Biblical Fasting – It’s Not About Physical Food


Whenever we hear the word “fasting,” we think of abstinence from physical food.  Biblically speaking, when we hear about Jesus fasting for 40 days and 40 nights, we equate that with his going 40 days and nights without having anything to physically eat.  This is not at all what the scriptures mean by fasting.

Let’s take a look at Matthew 9:14, and see one of the premier passages in the Bible as it relates to fasting.  Fasting is actually defined in this verse:

“Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?  And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast” (Matt. 9:14-15) (Emphasis mine).

People Fasting (Mourning)

Think about Jesus’ question here.  Why wouldn’t the disciples be able to turn down a plate of food while Jesus was with them?  Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

No, the meaning of fasting, as defined in this verse, is mourning, or crying out.  Now let’s look at this concept a little more closely and see if we can understand what the scriptures are really saying here.

In the Beatitudes, Christ makes the statement “blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).  And why do we mourn?  We mourn because Christ leaves the temple (Matt. 24:3).  Remember that YOU are the temple of God.  Matthew 24 gives a whole discourse on what happens when Jesus leaves the temple.  Incredibly, it is this discourse that describes the “gospel of the Kingdom of God” (Matt. 24:14), contrary to the popular religious teachings that refer to the gospel as a feel-good story.  It is through much tribulation that you will enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).  When Christ leaves the temple, the whole building (YOU are that building) comes crashing down, and you begin to experience what the scriptures describe as the four deadly plagues (wars, famine, pestilence, wild beasts).  All of this is spiritual and has great meaning.

You are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you (1 Cor. 3:16).  Christ comes in your flesh (1 John 4:2-4; Col. 1:27; Gal. 4:19).  Because we kill the inner Christ on our crosses, rather than bring him TO our crosses, the death of Christ in us (the day when “the bridegroom is taken away”) precipitates massive suffering and anguish.

Rather than seek comfort from others during our period of suffering, we are counseled to mourn.

Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness (Jas. 4:9).

This mourning is called “fasting.”  The slaying of the Christ within you through unbelief in his incredible power results in your desolation (lack of power, or lack of Christ – you are waste, barren, empty).  This is actually an important stage in your spiritual development because it is in weakness that you are made strong.  It is in mourning that you are comforted.  There is incredible power in your tears, when you direct them toward the Christ in you.

And this is what it means when Jesus says that the children of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you (John 16:7).

What Does Not Eating or Drinking Mean

One of the major reasons we equate fasting with food is the reference to “not eating or drinking anything” while fasting.  In the scriptures, eating and drinking are not references to the imbibing of physical food, but to the taking in of spiritual food.

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.  Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:53-54).

In your mourning (fasting), when things get really tough for you, eat and drink only of the Christ, the power and wisdom of God within you (1 Cor. 1:24).  Don’t eat and drink anything else.

For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him (John 6:55-56).

Of course this is spiritual, not literal (John 6:63).  The power of God is within you, NOT outside of you.

This is contrary to what our religious culture teaches us, but it is, in fact, what the Bible and all of the scriptures of the world teach.

People will tell you that you have to do thus and so, and every person’s thus-and-so differs, depending on who you talk to.  If any man has the truth, how would you know who that is?  What method of discernment would you use?  Are Christians correct?  Muslims?  Jews?  Hindus?  How would you know?

There are literally thousands (perhaps millions) of religions on planet earth today, all believing their own watch to be correct.  Seemingly everyone “knows” that they are right and everyone else is wrong.  Christians condemn Muslims.  Jews condemn Christians, Muslims condemn Jews, ad nauseum.  It is common to condemn those that don’t believe like we do.

Could ALL of us be wrong?

Thus saith the LORD; Cursed [be] the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD (Jer. 17:5).

Trusting in human beings results in spiritual death.  The scriptures tell us that straight is the gate, and narrow is the way that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matt. 7:14).  Yet it is the many that claim to know and teach the way to salvation.  “For many will come in my name, claiming ‘I am Christ’ (or ‘I am your Messiah’ – John 1:41), and shall deceive many.”

One cannot teach what one does not know.

Therefore, seeking others to teach you about life results in spiritual death.  This is the Biblical definition of adultery, and is what the scripture means by “the abomination that causes desolation.”

man fasting (mourning)

The Importance of Fasting

This is why fasting is so important, and why understanding just what it means can mean the difference between life and death, spiritually speaking.

When you fast (mourn), eat and drink nothing.  You are going within and “praying toward this place” (the temple, which is YOU) (2 Chr. 6:26).  But when you fast, don’t do it to be seen by others.  This is what the Bible means by “lust.”  You are merely trying to impress man with what you are doing.  This is false mourning, and the reward for such is the attention of others – you have received your reward.  No, when you fast, don’t go around with a long face trying to show everyone you are fasting.  You don’t want to make a show of it.  Just pray within yourself, and you will be rewarded.  It won’t happen immediately, as faith is always tested.  You must prove yourself faithful by staying with it until you receive an answer.  No one knows the day or the hour when your prayers will be answered.

Here’s where you can understand the patience of Job (Jas. 5:11).  In your patience you possess your soul (Luke 21:19).

This is where the concept of “waiting on the Lord” comes in.  No matter how difficult your fiery trial, fasting and “waiting on the Lord” are the great keys to deliverance.

No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame … (Ps. 25:3 NIV).

Don’t worry about what anyone thinks about your faith.  When you are suffering, pray.  Fast (mourn) and don’t eat or drink anything while fasting.  It will feel strange, but the power of the Christ within you will guide and direct you.  You will often feel alone and powerless.

Just be patient.  You will be led from within.

You will receive answers.  Even if it feels like it will never happen, wait for it.  Be patient.  Remember the story of Job.  Job knew that he was being tested, which is why he could say “[b]ut he knoweth the way that I take: [when] he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Fast and pray.  There is great power in fasting and praying.