“Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” Esther 4:16 (NIV).
We’ve been discussing faith journeys lately and during one of the discussions, I mentioned the discipline of fasting. I explained a little bit in My Isaac Moment – Part II, but I wanted to take time to discuss it further for those who aren’t familiar with fasting or those who are interested in digging deeper.
Before I begin, though, I want to stress that not everyone should fast the same way and there are times in your life when fasting may not be advised. I’m not a medical doctor and therefore everyone (especially if you have preexisting medical conditions, are a child, or are pregnant or nursing) should seek the counsel of their medical physician before deciding to fast. The following are my thoughts about what I’ve read from the Bible, great Bible studies on the subject of fasting, and the way God has led me in my journey. As I say countless times, our God is a personal God and the direction He leads me isn’t necessarily the same direction He’ll lead you. Remember these are my thoughts based off Scripture. I’m not a Biblical scholar, but I am a Christ follower who loves God with her whole heart.
In Scripture, there’s a lot of discussion about different individuals who fasted regularly. Matthew 6:16 talks about when you fast, not if you fast. Now, there are lots of other religions that fast as well as nutritionists who encourage people to go on juice fasts or to abstain from certain foods for a set period of time. That’s not the fasting I’m talking about. To declare a Biblical (or Bible-based) fast, your focus is only on growing closer to the One true God.
There are so many great examples in the Bible of people who have fasted and prayed, and as a result, God has heard their prayers and blessed them.
I Samuel 1 describes Hannah, a woman who couldn’t have any children, as someone who fasted and prayed for years for a child. Not only did God grant her a son, Samuel, but He blessed her with three more sons and two daughters. Another example is found in the book of Esther. Queen Esther, a Jew, was married to King Xerxes, and the King’s right hand man Haman, wanted to kill all Jews. Esther declared a three-day fast before petitioning the king not only for her own life but the lives of all Jewish people. She went to God first, before presenting herself to the king, knowing it was his right to have her killed since he didn’t ask for her to come visit him. My last example involves Daniel. He and his three friends, who were training to be part of the king’s army, asked to be allowed to only eat vegetables and drink water for ten days before being tested against the other men who were in training but eating foods God had forbidden Daniel’s people to eat. By obeying God’s rules regarding their food choices, at the end of the ten days Daniel and his friends were found to be healthier and better nourished than the men who ate everything presented. (Daniel 1: 17). There are many more examples in the Bible of how God blesses people who pray and fast regularly. I encourage you to read for yourself these stories as the Bible explains them.
There are many different ways to fast. Some fast by drinking only water for a set number of days. Some participate in a Daniel fast, which has various interpretations but follows the general guidelines of eating only vegetables, and fruits. Others may give up “meats and sweets” (a form of a Daniel fast) for a set time while others just give up their comfort foods, such as desserts and caffeine.
A popular way to fast is from midnight one day to midnight the next; while others fast from after dinner one night until dinner the following night. There’s no wrong way to fast except with the wrong attitude.
The next time we get together, I want to explore further about fasting and share some of my personal experiences regarding this exciting topic, which God wants to be a regular discipline of those who are His children.
© 2013 Cheri Swalwell