The oxford dictionary describes fasting as abstaining from all or some kinds of food or drink especially as a religious observance. Other dictionaries go on to say – to eat sparingly or abstain from some foods.
In the New Oxford Thesaurus of English the explanation was in keeping with the above, but the example as to the use of the verb was more in keeping with the understanding of a fast to the Christian. The quote states, “The ministry instructed people to fast, pray and read the scripture”.
The Christian fast refers chiefly to abstaining from food. This can be in the form of quantity or quality of food.
The quantity will involve the amount of meals one consumes within a particular time period.
The quality might involve removing certain contents of our daily meals for example removing meat from our foods for a particular time period. The fast tend not only to be good for one's spirit, but also tends to be good for one's general health, as it can result in lowering of cholesterol levels, and a reduction of the strain on the kidneys which processes by-products of meat.
Fasting therefore should be one of the chief corner stones of the Christian faith, because there is a constant war between the flesh and the spirit. In order to overcome the flesh one should undergo periods of fasting.
This article seeks to highlight a few of the times the word fast was used in the Bible this will be used to develop an understanding as to why, when, who, and how fasting was used in the bible.
-For a breakthrough in a matter - Judges 20:26
-For forgiveness of sins - Isaiah 7:6, 1Kings 21:27, Nehemiah 1:4
-To show sorrow – Isaiah 31:13, Esther 4:3
-To overcome the flesh and self – Psalm 35:13
-For God to turn a situation around - 2 Chronicles 20:3
-For courage and safety - Esther 4:16
-So one’s voice will be heard on high - Isaiah 58:4
-When one is loosing the battle - Judges 20:26
-When seeking God’s help – 2 Chronicles 20:3, Isaiah 58:3-4, Daniel 9:3-19
-When looking for guidance – Ezra 8:21
-Deliverance from certain demonic possessions – Mathew 17:21
-One day - Judges 20:26
-Seven days - Isaiah 31:13
-Three days - Esther 4:16 (Esther fast)
-Forty days - Mathew 4:2
-Often – Mathew 9:14-15
-Most cases of fasting in the bible were done individually, but some were done by the society as a whole.
-Judges 20:26 – all
-Esther 4:16 – all
-Jeremiah 36:9 – all
While fasting the bible also mentions what is desirable, and what is not. What is undesirable is that one does not do it for strife, and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness (Isaiah 58:4); Furthermore, when one fast one shouldn’t be of a sad appearance so as to appear to man as fasting(Mathew 6:16).
God wants us to perform a fast for the following reasons:
• To loose the bands of wickedness
• To undo the heavy burdens
• To let the oppressed free
• Break every yoke (Isaiah 58:6)
If one fast as God desires then:
• Thy health shall spring forth speedily
• Thy righteousness shall go before thee
• The glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward
• When you call the LORD then he will answer, when you cry he will say, here I am. (Isaiah 58:8-9)