Jan 2023 MO article
Missions Discipleship

Fasting as a Spiritual Discipline

My phone buzzed, and I caught the call before it rolled to voicemail. It was my good friend, Jan.

“Hey, what are you doing tomorrow?” she asked me.

“I’m free. Wanna do lunch?” I said.

“Well…” she hesitated. “Would you fast with me tomorrow?”

“Wait, what? Fast? As in, no lunch?”

“Right. Would you fast with me because I’m praying about…” and with that, she explained she was seeking God’s direction for a big move her family was considering.

Only one friend has ever asked me to fast for a day and pray instead. I don’t think that indicates the quality of my friendships but rather the lack of understanding we have of the spiritual discipline of fasting — abstaining from food for a short time so we can seek God more deeply.

Is fasting on your spiritual menu?

On the Menu: Biblical Fasting

Esther 4–5: Queen Esther gave two banquets that decided the fate of the Jewish people in the Persian kingdom. But those two banquets were preceded by a three-day fast by Esther, her staff, and the Jewish people. Esther sought God’s guidance on how to intercede for the Jews before her husband, the king.

Nehemiah 1–2: A few decades later, Nehemiah attended his fair share of banquets as the cupbearer to the king of Persia. When Nehemiah heard about the dismal condition of Jerusalem, he was reduced to tears and responded by praying and fasting. Then, spiritually ready, Nehemiah approached the king with his plea to return to Jerusalem. The king agreed — and sent supplies to help Nehemiah rebuild the city wall.

Matthew 3:16 to 4:25: Roughly four centuries later, Jesus was baptized by John and then went into a 40-day fast in the wilderness. After Jesus returned, He called His disciples and started His public ministry.

An Entrée to Fasting

These examples show fasting brought spiritual insight regarding different needs:

    • decision/problem (Esther)
    • relocation (Nehemiah)
    • ministry focus (Jesus)

And these examples mirror why today’s Christians fast too. You can fast for any reason, but above all, the purpose is to know God more deeply and discern His guidance.

Start by fasting from one or two meals. Instead of eating, use the time to pray and read God’s Word. Or try a juice fast for a day and cut out solid foods. Be sure to drink plenty of water during any fast. (Anyone with medical or health concerns, such as diabetes, should consult a doctor before fasting.)

While there’s nothing wrong with a good potluck dinner in the fellowship hall, Christians could benefit from adding fasting to our spiritual menu more often.

Cindy Lewis Dake has found fasting to be calming during times of trial, enabling her to eliminate the distractions of mealtimes in favor of resting in God’s presence. She was editor of Missions Mosaic when it launched in 1995 and now writes from Arlington, Texas.

Disclaimer: The information shared on this page is not meant to give instruction on how to fast. We encourage you to consult with your health-care provider prior to committing to any dietary fast of any duration.