Fasting, for the most part, is a spiritual act that calls for the sacrifice of a physical act. Usually, for a period of time, it's the denial of food. I say it's mostly for spiritual reasons because sometimes people fast for only health concerns.
Focusing on the spiritual, I don't fast on a regular basis. But when I do, it's usually for one of two reasons that I've gleaned from scripture.
One of those reasons comes from an understanding found in Mark 2: 18. The Pharisees and John the Baptist's disciples often fasted. The most rigid among them often fasted two days a week. They approached Jesus and asked Him how come His disciples didn't fast at all.
Jesus answered, "While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day."
They understood Jesus' figurative example. John the Baptist had spoken earlier to them about Jesus in the same way. He had said, "the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full." John 3: 29.
In those two passages, it seems that Christian fasting has to do with mourning or sadness due to the absence of Jesus' presence. As long as I feel and/or sense His presence in me, I find myself busily carrying out His work, attending to His will. That is a joyous time. Therefore, there isn't a need to fast.
But in those rare times when I find myself dry, in a valley, and I'm feeling distant from my Lord even though I know he hasn't forsaken me I will fast to draw closer to Him.
The other reason that I find myself fasting has to do with Isaiah 58: 6. God says, "Is this not the fast which I choose (as opposed to the Pharisee's fasting of self-exaltation), to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke?"
It may be a bad habit, an addiction, or losing faith. Perhaps depression has set in. Maybe demonic possession has taken place. Spiritual apathy might even be the case. These, including unjust physical imprisonment, are but a few examples of being in bondage, yoked or oppressed. In any of these kinds of matters, fasting to secure release for others, or even for ourselves, would be appropriate.
And this goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway. Prayer should precede and accompany fasting.
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