Biblical Fasting vs. Today's Fasting
Biblical fasting: There are 31 verses, give or take, in the Bible that refer to fasting. Most of them mention no specifics as to what “fasting” means. There are, however, 11 verses that specifically state what “fasting” should entail: seven verses in the Old Testament, four in the New Testament.
In Deuteronomy 9:11 - 18 Moses says he will have no bread and no water for 40 days and 40 nights, and repeats that affirmation later in the same verse, that he will eat no bread and drink no water as before.
In 2 Samuel 3:35 King David says he will fast eating no bread – no mention of whether he will drink water.
Esther 4:16 is when she tells Mordecai that he and his men shall fast, do not eat or drink for three days, night or day; and me and my maidens will observe the same fast.
Psalms 109:24 seems to suggest no food, no water. “My knees give way from fasting, my flesh is lean, has lost its fat.”
Joel 1:13 – 14 no meat, no drink.
Jonah 3:7 do not taste any thing, do not feed, do not drink water.
Matthew 4:14 Jesus was fasting and did not eat, and Satan shows up to tempt Him to turn stones into bread, which would further suggest Jesus was not eating anything – no mention if He was also fasting of water. (Mark and Luke have similar verses).
Matthew 6:16 fast in secret, anoint thy head and wash thy face. No mention of whether water was allowed.
Acts 27:12 – 13 no food, no water.
Acts 27:33 – 36 having eaten nothing for 14 days. Does not mention whether they drank.
There is no specific “recipe,” if you will, of what fasting entails; but there are a few verses that say not to eat and not to drink. However, there are some verses that instruct not to eat, but mention nothing about whether it is permissible to drink. It is clear that Jesus was not eating for 40 days and 40 nights, otherwise, why would Satan tempt Him to turn stones into bread; but again, no mention of whether Jesus was at least drinking water. These were desert locations. It is difficult to imagine that when one fasted, except the few times it specifically instructs not to drink, that these men and women were not at least drinking water.
The exact “recipe” is not what is important; it is one’s intent. To fast is to deny yourself some thing or things that are part of your normal, daily routine; to allow for more focus on one’s spiritual journey and not the fleshly counterpart. Also key here is to combine the fasting with prayer, meditation, reading the Bible. To put away earthly desires and strive to know God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit better.
Whatever version of “fasting” one employs, just remember, it will never be as difficult as the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.
Sources: Dead Sea Scrolls, Nag Hammadi Scriptures, Deuteronomy 9:11-18, 1 Samuel 31:13, 2 Samuel 1:12, 2 Samuel 3:35, 1 Chronicles 10:12, Ezra 10:6, Esther 4:16, Psalms 35:13, Psalms 69:10 – 11, Psalms 109:24, Isaiah 58:3 – 7, Ezekiel 29:11 – 13, Daniel 6:18, Daniel 9:13, Joel 1:13 – 14, Jonah 3:3 – 7, Zechariah 7:1 – 6, Zechariah 8:19, Matthew 4:1 – 2, Matthew 6:16, Matthew 9:14 – 15, Mark 2:18 – 20, Mark 8:1 – 3, Luke 4:1 – 2, Luke 5:33 – 35, Acts 13:2 – 3, Acts 23:12 – 13, Acts 27:33 – 36, Corinthians 8:8
Today’s fasting: There are a plethora of fasting diets today; too many to list. Just last month I fasted for 80 hours (my longest fast to date): water, tea, electrolyte drops (they contain no calories) when I was working out, and that was it. It was much easier than you might think. Today we have scientific facts and research to help us to know the benefits of fasting that were not available during Biblical times. After 72 hours the body’s cells reset themselves to their original fullness, purpose, and memory; before we contaminated them with all the junk we tend to put into our systems today. Fasting is an excellent way to regulate all the body’s systems, clear bad cells out of our bodies, eat away the gunk that lines our cells (autophagy), lose weight, feel lighter and not bloated, have more mental acuity, and the list goes on.
Today’s fasting diets and fads rarely, if ever, mention the mental and spiritual component behind fasting; which in Biblical times was much more important than today, at least for most people; yet that is truly the piece of this puzzle that is most important. We should fast today to deny ourselves something that we take for granted: food. When you force deny yourself food, you actually begin thinking about other things in your life: what about all the people who don’t get to eat “at will” as I do, what about the state of my marriage or relationships with others, where is my soul going when I die, and you will die; and again, the list goes on.
Interestingly enough, those questions lead to introspection. Should I be more active in helping the hungry, should I work on the relationships in my life, maybe I should start now to care about the destiny of my soul once this physical shell fades away. These are all good things to ponder. We cannot just live our lives on autopilot and never question how we are spending time, energy, and money.
Questions are good, but when we spend almost every other hour stuffing our face with food, all we are thinking about is the regularity that gets you through the day and night. When you are hungry, but yet you refuse to eat, you will be amazed at what happens to your mind. Fasting is mentioned in the Bible for a particularly good reason: it truly helps center you. Once food is out of the equation, even if it is for only 16, 24, or 36 hours, you will find diverse ways to occupy your time. And yes, sitting down and reading the Bible, praying, meditating are excellent ways to spend that extra time. If you are new to this, there is no need to start out “forcing” yourself to read for an hour or two; just read God’s words for a few minutes to get the new habit rolling.
Physical cleansing is tremendous, I cannot tout the benefits enough; but the restful mind is even better. Jesus fasted, Moses fasted, Daniel, David, Solomon, Esther, and many, many others. This is our blueprint for a healthier mind and body and a closer relationship to God.
I am a fact person, “prove it to me” kind of guy, give me some empirical evidence to show me, then maybe I will consider what you are putting forth. If you are that type, then experiment. Simply try it. Go for 16 hours without food and see how you feel. Sit quietly at times during those 16 hours and do nothing; literally nothing. Calm that mind, let autophagy kick in (the cleaning of dead cells out of your system) and examine how you feel afterwards. Therein lies the proof.
There is absolutely no way that fasting is referenced so many times in the Bible if it was not a worthwhile endeavor. If you do want to know Jesus better, you must read about Him. You could read the Bible in place of the time spent eating for those however many hours you fast. Again, you must try fasting to see if it will work for you. All my writing and all the research out there will not mean a hoot if you do not take that first step yourself. There is truly something to say about fasting that words will not do justice to unless you feel it for yourself. Sacrifice food for a while; I am fairly certain you will live.
I like following the rules and lifestyle outlined in the Bible; it just has a great feel to it. Try it, you have absolutely nothing to lose and a whole new perspective to gain.
Jesus fasted, so should we.