Purposes of Fasting
By Pastor Bill Murchison
The definition of fasting is to abstain from eating to humbly seek the Lord in prayer with a specific purpose in mind. There are over a dozen different specific purposes in Scripture for fasting. These include: repentance, mourning, understanding of Scripture, revelation, direction, selection and confirmation of leaders, healing, the loosening of bonds of wickedness, the undoing and breaking of yokes, the freeing of the oppressed free, to lift up the needs of the poor, for protection, or simply to minister to the Lord.
- To make our voices heard on high. David fasted and entreated the Lord to be gracious and heal his son. (2 Sam 12:15-23) In Isaiah 58:4, we are taught that one of the purposes of fasting is to make our voice heard on high. That was the purpose that David had in mind.
- To mourn and show deep sorrow. The inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead fasted to mourn and show great sorrow. (1 Sam 31:8-13) This principle is also stated in Joel 1:14, and Joel 2:12-13. Joel tells the people to “consecrate a fast..” and to “return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping, and mourning.” Sometimes the mourning and great sorrow is over a death. Sometimes it is mourning and showing great sorrow over something shameful or sinful that has happened.
- To repent of sin. When Jonah delivered the prophetic word to Nineveh, the people believed in God and called a fast. They put on sackcloths. Even the king laid aside his robe and covered himself with a sackcloth. Furthermore, he issued a proclamation, saying, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. Who knows, God may turn and relent, and withdraw His burning anger so that we shall not perish? (Jonah 3:7-9) “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.” (Jonah 3:10) Their voices were heard; they mourned and showed deep sorrow; and they repented of their wicked ways. They accomplished the purposes of their fast.
Father, help us understand the different purposes so that we can fast for the right purposes and be effective in our fasting. Amen.