The discipline of fasting
Arguably, the most misunderstood Christian discipline is fasting. While most extol the virtues of fasting, it would appear that many Christians never experience the enormous benefits of fasting. Perhaps the major objection for many Christians is that they believe fasting solely means you have to go forty days without eating. To be sure, there are those who have fasted for forty days and experienced tremendous benefits by doing so. Obviously, fasting for forty days is an involved undertaking, and many are understandably intimidated by the very thought of fasting for forty days! The forty day eating fast is something that virtually every Christian should participate in at least once in a lifetime, and this author highly recommends trying it.The good news, however, is that the Bible proscribes different types of fasts aside and apart from the infamous forty day fast. In his book “God’s chosen fast”, Arthur Wallis gives us an excellent overview of fasting, and presents other types of fasts found in the Bible. We can discuss each type in turn.
The Absolute fast
The first type of fast is perhaps the most demanding: the Absolute Fast. The Absolute fast requires that you drink no liquids and consume no food for a given period of time. This very grueling fast is documented in the Bible three times. Moses did it as well as Elijah (each time for 40 days…40 days!). Both of these fasts were done under the direct supervision of the Lord Himself. Acts 9: (8-9) tells us that Paul took on the absolute fast for 3 days when he was led into Damascus. For obvious reasons, the Absolute fast for anything over 3 days is seen to be very dangerous, and should not be attempted. Since there is no record in the New Testament of an Absolute fast of over 3 days, it seems logical that in our modern day God would not require anyone to submit to an Absolute fast for over 3 days. Obviously, there may be those rare individuals who might feel that they are called to submit to absolute fasts for more than 3 days. Yet God provides us with alternatives that He certainly deems acceptable, holy and sanctified. In any case, this author finds no justifiable reason for attempting an absolute fast for more than 3 days.
The Normal fast
The second type of fast is the Normal Fast. This fast consists of water or liquids only for a specified number of days. Jesus went on this fast when he went into the desert to pray and be tempted (Matt 4: 1-11). According to the Matthew, Jesus drank only water on his fast. This is the fast that most people think of when they think of fasting. There is certainly no requirement that one has to go 40 days under this regimen, or that you must drink only water. To be sure, some choose to vary the liquids they ingest, or they may choose the Normal fast for any number of days up to and including 40.
The Partial fast
The third type of fast is the Partial Fast. The partial fast means to abstain from certain types of food. Daniel observed this kind of fast when he and his associates only ate vegetables for 3 weeks. This type of fast has many advocates, and some have even gone so far as to make it a lifestyle. You can read more about various “Daniel fasts” on the internet. It’s interesting to note that many interpret the Daniel fast quite differently and participate in this fast in many different ways.
The Regular fast
The Regular fast means to abstain in a consistent way on a regular basis. Advocates of this type of fast will often not consume any food one day per week. Or, they may choose to skip lunch or breakfast entirely seven days a week. There is one group on the internet that recommends husband perform a Regular fast for their wives (or husbands for wives) on the first Wednesday of each month.
Regardless of what type of fast you choose, it is important to remember that Jesus commanded us to fast in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus didn’t say “If you choose to fast”, He said “When you fast”.
Next time: Why should we fast and under what circumstances?
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Mr. Marica contributes incisive and contemporary Christian commentary for Examiner.com on a regular basis. He holds an MA from Liberty University, and he is the Director of Godly Training Ministries. You can contact Mr. Marica at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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