again <palin>, that <hina me> Satan <Satanas> tempt <peirazo> you <humas> not <hina me> for <dia> your <humon> incontinency <akrasia>.

Prayer (Proseuche) and Fasting (Deesis)[edit]

And so too do proseuche (prayer) and deesis (fasting prayers):

  • Acts 1:14 These <houtos> all <pas> continued <en> <proskartereo> with one accord <homothumadon> in prayer <proseuche> and <kai> supplication <deesis>, with <sun> the women <gune>, and <kai> Mary <Maria> the mother <meter> of Jesus <Iesous>, and <kai> with <sun> his <autos> brethren <adelphos>.
  • Ephesians 6:18 Praying <proseuchomai> always <en> <kairos> <pas> with <dia> all <pas> prayer <proseuche> and <kai> supplication <deesis> in <en> the Spirit <pneuma>, and <kai> watching <agrupneo> thereunto <eis> <touto> <autos> with <en> all <pas> perseverance <proskarteresis> and <kai> supplication <deesis> for <peri> all <pas> saints <hagios>;
  • Philippians 4:6 Be careful <merimnao> for nothing <medeis>; but <alla> in <en> every thing <pas> by prayer <proseuche> and <kai> supplication <deesis> with <meta> thanksgiving <eucharistia> let <gnorizo> your <humon> requests <aitema> be made known <gnorizo> unto <pros> God <theos>.

Prayer (Proseuche/Proseuchomai) and Continuing All Night/Fasting (Dianukterueo)[edit]

As such, the Greek dianukteruo translated as “continued all night” carries the meaning of a fasting prayer or watching all night, since it follows this pattern of accompanying prayer.

  • Luke 6:12 ¶ And <de> it came to pass <ginomai> in <en> those <tautais> days <hemera>, that he went out <exerchomai> into <eis> a mountain <oros> to pray <proseuchomai>, and <kai> continued all night <dianuktereuo> <en> in <en> prayer <proseuche> to God <theos>.

Prayer (Proseuche/Proseuchomai) and Watching/Fasting (Gregoreuo)[edit]

Thus when Christians are called to ‘watch (gregoreuo) and pray’ (proseuche or proseuchomai) this is a reference to fasting and prayer.

  • Mark 14:38 Watch ye <gregoreuo> and <kai> pray <proseuchomai>, lest <hina me> ye enter <eiserchomai> into <eis> temptation <peirasmos>. The spirit <pneuma> truly <men> is ready <prothumos>, but <de> the flesh <sarx> is weak <asthenes>.
  • Matthew 26:41 Watch <gregoreuo> and <kai> pray <proseuchomai>, that <hina me> ye enter <eiserchomai> not <hina me> into <eis> temptation <peirasmos>: the spirit <pneuma> indeed <men> is willing <prothumos>, but <de> the flesh <sarx> is weak <asthenes>.
  • Colossians 4:2 ¶ Continue <proskartereo> in prayer <proseuche>, and watch <gregoreuo> in <en> the same <autos> with <en> thanksgiving <eucharistia>;

Note that the Greek gregoreuo is contrasted with food here also:

  • Luke 12:37 Blessed <makarios> are those <ekeinos> servants <doulos>, whom <hos> the lord <kurios> when he cometh <erchomai> shall find <heurisko> watching <gregoreuo>: verily <amen> I say <lego> unto you <humin>, that <hoti> he shall gird himself <perizonnumi>, and <kai> make <anaklino> them <autos> to sit down to meat <anaklino>, and <kai> will come forth <parerchomai> and serve <diakoneo> them <autos>.

When Christians are told to ‘watch’ (Greek gregoreuo) they are thus actually being advised to fast to avoid fleshly lusts and temptations.

  • Matthew 24:42 Watch <gregoreuo> therefore <oun>: for <hoti> ye know <eido> not <ou> what <poios> hour <hora> your <humon> Lord <kurios> doth come <erchomai>. 43 But <de> know <ginosko> this <ekeinos>, that <hoti> if <ei> the goodman of the house <oikodespotes> had known <eido> in what <poios> watch <phulake> the thief <kleptes> would come <erchomai>, he would <an> have watched <gregoreuo>, and <kai> would <an> not <ou> have suffered <eao> his <autos> house <oikia> to be broken up <diorusso>.
  • Matthew 25:13 Watch <gregoreuo> therefore <oun>, for <hoti> ye know <eido> neither <ou> the day <hemera> nor <oude> the hour <hora> wherein <en> <hos> the Son <huios> of man <anthropos> cometh <erchomai>.
  • Matthew 26:38 Then <tote> saith he <lego> unto them <autos>, My <mou> soul <psuche> is <esti> exceeding sorrowful <perilupos>, even unto <heos> death <thanatos>: tarry ye <meno> here <hode>, and <kai> watch <gregoreuo> with <meta> me <emou>.
  • Matthew 26:40 And <kai> he cometh <erchomai> unto <pros> the disciples <mathetes>, and <kai> findeth <heurisko> them <autos> asleep <katheudo>, and <kai> saith <lego> unto Peter <Petros>, What <houto>, could ye <ischuo> not <ou> watch <gregoreuo> with <meta> me <emou> one <mia> hour <hora>?
  • Mark 13:34 For the Son of man is as <hos> a man <anthropos> taking a far journey <apodemos>, who left <aphiemi> his <autos> house <oikia>, and <kai> gave <didomi> authority <exousia> to his <autos> servants <doulos>, and <kai> to every man <hekastos> his <autos> work <ergon>, and <kai> commanded <entellomai> the porter <thuroros> to <hina> watch <gregoreuo>. 35 Watch ye <gregoreuo> therefore <oun>: for <gar> ye know <eido> not <ou> when <pote> the master <kurios> of the house <oikia> cometh <erchomai>, at even <opse>, or <e> at midnight <mesonuktion>, or <e> at the cockcrowing <alektorophonia>, or <e> in the morning <proi>:
  • Mark 13:37 And <de> what <hos> I say <lego> unto you <humin> I say <lego> unto all <pas>, Watch <gregoreuo>.
  • Acts 20:31 Therefore <dio> watch <gregoreuo>, and remember <mnemoneuo>, that <hoti> by the space of three years <trietia> I ceased <pauo> not <ou> to warn <noutheteo> every <hekastos> one <heis> night <nux> and <kai> day <hemera> with <meta> tears <dakru>.
  • 1 Corinthians 16:13 ¶ Watch ye <gregoreuo>, stand fast <steko> in <en> the faith <pistis>, quit you like men <andrizomai>, be strong <krataioo>.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:6 ¶ Therefore <ara> <oun> let us <katheudo> not <me> sleep <katheudo>, as <hos> <kai> do others <loipoy>; but <alla> let us watch <gregoreuo> and <kai> be sober <nepho>.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:10 Who <ho> died <apothnesko> for <huper> us <hemon>, that <hina>, whether <eite> we wake <gregoreuo> or <eite> sleep <katheudo>, we should live <zao> together <hama> with <sun> him <autos>.
  • 1 Peter 5:8 ¶ Be sober <nepho>, be vigilant <gregoreuo>; because <hoti> your <humon> adversary <antidikos> the devil <diabolos>, as <hos> a roaring <oruomai> lion <leon>, walketh about <peripateo>, seeking <zeteo> whom <tis> he may devour <katapino>:
  • Revelation 3:2 Be <ginomai> watchful <gregoreuo>, and <kai> strengthen <sterizo> the things which remain <loipoy>, that <hos> are <mello> ready to die <apothnesko>: for <gar> I have <heurisko> not <ou> found <heurisko> thy <sou> works <ergon> perfect <pleroo> before <enopion> God <theos>.
  • Revelation 3:3 Remember <mnemoneuo> therefore <oun> how <pos> thou hast received <lambano> and <kai> heard <akouo>, and <kai> hold fast <tereo>, and <kai> repent <metanoeo>. If <ean me> therefore <oun> thou shalt <gregoreuo> not <ean me> watch <gregoreuo>, I will come <heko> on <epi> thee <se> as <hos> a thief <kleptes>, and <kai> thou shalt <ginosko> not <ou me> know <ginosko> what <poios> hour <hora> I will come <heko> upon <epi> thee <se>.

Note that not watching results in sexual impurity:

  • Revelation 16:15 Behold <idou>, I come <erchomai> as <hos> a thief <kleptes>. Blessed <makarios> is he that watcheth <gregoreuo>, and <kai> keepeth <tereo> his <autos> garments <himation>, lest <hina me> he walk <peripateo> naked <gumnos>, and <kai> they see <blepo> his <autos> shame <aschemosune>.