Bible Answers: Explaining the rules of fasting

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“I have heard that Christians are supposed to fast. Is that still a valid practice for today? — Bret

The origins of fasting as a religious discipline are obscure. There is furthermore no clue in Scripture regarding where this practice arose. Wherever it does appear, it connotes abstinence of food for several reasons, including mourning (Ps. 69:10) repentance (Joel 2:12), and making urgent requests to God (II Sam. 12:16). It can be spontaneous or connected with important religious days; it can be personal or public (Esth. 4:3; Ezra 10:6; Neh. 1:4).
Fasting on appointed days was apparently common in Jesus’ time. There are at least a couple of specific illustrations of fasting in the New Testament. The account of Jesus’ temptations indicates that his experience was an extended fast (Mt. 4:2). The Jerusalem church was fasting and praying when God spoke to them (Acts 13:2-3).
Importantly, we note that neither Jesus nor the early church laid down rules for fasting.
Some cautionary words do appear: fasting is not to be done for show. It must be God-directed devotion because God values the intent of the heart more than outward action (Mt. 6:16-18). Without devotion, the act is meaningless.
Though we do not find rules regarding the nature or frequency of fasting, we know that in the church following biblical times, fasting came to be widely practiced among Christians.
Today, in some Christian circles, fasting is promoted as a spiritual discipline. It is portrayed as a means of self-denial for the purpose of spiritual focus, “setting aside physical food in order to partake of spiritual food.” There is certainly no impediment to this practice and indeed, the intent is above reproach.
So, it is your choice as to whether or not you fast. You are free to do so as a matter of personal devotion. You are not, however, required to do so by any biblical mandate.