If you’re reading this, then you are probably wondering why Christians fast, or why you should fast personally. This blog will answer both questions. Christians fast for a number of reasons and it is important for you to know that the reasons for fasting vary from person to person.
What are the Christian reasons for fasting? While there is a number of reasons for Christian fasting, the three primary categories fall under Biblical mandates, spiritual disciplines, and health benefits. Reasons for Christian fasting include nearness to God, spiritual freedom, guidance, waiting for Jesus’ return and of course, a healthy body.
Let us explore in-depth the real reasons why Christian fast.
First, let’s get this clear because it can be a misconception amongst the Christian church. Fasting will not atone you of your sin. Only repentance and the blood of Jesus can atone you for your sin, and praise is to God that we have this cleansing in full. However, repentance is a crucial step in our nearness to God, so repentance can be a huge benefit before we start any fast.
Also, in your Google searches, you may find that many people will fast in order to lose weight. This is not a Biblical idea, and while weight loss may be an effect of fasting, it is never the reason for a Christian to fast. We fast to honor the Lord and to glorify Him in our mind, body, and spirit.
Spiritual Reasons to Fast
Spiritually speaking, fasting is extremely beneficial. How can fasting affect your spiritual life? Well, it brings you closer to God’s presence. When you are able to press into the Lord, without food, you will become more sensitive to His Spirit without the distractions of your desires. Also, in Scripture, we see that God brings us spiritual freedom through fasting. This is yet another reason to fast.
Likewise, when we know that we cannot dwell on our physical needs, it will push us to worship God. Worship is a devotion of our hearts unto the Lord, and we will explain how fasting will help you in the spiritual act of worship. Then, there is the spiritual disciplinary side of fasting, which strengthens the ability to deny our flesh.
Let us delve deeper into the spiritual topics that are enhanced and grown in fasting.
Nearness to God
‘Yet even now,’ declares the LORD,— Joel 2:12
‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments’.
Here we see how the Lord declares to the nation of Israel that fasting, in fact, is a tool to bring us closer to God. How can this affect our spiritual lives exactly? Well, the closer we are to God, the closer we are to His Spirit. We see throughout Scripture that being filled with the Spirit equates to being close to God. It is even stated in Luke chapter 1, that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit, and He is near to God.
In this Scripture verse, we also see that while fasting, we are to render our hearts unto the Lord. When we give our hearts to Him, we grow in relationship with Him, which ultimately will bring us nearer to God.
This verse also shows how we can move closer to God through fasting because God is calling the people of Israel to repent through this fast. In our repentance, God forgives our sins. Therefore, we no longer have sin in between us and God any longer, causing closeness to arise in our bond to Him.
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?—Isaiah 58:6
Many people are encouraged by this verse from Isaiah 58 titled “true fasting.” This chapter is about fasting and this verse specifically highlights the Lord’s fast. It is encouraging to know that a true fast is one that will lose bods of wickedness, and of a heavy yoke. It shows that fasting is so that man will be free from the oppression of this world and of sin. It also shows that God desires to break the heavy yoke keeping us from Him.
When a reader truly dissects this passage, they will find what God means through His words in this passage. Looking at many translations and the Septuagint, we find that “to loose the bonds of wickedness” means a vast variety of freedom. This freedom includes freedom from the bondage of a “depraved judgment” meaning sin. We also receive freedom from the bondage that men are held under. The bondage of what the world desires of us and from what we feel we must strive for. God wants us to know that we are not held under human obligation, but to His freedom through following Him.
People trapped in bondage will fast with this verse in mind. There are many testimonies of these people trapped in sin, and then find freedom from their fast. This is because God is making good on His promise, that a true spiritual fast will bring freedom to man.
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.— Luke 2:36-37
Many Christians use this verse to show how fasting can be a form of worship. Worship is one of the absolute most powerful spiritual acts that we can take part in. Anna fasted as a means of worshiping God. She is noted here, which is significant, to show that fasting and praying are a form of worship.
To the modern-day Christian, we can see how fasting is worship to God, and that when we fast, we must pray as well. As we fast, we choose to serve Him with our bodies and minds. The only way to truly fast is to focus on God because we cannot do it within our own power. Just like Anna, we can choose to fix our minds and gaze upon God, which is true worship. This is how fasting is a form of worship to God.
Denying the Flesh
Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.— Philippians 3:19
Being ruled by our flesh, or more specifically as Paul puts it, by our stomachs, we are not giving glory to God. We cannot be ruled by our flesh if we are to honor God with our lives, but we are to be ruled by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9). Paul is urging Christians to not be greedy or led by their own fleshly desires.
Paul is actually referring to a real “god,” or idol in this passage. He is saying to the reader that the god of their stomach, is the god of the Cyclops. Cyclops did nothing but sacrifice for themselves, to fill their own fleshly desire. They did nothing but love their own bellies and pleasures, rather than love and serve the One true God. As a believer in God, we are not to act like these people. We are to serve God for His pleasure before we serve ourselves.
Fasting is a tool to say “no” to what our flesh wants. When we can be disciplined with food and drink, we can be disciplined in other fleshly areas in our life. When we fast, we are teaching our bodies that we are the ruler over it and not the other way around.
The Main Idea
While fasting may seem nearly impossible at times, whether it is because of our schedule, our home life, our work life, or even our self-discipline, we can see that it is very beneficial spiritually. Making excuses not to fast is only hindering our spiritual lives. There is nothing more rewarding than deepening our spiritual walk because we are made to have spiritual intimacy with God. So when we take the time to fast, we gain freedom, spiritual maturity, and intimacy with God and His Holy Spirit.
Biblical Reasons to Fast
The Bible is full of Scriptural references on fasting. Many times, the Bible is clear that it enhances our faith. We see strong Biblical characters who participated in the act of fasting. It is also made known to the followers of Jesus, that there is a reward for those who fast with a humble heart before the Lord. Let us look at why Biblical characters fast, how it strengthens God’s people, and how Jesus is heavily involved in fasting throughout the Bible.
And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.— Matthew 6:16-18
Jesus is very clear here. He chose to say “when [you] fast,” which proves that we are supposed to fast. He did not say “if you desire to fast” or “if you so choose to fast.” No, to Jesus it was a given that we are to fast. Not only this, but we must look at the good of why Jesus says that we must fast.
Our fast is to be “hidden,” just as Jesus withdrew Himself when He fasted. He did not go around the city, showing that He was fasting. This would have been like the Pharisees who only fasted for the respect of man. They did this for their own pride. Jesus wants us to know that God looks at our heart’s motives during our fast. That we are to fast for God’s glory, and not our own.
Jesus says that we must fast because we will receive a reward. Whether that is in Heaven or on earth, we will be more than blessed to receive a reward from our Father. However, if we choose to boast to men of our holiness during a fast, we will not receive a reward from the Father, but it is repaid Jesus says.
Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?— Isaiah 58:5
Humility is a prevalent characteristic of God’s people, both in the Old and New Testament. Jesus, Himself, lived with absolute humility. So much so that He would give up His life for sinners. Isaiah writes in his book, the words from the Lord about fasting and how it is an act of humility.
God says (through Isaiah) that the Lord’s fast is one of humility. He rebukes the Israelites who choose to be haughty and chase after their own gain when they fast (see the context of Isaiah 58). On the contrary, when we fast, we should be humble ourselves before the Lord and before man.
In ancient Hebraic culture, sackcloth and ashes were a sign of mourning. Following suit, Many Christians today will fast in a way to humble their hearts before the Lord during repentance for themselves, or even for their entire nation’s sin. This way the are mourning the sin of man against God. Others will fast as a way of mourning or grieving from the loss of a loved one. This is an act of humility unto the Lord, showing that you will seek Him because He is the one to heal and forgive all.
And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.— Acts 14:23
Why does fasting help us find wisdom and guidance? Fasting is a means of entrusting ourselves to the Lord. When we fast, our mind, soul, and spirit become more receptive to His Holy Spirit. God says that He will give wisdom to those who seek it. So, the apostles showed us that we may seek wisdom through fasting.
Within the context of this Scripture, we see the apostles of our faith, Paul and Barnabas fasting for guidance and wisdom. This is actually not the only occurrence in the Bible of leaders fasting to seek God’s guidance.
In Judges 20, we see that God gave favor to the Israelite prayers because they choose to fast. It was then, that God decided to give them clear wisdom and guidance on how to overcome their enemies.
Waiting for Jesus
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast,but your disciples do not fast?’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast’.— Matthew 9:14-15
As disciples of Jesus, we no longer have His physical presence with us any longer. This is why we fast. We fast, because Jesus told us in Scripture that His disciples would fast for Him.
Without the physical comfort of Jesus’ presence, we long for Him as we long for our Heavenly Bridegroom, until the day of His return. Jesus is making the point that we fast as a way of longing for Him, not as an obligation. He wants His followers to know the principle of fasting, and not that it is a moral obligation.
The Main Idea
Throughout Scripture, there are very times and seasons for fasting. It is hard to find a reason not to fast in Scripture because we see our Biblical leaders fasting for so many reasons. It is also important for you to know that God honors are fasts before Him. That is clear in Scripture.
It is also wise to seek God on what your reason is to fast, not other people around you. When we fast, we see that in Scripture, it is for a very personal and intimate reason between an individual and God.
Let us remember that Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights (Matthew 4) and that He overcame every temptation of mankind. The main idea is that fasting is beneficial, powerful, and necessary in Scripture, for the followers of God.
Health Reasons to Fast
God created man and God knows what is good for us; in all ways, including our physical health. With the vast amount of physical benefits that fasting offers us, it is no wonder why the Lord commanded His people to fast. It is actually extremely healthy to abstain from food. However, we cannot overlook the sensitivity to preexisting physical and health conditions, such as low blood sugar and eating disorders. Please do what is right for you given your preexisting health conditions.
For most, fasting is a great health benefit. From brain enhancement to stronger immune systems, and even higher metabolisms with a slower aging process. And we can’t forget that it actually detoxes the body. This is all done when we fast.
Enhances Brain Function
When one fasts, their brain function is greatly improved. During this time, we become more sensitive to our surroundings and our minds. This is due to the fact that when we fast, we are not relying on glucose for our energy source. The body is suddenly relying on ketones, which improves cognition. This means that the brain is readily available to acquire knowledge and understanding through our thoughts, experiences, and senses. We are more keen on our surroundings, impressions, and interpretations which vastly highlights our brain’s function. This only happens when we fast.
Going without food actually will progress our brain’s growth and overall health. Looking at this quote from Nature Reviews Neuroscience, “Metabolic switching [from glucose to ketotones] impacts multiple signaling pathways that promote neuroplasticity and resistance of the brain to injury and disease”. We see here that ketones are healthy for our brains because it makes us stronger against tragedies such as bodily harm.
Restores Immune System
As great as fasting sounds, there are actually even more benefits to fasting. Fasting restores your immune system.
In an article called FASTING FOR 72 HOURS CAN RESET YOUR ENTIRE IMMUNE SYSTEM, it is stated that “When you fast for a prolonged amount of time, your body uses the stored glucose, fats and produce ketone bodies that are especially good for your brain, to keep you going and you flush out anything that your body doesn’t need, like damaged cells and toxins”. These damaged cells and toxins are what keeps our immune system bogged down, and they weaken our immune system from fighting off invaders.
But we don’t have to fast for 72 hours to gain the immune system benefits of fasting.
In the article labeled ‘Magic Soup’: How Intermittent Fasting May Enhance The Immune System, the author writes, “‘These three studies suggest that we can manipulate the immune system simply by changing how much we eat’, says Boussiotis of Beth Israel Deaconess. ‘Fasting could be leveraged more effectively to help patients with certain diseases’, she says”. This entire article goes on to show that fasting, in fact, can decrease pain, inflammation, and disease in the body.
Aids Healthy Metabolism & Anti-Aging
From my research, I have found that the best way to aid your metabolism through fasting, is to do intermittent fasting. When we fast for many days on end, our metabolism will slow down. However, when we are intermittent fasting, the metabolism is actually aided.
I have also found that human metabolism and anti-aging agents are actually linked.
“The latest study to explore the impact of fasting on the human body concludes that it increases metabolic activity more than previously realized and may even impart anti-aging benefits” was written in the article, Fasting Boosts Metabolism and Fights Aging. In this article, we can see that fasting is beneficial to our metabolism by the quote;
“As the human body is starved of food, there are a number of distinct metabolic changes that occur. Normally, when carbohydrates are readily available, the body will use them as fuel. But once they are gone, it looks elsewhere for energy. In a process called gluconeogenesis, the body derives glucose from noncarbohydrate sources, such as amino acids. Scientists can find evidence of gluconeogenesis by assessing the levels of certain metabolites in the blood, including carnitines, and butyrate. As expected, after fasting, levels of these metabolites had increased in the participants’ blood”.
From this, we can gather that fasting is beneficial for the health of our metabolism, and our overall aging process.
Detoxes the Body
When we choose to fast, our body chooses to not give energy to our digestive system. In turn, the body actually starts to search for the negative cells in our bodies that are inflammatory or weighing the body down. The body, in this state, is actually detoxing.
From Why Fast? The Fasting State Rids Your Body Of Toxins And Damaged Cells the writer promotes the detoxification of fasting, by stating, “In the fasting state, the body will scour for dead cells, damaged tissues, fatty deposits, tumors, abscesses, all of which are burned for fuel or expelled as waste. The elimination of these obstructions restores the immune system functionality and metabolic process to an optimum state”.
The Main Idea
Scientists are constantly making new discoveries, and we can always be learning new things. We are only recently getting the science to prove the benefits of fasting within the body. But it shouldn’t be a surprise. For thousands of years, cultures and religions have chosen to fast. It is no wonder that Yahweh commanded the Israelites to perform this practice. He was leading them in the best way for their bodies and minds.
Applying This Practice To Life
We see that fasting benefits our mind, body, and spirit. Spiritually, we grow and deepen our intimacy with the Lord through fasting. Let our minds be fixed upon the Scripture of the many reasons to fast. We must also recognize that fasting is so beneficial for the health of our bodies.
If you are looking to deepen your walk with Jesus, then you don’t have to look any further than fasting. It can be easy to come up with our own reasons not to fast, rather than looking at the more valid reasons to fast. Trust me, I’ve been there. But if you don’t try, you will never see the beautiful benefits and rewards of fasting. And Jesus even says Himself that there will be a reward for those who fast in intimacy with Him.
Now that you know the reasons to fast, apply this practice to your life. Let the reasons inspire you to walk further in this discipline that the Lord has laid before us.