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"Is fasting still to be a part of today's walk with God and if so, is it a personal fast, a church fast, a community fast, etc.?

How long does one fast for? I've started studying it out in the OT and so far only 24 hours is what I've found.

Lastly, does fasting change God's heart on an issue, like finding work or changing a character issue?"

This is a question that was posed by one of our readers. It is a great question and one that we decided should be addressed for all our readers.

The Bible definition of fasting comes from Leviticus 23:26-32:

"The LORD said to Moses, 'The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day. You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. It is a sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.'"

This was known as the fast referred to in Acts 27:9.

How Long Does a Fast Last?
We see that fasting can take place from morning until evening on the same day (Judges 20:26, 2 Samuel 1:12), for a day (1 Samuel 7:6, 1 Kings 21:9,12), for a week (1 Samuel 31:13), or as long as you want. Two examples of this:

  1. Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights after he was baptized (Matthew 4:2: After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry (I can imagine)).
  2. The widow Anna that approached Mary & Joseph to edify their son Jesus (Luke 2:37b: She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. It doesn't say if she fasted and prayed constantly – 24 hours a day/7 days a week – or on a consistent basis – following a schedule).

Why Fast?
Let’s look at some of the different reasons for fasting. Originally fasting, in the context of Leviticus, was merely an act of denying ourselves (Leviticus 23:26-32). Sometime later, it became more:

A) Fasting was used fairly often to move God’s heart. such as 1 Kings 21:27-29, Ezra 8:21-23, Esther 4:16 and Daniel 9:3. Fasting certainly has the ability to move God’s heart although He is still sovereign in answering our requests. One of my favourite examples of fasting to move God’s heart is found in 2 Samuel 12:16-23. I am sure one reason why this particular fast did not move God’s heart to change the outcome was because He needed David to feel the consequence of his sin with Bathsheba and her husband Uriah.

B) We can see, also, that disciples in the first century used fasting to make big decisions on whom to choose for the ministry such as in Acts 13:2-3 and Acts 14:23.

C) In Mark 9:29 Jesus himself called us to pray and fast for certain situations where we cannot muster enough faith.

We can see by these examples that the people of God not only fasted for different situations and for different lengths of time but that they also fasted from different things. Sometimes it was food and sometimes drink and I am sure at times, other things. They also fasted as a community, as a family and independently. It is a show of sacrifice to God. I have know people who have fasted from meat for a month or from everything but water for a week, or maybe from chocolate for six months. For some, these fasts may not be a sacrifice. For me, a day without food (or chocolate) can be very challenging. Some people will fast to move God’s heart to have a friend saved, some will fast to move God to change a character issue or situation in their own lives, some will fast just to understand Jesus a little better. The most important aspect in fasting is that it is an act of denying one’s self to appeal to and draw closer to God almighty.

Religious Fasting
It is most important that we avoid religious fasting - that is fasting just for the sake of fasting. There are many warnings in the Scriptures against religious fasting such as Isaiah 58:3-9.

God is very opposed to fasting without regard for Him and His people (Matthew 6:16). Jesus is calling us to not look somber when we fast, for this is only a demonstration to the world of how religious we are. Jesus calls us to look as though we are not fasting. To wash and be clean so that no one would know that we are fasting – except God (Luke 18:9-12). The Pharisee was not the one who was justified. He was trying to prove how righteous he was by fasting twice a week. God does not want religiousness, he wants our hearts.

Fasting is still a part of God’s plan for his people. We fast to draw close to Him, to move His heart and to demonstrate our faith in Him.

I will close with a scripture which demonstrates that God is not after religiousness but our hearts:

"With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:6-8)

You can also look up “fast” in Easton’s Bible dictionary for more scripture references and more of a definition.

Author's Disclaimer
The information detailed above is from my independent study of the scriptures. Although it is my best effort to present truthful and Biblically accurate responses, it is very important for you to have your own convictions as we each stand before God alone and will not be judged by what someone else taught us but by the convictions we have personally.