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Passage Insight: Purpose of Fasting

Watch a short, animated video that explains the purpose of fasting and some examples of fasting in the Bible.

Insights Jun 24, 2024


Does Jesus expect you to fast from eating food?

Well, Jesus said to his disciples “when you fast,” and then he gave instructions about fasting.1 He didn’t say “if you fast.” And that’s because, in the time of Jesus, fasting was a normal, even a weekly, ritual for many people.

So what is fasting exactly?

Fasting is a way to pray with your whole body. It’s temporarily restraining your physical appetites in order to connect with God in a posture of surrender, remembering that only God can satisfy your deepest longings.

So when should you fast?

Well, fasting in the Bible is done when you want to recognize a period of time as sacred.

For example, every year on the Day of Atonement, Israelites would fast to humble themselves before God and to celebrate God’s forgiveness of their moral failures.2

In 1 Samuel chapter 7, the Israelites fast to apologize to God and to realign their hearts with God’s desires.3

In 2 Samuel chapter 1, the Israelites fast to grieve the death of King Saul and his son Jonathan.4

And in Acts chapter 13, the church in Antioch fasts when Paul and Barnabas return from their travels. During their fast, they hear from God’s Spirit, who directs them to send Paul and Barnabas off on another journey.5

So you don’t have to fast to connect with God or to hear from God. Fasting is a way of fully surrendering your body over to God, trusting that God will come and meet you in your place of need.

1. Matthew 6:16
2. Leviticus 23:26-32
3. 1 Samuel 7:3-6
4. 2 Samuel 1:11-12
5. Acts 13:1-3
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