What Is Fasting?

In the Old Testament, fasting is about humbling oneself/repetance (David humbling himself with fasting in Psalm 35:13; the Day of Atonement associated with fasting Acts 27:9). In the New Testament, fasting is a way to grow closer to God. In Matthew 4:1-2, Jesus went to the wilderness to fast for forty days in preparation for the beginning of His ministry. John the Baptist taught his disciples to fast, and Jesus expected that His disciples would fast after His death (Mark 2:18-20).

It is the voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. It's important to note that fasts have a spiritual purpose-- it is not just mising lunch because you are too busy. A fast can last anywhere from one meal to forty days without food.

It is not a diet, a way to earn forgiveness, self-punishment, a way to twist God's arm, a reason to get judgy or legalistic, a way to impress others.

How Do We Fast?

  • Food only fasts
  • Food and water fasts (although you can only do this for a short time)
  • Limited fasts (only juice or other liquids)
  • Partial fasts (certain types of food or drink for a period of time)
  • Social media fasts
  • Digital fasts (no screens of any kind)
  • Talking fasts
  • Gaming/computer fasts
  • Married couples fast from sexual intimacy

You can fast from anything that is habitual in your life. It is good to fast from things that you obsess about.

Why Do We Fast?

Connection with Jesus-- there is no fasting without praying. Every time you remember that you are fasting from something, it is a prompt to pray.

Fasting can increase our hunger for God. "...for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." Philippians 2:13

Fasting can train our passions. It can be like the process of refining gold, heating and bringing impurities to the surface to skim off.

"...train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." 1 Timothy 4:78

The purpose of this training is to bring us in line with God's purposes, making God's priorities our own priorities as we pray.

Fasting can be earnest prayer. We can fast when we are desperate for change. There may even be situations that can only be changed through prayer and fasting (Mark 9:17-29).

Fasting can be in pursuit social justice, fasting and praying for social change.

Fasting can be a humbling experience. It's like kneeling and bowing, an act of humility (1 Kings 21:27-29).

Fasting can be useful in our repentance. We do not need to fast to show true repentance-- the Bible says your words and subsequent actions of turning away from your sin are enough-- but sometimes it helps to have an extended period of reflection on our sin through fasting to help us prepare and really commit to a life of righteousness.


  • Start small- one day a week
  • Stretch- fast from something you will miss
  • Be smart- if you're sick or have medical issues, fast from something other than food. 
  • Make a plan- maybe don't fast in the middle of exams or a presentation
  • Do it together- find people to start and break your fast with
  • Start any time
  • Some people don't fast on Sundays
  • Don't call attention to your fasting (but communication with key people is okay)
  • Pray, worship, read your Bible
  • If you don't know how to pray, use a resource (e.g., northumbriacommunity.org, Lectio app)
  • Keep a journal- write and reflect, ask God to speak to you
Challenge/Questions to Consider
  1. What is your fasting and prayer focus?
  2. Find someone to partner with
  3. Come to at least one prayer and fasting night

Join us for worship and prayer in the evenings from February 21st-27th (and during the morning service on Sunday). More details here!

Missed this Sunday's sermon? Watch it here!