A woman really did surprise me in a comment, today, saying: “Fasting is not taught in the New Testament.” So I thought I’d clear the air to show what the New Testament does teach about fasting.
In the new covenant, fasting isn’t specifically required, but holiness is, and fasting helps us calm our flesh so we can rest in God and find Him during prayer — and be real-going-to-heaven, full-of-fruit Christians. We must abide in Christ to be free.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
5 ..the mind of the Spirit is life and peace….
12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God.
There is much historical evidence that early Christians did fast two days a week. For example in the Didache (70-100 AD) we see:
But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites [probably those living under the old covenant law – editor], for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week. Rather, fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday).
And it’s interesting that this two day period just happens to turn out to be extremely healthy physically:
[ BBC video ] “Eat, FAST and Live Longer” with Mike Mosely — When IGF-1 levels drop, the body slows production of new cells and instead, repairs existing cells. DNA damage gets fixed and age-related diseases don’t happen!
Now is the time to fast:
Lu 5:33-35 [Also Mt.9:14-15 & Mk. 2:18-20]
Then they said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?” And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.”
Fasting with prayer builds faith and conquers unbelief (Jesus had the Holy Spirit in him, the way Christians do today, but the disciples didn’t, until Pentecost):
Mt. 17:18-21 [Also Mk. 9:17-29]
Jesus rebuked him, the demon went out of him, and the boy was cured from that hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately, and said, “Why weren’t we able to cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your unbelief. For most certainly I tell you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind doesn’t go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Fasting with prayer helps us draw near to God:
So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
The Holy Spirit gave important guidance while they were praying and fasting — BIG decisions need BIG guidance:
As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent [them] away.
So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Couples agreeing to fast and pray at times:
Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
Don’t make a big deal out of it:
“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who [is] in the secret [place]; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
An 84-year-old widow’s example, even before the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost:
…and this woman [was] a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served [God] with fastings and prayers night and day.
We also see in the Didache (70-100 AD), this interesting passage that here includes fasting for those who persecute us:
There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy. Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts.
Bob Mumford’s classic guidance book is still available: “Take Another Look At Guidance” (I don’t remember if Bob talks about fasting in this book, but one of his points is that ~”big decisions need big guidance.” Fasting helps us get clear guidance — and so does praying in tongues, by the way — which helps excise demons)