<<denying our body of food>>
It is choosing to go without food (or some other thing) that our physical body craves for a period in order to seek God for a specific reason or renew our spirituality. Biblical reasons for fasting are: it adds effectiveness to our prayer lives – prayer coupled with fasting (Ezra 8:21-23); to discover God’s guidance in major decisions (Act 13:2,3, 14:23); as an expression of deep repentance (Joel 2:12); when seeking divine intervention (Est 4:16); to deepen a person’s devotion to God (Dan 9:3). When combined with reading the Bible it builds our devotion to and faith in God resulting in discovering Him in a greater way, which often leads to divine breakthroughs (Mt 17:21). The focus of fasting is not about what we give up, rather it is about God and spiritual issues.
It is getting serious with God about a situation
like all acts of self-sacrifice if done sincerely and voluntary with the right motive it is acceptable to God (Mt 6:16-18).
A regular or normal fast is to abstain from solid and liquid food, yet drinking plenty of liquid, especially water, to cleanse the body of toxins created as the body utilises its stored reserves, often resulting in a light headed or general weak feeling particularly if employed in manual work. An absolute or dry fast is not even consuming liquids for a period, however this will cause major health issues (Act 9:9).
Diabetics can relinquish some other ‘necessary’ enjoyment in life, or undertake a limited (Daniel) fast which is abstaining from specific foods (Dan 10:2,3). A sexual fast is abstaining from sexual relations with your spouse for a time (Ex 19:15; 1 Cor 7:5).
Regular times of fasting are recorded in Scripture as special days are observed for a specific duration and reason (Lev 16:29,31; Zech 8:19). Both individual and national fasting was undertaken (2 Sam 12:16-21; 2 Chr 20:3,4). God can and does provide guidance without fasting, however it shows to Him we consider the spiritual is more important than the natural, with the body in submission to the spirit, by denying ourselves.
Jesus fasted and it was common in His day (Mt 4:2; Lk 2:37, 18:12). To overlook fasting and ignore its spiritual significance is to deprive ourselves of an exercise that was taught and practiced by the Lord Jesus, His disciples, and believers through two thousand years! Because we live so much in the natural dimension, this spiritual discipline of offering our body to God as a living sacrifice in worship is often overlooked (Rom 12:1). Some church traditions encourage forms of fasting during the period of Lent – in preparation for observing Easter.
Fasting is also practiced by many non-Christians as a natural way of cleansing the body, through a time of rest and restoration for the digestive system.
See also: abstinence, self-discipline, self-sacrifice, spiritual disciplines.