As an introduction to Biblical fasting I want to share with you nine different fast that are found in the Bible. The descriptions of the fasts are taken from Elmer Towns’ book, Fasting for Spiritual Break Through. I share this with you in the hopes to give you clearer direction regarding how God may be leading you to fast.
To better illustrate and reveal the significance of these nine reasons for fasting, I have chosen nine biblical characters whose lives personified the literal or figurative theme of each of the nine aspects highlighted in Isaiah 58:6-8. Each fast has a different name, accomplishes a different purpose and follows a different prescription.
I do not want to suggest that the nine fasts… are the only kinds of fasts available to the believer, or that they are totally separate from each other. Nor do I want to suggest that there is only one type of fast for a particular problem. These suggested fasts are models to use and adjust to your own particular needs and desires as you seek to grow closer to God. What follows is a brief overview of the nine fasts….
The Disciple’s Fast
Purpose: “Free those who are wrongly imprisoned” (Isaiah 58:6, NLT); freeing ourselves and others from addictions to sin.
Key Verse: “But this kind of demon won’t leave except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21, NLT).
Background: Jesus cast out a demon from a boy whom the disciples had failed to help. Apparently they had not taken seriously enough the way Satan had his claws set in the youth. The implication is that Jesus’ disciples could have performed this exorcism had they been willing to undergo the discipline of fasting. Modern disciples also often make light of sins that “imprison” people that could be removed if we were serious enough to take part in such self-denying practice as fasting.
The Ezra Fast
Purpose: To “lighten the burden” (Isaiah 58:6, NLT); To solve problems, inviting the Holy Spirit’s aid in lifting loads and overcoming barriers that keep ourselves and our loved ones from walking joyfully with the Lord.
Key Verse: “So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and He heard our prayer” (Ezra 8:23, NLT).
Background: Ezra the priest was charged with restoring the Law of Moses among the Jews as they rebuilt the city of Jerusalem by permission of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, where God’s people had been held captive. Despite this permission, Israel’s enemies opposed them. Burdened with embarrassment about having to ask the Persian king for an army to protect them, Ezra fasted and prayed for an answer.
The Samuel Fast
Purpose: To “let the oppressed go free” (Isaiah 58:6, NLT); For revival and evangelism, to identify with people everywhere enslaved literally or by sin and to pray to be used of God to bring people out of the kingdom of darkness and into God’s marvelous light.
Key Verse: “When they gathered at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out in the Lord’s presence. They fasted that day, and there they confessed, ‘We have sinned against the Lord’” (1 Samuel 7:6, HCSB).
Background: Samuel led God’s people in a fast to celebrate the return of the Ark of the Covenant from its captivity by the Philistines, and to pray that Israel might be delivered from the sin that allowed the Ark to be captured in the first place.
The Elijah Fast
Purpose: To “remove the chains that bind people” (Isaiah 58:6, NLT); Conquering the mental and emotional problems that would control our lives, and returning the control to the Lord.
Key Verse: “Then he went on alone into the wilderness…. So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights…” (1 Kings 19:4, 8, NLT).
Background: Although Scripture does not call this a formal “fast,” Elijah deliberately went without food when he fled from Queen Jezebel’s threat to kill him. After this self-imposed deprivation, God sent an angel to minister to Elijah in the wilderness.
The Widow’s Fast
Purpose: To “share your food with the hungry” and to care for the poor (Isaiah 58:7, NLT); to meet the humanitarian needs of others.
Key Verse: “There was always enough flour and olive oil left in the containers, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah” (1 Kings 17:16, NLT).
Background: God sent the prophet Elijah to a poor, starving widow – ironically, so the widow cold provide food for Elijah. Just as Elijah’s presence resulted in food for the widow of Zarephath, so presenting ourselves before God in prayer and fasting can relieve hunger today.
The Paul Fast
Purpose: So that God’s “salvation will come like the dawn” (Isaiah 58:8, NLT), bringing clearer perspective and insight as we make crucial decisions.
Key Verse: “He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink” (Acts 9:9, NLT).
Background: Saul of Tarsus, who became known as Paul after his conversion to Christ, was struck blind by the Lord in the act of persecuting Christians. He not only was without literal sight, but he also had no clue about what direction his life was to take. After going without food and praying for three days, Paul was visited by the Christian Ananias, and both his eyesight and his vision of the future were restored.
The Daniel Fast
Purpose: So that “your wounds will quickly heal” (Isaiah 58:8, NLT); to gain a healthier life or for healing.
Key Verse: “But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king” (Daniel 1:8, NLT).
Background: Daniel and his three fellow Hebrew captives demonstrated in Babylonian captivity that keeping themselves from pagan foods God had guided them not to eat made them more healthful than others in the king’s court.
The John the Baptist Fast
Purpose: So that “your godliness will lead you forward” (Isaiah 58:8, NLT); that our testimonies and influence for Jesus will be enhanced before others.
Key Verse: “He will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks” (Luke 1:15, NLT).
Background: Because John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus, he took the “Nazirite” vow that required him to “fast” from or avoid wine and strong drink. This was part of John’s purposefully adopted lifestyle that designated him as one set apart for a special mission.
The Esther Fast
Purpose: So that “the glory of the Lord will protect” you from the evil one (Isaiah 58:8, NLT).
Key Verse: “Fast for me…. My maids and I will do the same…. I will go in to see the king…. He welcomed her and held out the gold scepter to her” (Esther 4:16; 5:2, NLT).
Background: Queen Esther, a Jewess in a pagan court, risked her life to save her people from threatened destruction by Ahasuerus (Xerxes), king of Persia. Prior to appearing before the king to petition him to save the Jews, Esther, her attendants and her cousin Mordicai all fasted to appeal to God for His protection.