We see examples of fasting all throughout the Bible. The intent behind fasting is to refrain from something for a certain amount of time with the purpose of growing our dependence on God and showing Him our need and desire for Him. Fasting is an act of discipline and sacrifice.
What are the types of Christian Fasting? There are seven types of Christian fasting: Partial Fasting, The Daniel Fast, Complete Fasting, Absolute Fasting, Sexual Fasting, Corporate Fasting, and a Soul Fast.
Each one of these fasts should be done with an attitude of humility and a hunger for God. When denying ourselves food and even water, we set aside the time we would be eating to pray, read the Bible, and worship.
A Partial Fasting is when you refrain from eating sun up to sundown. You can also do this from a certain time of day, for example, from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Before fasting, you need to decide what time you will not be eating. After sun-down or whatever time you have decided to end fasting, you may eat.
This fast is one of the more flexible types of fasting. You can decide what fast you would pair with your partial fast: a complete fast or Daniel fast. With a complete fast, you would not eat solid foods. Daniel fast consists of eating fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Or you may decide for your first time to simply cut out one food group during your fasting hours. Whatever you decide, remember the point is to deny your body what it longs for.
We fast because we have tasted and seen the goodness of God and are desperately hungry for for more of Him.David Mathis
The Daniel Fast is taken from when Daniel fasted in the Bible.
At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.Daniel 10:2-3
These three weeks the passage is referring to is in observance of Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread. This took place during the first month of the year. Daniel did not eat any meat or wine for three weeks.
What you can eat:
- Fruits, nuts
- Water (in order to flush out toxins)
What you cannot eat:
- Fried food
- Coffee & Tea
- Juice (optional: some people do choose to drink juice during this fast)
The purpose of this fast is to cleanse your body while praying and pressing into God’s presence. Before doing this fast, you would need to decide how long you will do this fast for. Some people do this fast for a week whereas others may do it for three weeks as Daniel did.
Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning”Joel 2:12
A complete fast is where you only drink water. You would not eat any solid foods. Some people choose to drink water and juice to help maintain some energy. It would be up to you to decide if you wanted to include juice or not.
You should decide how many days you will do this fast before beginning. This fast will humble you as you will no longer have the satisfaction of chewing solid food.
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:Isaiah 58:6
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
An absolute fast is based on both Paul and Esther’s fasts in the Bible. You do not eat or drink during this fast. No drinking included water.
After Saul was blinded on the road to Damascus, the Bible says,
For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.Acts 9:9
Before Esther was going to ask the king to ask him to not follow the plans Haman had to kill the Jews. The king did not know that she was a Jew. The problem was entering the king’s chambers without permission could end in death.
Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must dieEsther 4:16
In both stories, the fast was for three days. It would be recommended that you also do this fast for a short period of time as well.
There are times when people in the Bible did an absolute fast for an extended period of time. Jesus fasted food and water for forty days when he was tempted by Satan in the wilderness.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.Matthew 4:1-2
Moses also fasted for forty days before he received the Ten Commandments.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.Exodus 34:27-28
There are many examples in Scripture of people fasting from both food and water. If you do this fast, use with extreme caution as you are not eating or drinking anything! This fast would not be for people with medical conditions.
But I, when they were sick—Psalm 35:13
I wore sackcloth;
I afflicted myself with fasting;
I prayed with head bowed on my chest.
The concept of sexual fasting comes from Paul. He poses the idea that through mutual consent you would be apart for a time to devote yourself to praying.
This fast would be done in the context of marriage and where both parties are in mutual agreement. Often times, we tend to skim over parts of Scripture we do not want to do because it would challenge us. This passage is one of them. Paul is clear that for a time separating physically and focusing on pray is healthy.
The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.1 Corinthians 7:3-6
The other time that fasting from sex is mentioned in the Bible is found in Exodus. It was done in preparation before Moses met with God on Mt. Sinia.
And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.Exodus 19:14
The purpose of the Israelites refraining from sex for three days was to control their desire. This is not to say sexual desires are bad, but during these three days, they were to devote themselves to pray in preparation for Moses’ meeting with God.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Corporate fasting can be done in a variety of different ways. You could do a corporate fast with your church, a Bible study group, your spouse, and so on. Your group can decide what kind of fast you will be doing and for how long.
An example of corporate fasting can be found in the book of Acts. Saul and Barnabus and Paul were about to go on their first missionary journey. The church at Antioch fasted before sending them off to the mission field.
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.Acts 13:2-3
Another example of corporate fasting is found in Ezra. Ezra and his company fasted to ask God to protect them on their journey to Jerusalem.
Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.Ezra 8:21-23
Corporate fasting is powerful because as it says in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” When we come together and fast in a group, we know God is among us. One important piece to corporate fasting is to set-up times before you begin fasting to pray together.
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 1so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.Matthew 6:16-18
Soul fasting is where you obtain from a certain area of your life that may be out of balance or something you consume much of your time.
Ideas for soul fasting include:
- Social Media
It is not to say that any of these things are “bad,” but to remember that they do not run your life. You can sacrifice it and instead of scrolling through Instagram you can choose to pray and seek God.
You would choose how long you do this fast for. Once the fast is over, it is important to slowly incorporate what you took out back into your life. Just because the fast is over does not mean it is the best idea to watch Netflix for seven hours. Remember to continue to honor God with what you spend your time on, even after the fast.
My family did a sugar and media fast for a month. My siblings and I were all under the age of 16 when we did the fast. I say this to encourage you that if you are a parent, you can fast with your children even at a young age!
O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.Isaiah 25:1
Which Fast is the Best for You?
Each one of these fasts is different. In the end, it is between you and God as to what you feel lead to sacrifice. Remember it is less about what type of fasting you do and more about your attitude and heart while fasting.
You could choose to do a soul fast and complain about missing your favorite tv show, this is missing the point of fasting. The purpose of fasting is to willingly give up food and sometimes even water and take the times you would be eating to pray.
If you are unsure of where to even start with fasting, doing a Daniel fast or partial fast for a week is a good place to start. Ask a friend to join you and do a corporate fast and times set aside to pray together.
Examples of fasting are found all throughout Scripture. We see how followers of Jesus, and Jesus himself, fasted.
The most important piece of fasting is not which of the seven ways of fasting you choose, but your heart behind it. Are you fasting to look good? Because that is not the heart we are to have while fasting. We are to fast out of humility and to discipline our mind and body by denying ourselves food and sometimes even water to focus on praying.
Christian fasting at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God.”John Piper
Why Do People Fast?
There are many different reasons people fast. Some of them include:
- Seek Wisdom
- Prepare for Ministry
- Seek Protection
- Seek Deliverance
- Worship God
- Humble Yourself
The purpose of fasting is that you are intentionally taking foods and sometimes water out of your daily life to focus on God and pray. People fast to seek after God’s heart.
Do’s & Don’t During a Fast
What to do when you fast:
- Prepare beforehand
- Have humility
- Focus on God rather than the food you aren’t eating
- Pray often & worship
- Disciple your mind
What not to do:
- Boast about your fast
- Think about food (or whatever you are fasting) all the time
- Judge people who are not fasting
Isaiah 58:7 says, “Why have we fasted, and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it? Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.”
Your heart behind fasting is what truly matters. The Bible tells us we are not to seek our own pleasures while fasting. We are to fast with our whole heart, not just doing it to look “good” to other Christians. Fasting is a time to seek the Lord and not spend all your time focusing on whatever you give up.
Things to Avoid When Fasting
There are two things that you can avoid when fasting to help you focus more on God.
- Avoid Media
- Avoid telling everyone you know that you are fasting
The reason behind avoiding media is that fasting is a time to be praying and worshipping God, not filling your mind with the things of the world.
Avoiding tell everyone you know that you are fasting is to help ensure you are fasting with the right intentions. This does not mean you cannot tell anyone, but the purpose of fasting is not to focus on yourself. You are making a sacrifice. You are showing God that you are willing to fast to spend more time in His presence.