What is the correct
way to fast?
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Question: What is the correct way to fast? How long should it last?
Answer: In order to properly fast a person needs to humble themselves before God. The word for fast in the Hebrew is tsûm, Strong's Concordance #H6684, and is defined as covering the mouth - meaning consuming NO food or drink:
"Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came there, he ate no bread and drank no water, for he mourned because of the guilt of those from the captivity. " (Ezra 10:6, NKJV throughout)
The most common length of time to fast is one complete day or twenty-four hours:
"And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. . . . '" (Leviticus 23:26-27, NKJV)
People sometimes fast in order to be humble before asking God or another human for something. Queen Esther was a young Jewess married to the King of Persia. She called for a fast to beseech God and Persia's king to save the Jews in captivity from complete extermination. She also defines for us what is considered a complete Biblical day (the periods which we call night and day. A Biblical day begins at sunset):
"And Mordecai (Esther's uncle) told them to answer Esther: "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
"Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!" " (Esther 4:13-16)
Proper fasting can also take place in order to draw closer to God and learn to turn to Him for all of our needs. This is what Jesus was talking about when he answered a "fast" question from some of John the Baptist's disciples:
"Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, 'Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?' And Jesus said to them, 'Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.' " (Matthew 9:14-15)
God wants people to fast from time to time so that they will humbly desire, through the hunger, for him to be a greater part of their life. If we turn to Him in such a way He will respond with spiritual and physical blessings:
"'Now, therefore,' says the Lord, 'Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. So rend your heart, and not your garments, return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and He relents from doing harm. Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him - a grain offering and a drink offering for the Lord your God?'" (Joel 2:12-14)
It is recommended that you consult with your doctor, especially if you have a disease such as diabetes, before you fast for any length of time.
Written by: Wayne Stenhouse