Hempstead SDA Church


Guide to Prayer and Fasting

In over fifty references to fasting in the Old and New Testaments, there is no specific command to fast, with the exception of the Day of Atonement for the Jews. In the New Testament it was assumed that fasting would be a part of the normal devotional life of the believer.

Mathew 6:16 When you fast do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. Notice that Jesus assumed that His followers would fast.

Mathew 9:15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” Again, Jesus assumed that His followers would fast. 

If these verses indicate that fasting should be a normal discipline in the church (and the numerous examples of fasting support the idea), then what does it mean to fast? What is the purpose of fasting, and how do we go about fasting? 

Fasting: Voluntarily going without food and sometimes water, generally for religious purposes.

Four Types of Fasting Referred to in the Bible Are:
  1. Normal Fasting—going without food for up to 40 days (Ex.34:28; Ezra 8:21, 23; Dan.6:18; Luke 2:37; Mark 2:18; Matt. 4:2; Acts 13:2–3; 14–23 and others).
  2. Partial Fasting—abstaining from certain foods (Daniel 10:3).
  3. Absolute Fasting—going without food or water no more than 3 days (Esther 4:16; this is very rare in the Bible)
  4. Voluntary Group Fasting—called for a specific reason for a specific group of people (1 Samuel 7:6; 2 Chronicles 20:3; Jonah 3:5; and others).

Purpose of Fasting:

  1. Fasting as a means of worship, which must be God-centered, God-intended, and God-ordained.
  2. Fasting as an expression of grief, distress, or repentance.
  3. Fasting as preparation for God’s guidance and renewal (Daniel 9; Ex. 24).
  4. Fasting to reveal the things that control us and hinder our intimacy with God.
  5. Fasting to remind us that we are sustained “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
  6. Fasting to help keep our balance in life.

Practice of Fasting:

  1. Occasional Fasting—eat a light meal (fruit, vegetables, yogurt, etc). Skip 2–3 meals, and drink a lot of water. Break the fast with fruit juices followed by a light meal. Avoid oils, dressings, and starch for a couple of meals.
  2. Regular Discipline of Fasting—begin slowly with a partial 24-hour (2 meal) fast once a week for several weeks. During this fasting time, drink fruit juices. After succeeding with this for several weeks, move to a 36 hour (3 meal) fast. Break these fasts with a light meal of fruit and vegetables.
  3. Optional Fasting—if skipping meals is not possible, try fasting certain types of food (sweets, soft drinks, etc.) or leisure activities (TV, sports, etc.).

Points to Remember While Fasting:

  1. Monitor your inner attitudes and maintain a worshipful attitude.
  2. Be careful not to call attention to what you are doing.
  3. Devote this fasting time to devotional activities.
  4. Seek the Lord regarding extended fasting.*
  5. Remember that the major work of scriptural fasting is in the realm of the spirit.

*If you are diabetic, diagnosed with hypoglycemia or other serious medical conditions, please seek advice from your physician prior to fasting from food.