What is the Purpose of FASTING?
"Fasting" Means Going Without Food and Water
Notice the Scriptures that define what fasting consists of: Deut. 9:9, 18 says, "When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of the covenant which the Lord made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did EAT bread nor DRINK water ... And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither EAT bread, nor DRINK water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger." Esther 4:16 says, "Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and FAST ye for me, and neither EAT nor DRINK three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will FAST likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish." Also Acts 9:8-9 says, "And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did EAT nor DRINK."
Jesus Set Us An Example Of Fasting
Jesus FASTED before being tempted of the Devil (Mat. 4:2). Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) -- so if he lives his life in Christians today (Phil. 2:5; Rom. 8:9; Gal. 2:20), then we should also FAST. We should follow his example (I Pet. 2:21 and I John 2:6). Therefore, Jesus instructed His disciples: "WHEN (not if) you FAST, anoint your head and wash your face, that YOUR FASTING may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret WILL REWARD YOU" (Matthew 6:17-18, RSV). After his resurrection, Christ commanded his disciples to TEACH ALL THINGS he had commanded THEM to do (Matt. 28:19-20) and he taught them to FAST (Matt. 6:17). So we should teach the world to FAST.
Paul Told Us To Follow His Example Of Fasting
When Jesus Christ struck down the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, Paul spend the next three days FASTING (Acts 9:8-9). Paul told us to follow his example (I Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:16-17). Paul then CONTINUED to follow Christ's example by "FASTING often" (2 Cor. 11:27). The Gentile, Cornelius, FASTED quite often (Acts 10:1-2, 30-32) and was therefore selected by God to be the first Gentile to receive the gospel and the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:34, 44-45; 11:18).
Daniel and David Are "Our Examples ... Written For Our Admonition" (1 Cor. 10:11)
The prophet Daniel CHASTENED himself a great deal by fasting OFTEN (Dan. 9:3; 10:2-3). David said, "When I wept, and chastened my soul with FASTING, that was to my reproach" (Ps. 69:10). "Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Cor. 10:11). The New Testament also has many examples of fasting. The leaders of the early Church FASTED and PRAYED to learn God's will when certain men had to be selected for specific jobs (Acts 13:1-3). God's ministers FASTED and PRAYED when they ordained elders in the Church (Acts 14:23). Husbands and wives would interrupt the normal marriage relationship in order to devote themselves to FASTING and PRAYER (1 Cor. 7:4-5).
To "Humble" Yourself Means to "Fast"
How do we know that "HUMBLE" (or "AFFLICT") means to "FAST"? David says in Psalm 35:13, "But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I HUMBLED my soul with FASTING; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom." Notice that David's ENEMIES reproached him for fasting (35:11-12, 18). The word "HUMBLED" in Psalm 35:13 is translated from the Hebrew word "anah," which means "to AFFLICT, abase, beat down, chasten, and HUMBLE the SELF" (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible). The same Hebrew word is translated "AFFLICT" in Leviticus 23:27-32 which describes the Day of Atonement which we know means to FAST from other Scriptures such as Acts 27:9. Furthermore, in Ps. 69:10 David says, "When I wept, and CHASTENED my soul with FASTING, that was to my reproach." Then in Isaiah 58:3 we read, "Wherefore have we FASTED, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we AFFLICTED our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours." Also in Deuteronomy 8:3 we read, "And he HUMBLED thee, and suffered thee to HUNGER, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live."
God Gives Riches, Honor and Eternal Life to the HUMBLE (1 Pet. 5:6; Mat. 23:12) -- Those Who FAST
The PURPOSE of fasting is not to punish ourselves as a form of penance, but to HUMBLE ourselves and DRAW CLOSER TO GOD IN PRAYER! Therefore we should fast FREQUENTLY enough and LONG enough to keep ourselves CLOSE TO GOD — in the vital spiritual condition that will enable us to overcome and endure to the end. Everyone of us wants to live the vital, progressive and growing SPIRITUAL life of a dedicated Christian. Therefore Christ has placed fasting at our disposal as a vital tool and key to overcoming. We can fall short of the tremendous goal and reward God has prepared for us if we NEGLECT TO UTILIZE this vital tool!
We fast to DRAW CLOSER to God — to get our minds off the world and the flesh and ON GOD! Fasting — doing WITHOUT ANY food and water — also teaches a vital, priceless SPIRITUAL LESSON. Let's learn this vital lesson and understand HOW fasting draws us closer to God. God has great regard for those who are HUMBLE and "contrite" — REPENTANT — in attitude. Isaiah 66:2 says, "to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." Isaiah 57:15 says, "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. God gives GRACE — unmerited pardon — to the humble. 1 Pet. 5:5 says, "Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble." True humility is NOT penance, or a state of poverty. It is an ATTITUDE OF MIND! And the one who is humble and repentant in attitude — respectful of God's Word and has a teachable spirit — is the one God FAVORS and RICHLY BLESSES! God requires men to walk in HUMILITY before Him. As Micah 6:8 says, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Eph. 4:1-2 says, "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love."
All Christians are therefore commanded to be clothed with HUMILITY before their Creator. First Peter 5:6 says, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time." Colossians 3:12 says, "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering." God HEAR THE PRAYERS of the humble. Psalm 9:12 says, "When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble." Psalm 10:17 says, "Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear." God will always come to the AID of the humble. Job 22:29 says, "When men are cast down, then thou shalt say, There is lifting up; and he shall save the humble person." The HUMBLE and OBEDIENT receive riches, honor and eternal life from God. Proverbs 22:4 says, "By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life." But the attitude of humility must ALWAYS PRECEDE honor from God. Proverbs 15:33 says, "The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility."
"God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" (James 4:6). Therefore, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up" (James 4:7-10).
The vanity of our carnal nature causes us to become exalted and puffed up. David controlled his tendency to become arrogant by FASTING. "My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness" (Ps. 109:24). "It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes" (Ps.119:71). He understood that sincere humility before the Eternal God is acquired through FASTING. "But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I HUMBLED my soul with FASTING; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom" (Ps. 35:13). In the Bible "FAST" and "HUMBLE" often mean the same thing. Often it will be expressed "he HUMBLED himself before God." This means that he FASTED before God! So when you see the command to HUMBLE yourself, it usually means to FAST.
God will eventually EXALT the HUMBLE (I Pet. 5:6; Mat. 23:12). Jesus taught that no one will be accepted of God until he becomes humble (Luke 18:13-14). Notice in Luke 18:11 that this Pharisee fasted weekly with a WRONG ATTITUDE. He fasted with the intent of exalting himself in his self-righteousness. His fasting was a form of PENANCE, thinking other people would be IMPRESSED with his suffering, his "righteousness." And he thought God would be pleased if he made himself SUFFER, and would therefore grant him HIS WILL. The purpose of fasting is to HUMBLE ourselves — to help us see ourselves as we really are! And to see God as He is! True humbling is REPENTANCE, not penance. It leads to conversion — admitting one's human ways are all wrong and turning to God's ways, receiving the power of His Holy Spirit to completely overshadow one's own puny human strength. Fasting is a HUMBLING experience. It cuts us down and lets us know how small and weak and insufficient unto ourselves we really are. You learn REAL humility! You learn that you are merely a very physical human being. You learn that if you don't get that supply of physical food — you'll eventually die of starvation! You learn the same is true with your spiritual life — that you'll shrivel up and die SPIRITUALLY without a constant supply of the SPIRITUAL "food" of God's Word and the ENERGIZING POWER of His Holy Spirit!
Without fasting, you may MENTALLY admit that you are not much. But you don't really comprehend it — you DON'T FEEL IT! YOU don't SEE how really weak and insignificant you ARE, until you begin to go without food and drink for a period of time. THEN the lesson is driven home — right to the pit of your stomach! Not only do you learn how weak and worthless YOU are, when you fast — but you are made AWARE of the greatness of God. Being human, and as long as you feel strong and sufficient of yourself, you will by nature trust in yourself. God is not so IMPORTANT to you.
But when you fast, God becomes VERY important! You begin to feel in your innermost being how much you NEED AND DEPEND UPON GOD. Fasting brings you to grips with REALITY. You see — and FEEL — yourself as you REALLY ARE. You are brought face to face with your dependence IN EVERYTHING upon your Heavenly Father! You begin to see how greatly you must rely upon God, and receive of His spiritual strength. You realize you have no strength of your own, but that GOD is the source of ALL POWER, all might — the source of the MIRACLE-WORKING POWER OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT! And so the purpose of fasting is to HUMBLE YOURSELF before God by going without food and water for a period of time, during which you draw closer to God by spending a great DEAL of time IN PRAYER TO GOD and the STUDY OF HIS Word. You fast to CHANGE your attitude and DRAW CLOSE to God. It's the ATTITUDE God is interested in — He wants to see a HUMBLE and REPENTANT MIND! (Isa. 66:2.) Fasting makes you realize what Job did — that you are nothing but a heap of ashes! A mere chemical existence in the form of human flesh — that's what your life is. That's what God wants us to realize. Then, when we recognize how feeble we really are, and how great God really is, we can turn and trust in ALMIGHTY GOD for the SPIRITUAL power to overcome and grow in His character!
King Ahab Humbled Himself By Fasting
Because men have fasted and really sought God with all their hearts, MIRACULOUS CHANGES in their lives, in the courses of nations, and the world's history have taken place. God HEARD! GOD ANSWERED! Some of the most outstanding leaders known to mankind fasted — and records of these fasts and the results have been preserved for you in your Bible. Not as mere historical facts, but as LIVING EXAMPLES! These men of character went through experiences as EXAMPLES for Christians today . "Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (I Cor. 10:11)
The Bible shows that God also heard and granted favor even to the EXTREMELY WICKED when they humbled themselves before God with FASTING and sought Him in earnest, heartrending PRAYER!
Ahab, King of Israel was evil. "But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up" (1 Kings 21:25). Elijah the prophet warned him of the punishment God was going to bring upon his house (1 Ki. 21:17-24). When Ahab heard Elijah's prophetic words, he was terrified. "And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and FASTED, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly" (1 Ki. 21:27). Then after God saw Ahab's repentant actions, he said "Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house" (1 Ki. 21:29). Because Ahab sincerely HUMBLED himself before God, the punishment was POSTPONED until after his death!
King "Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel" (2 Chr. 33:9; 2 Kings 21:10-11). King Manasseh is recorded as having been one of the most wicked kings in Israel's history. He led Judah in idolatry for over thirty years! He MURDERED many innocent people (2 Ki. 21:16). Therefore God said he would "deliver them into the hand of their enemies" (21:14), "but they would not hearken" (2 Chr. 33:10). As punishment for their sins, God caused the nation to be taken into captivity by the cruel Assyrians (II Chron. 33:11). Everything now seemed lost — it looked hopeless for Manasseh and all Judah! In this terrible state of affairs, what did King Manasseh finally do? 12 "And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and HUMBLED himself greatly before the God of his fathers And PRAYED unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord he was God." (2 Chron. 33:12-13). Remember that in the Bible "humble" is often synonymous with "fast." So Manasseh "humbled himself" before God by FASTING! When the Bible says Manasseh humbled himself GREATLY, it means he spent a great deal of time fasting before the Eternal God. "And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the Lord, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city.16 And he repaired the altar of the Lord, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel" (2 Chr. 33:15-16). Manasseh COMPLETELY REVERSED his foul, haughty and disobedient attitude! He sought God by FASTING and PRAYER. He humbled himself before God very greatly and prayed for the deliverance of his nation and himself. God heard — God INTERVENED — and God Almighty DELIVERED him and his people, and restored Manasseh's Kingdom! It's never too late for even the extremely wicked to turn to God if they sincerely want to. But they must take positive, REPENTANT ACTION as Manasseh did!
God Delivered King Jehoshaphat Who Fasted
A huge heathen army menacingly approached Jerusalem to do battle (2 Chron. 20:1-2). Jehoshaphat didn't trust in his own military might. He set himself to seek God's help by proclaiming a FAST throughout the land of Judah (2 Chr. 20:3-4). This was coupled with fervent PRAYER (2 Chr. 20:5-12). In verses 8-9, Jehoshaphat reminded God of His promise to Solomon (2 Chr. 7:13-14). God replied through his prophet, "And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's. To morrow go ye down against them: behold, they come up by the cliff of Ziz; and ye shall find them at the end of the brook, before the wilderness of Jeruel. Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you" (2 Chr. 7:15-17). God heard the cry of the people because they came seeking Him with earnest FASTING and sincere PRAYER. Once again fasting accompanied with heartfelt prayer brought results! God heard and miraculously crushed several mighty armies by causing them to fall upon each other and DESTROY THEMSELVES. They "were dead bodies fallen to the earth, and none escaped" (2 Chr. 7:22-24). "And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much" (7:25). God also struck great fear into the surrounding nations for Judah's future safety (7:29-30). What a tremendous result of earnest fasting and sincere prayer! The chips were down — the odds were against them. All looked hopeless — but the entire nation turned to God for help and He blessed them beyond their wildest expectations!
A Doomed City Spared Through Fasting!
The prophet Jonah was commissioned by God to take a warning message of impending doom and destruction to the SINNING people of Nineveh (Jonah 1:1-2; 3:4). Nineveh was "three days' journey" (Jonah 3:3) around -- a huge, sprawling city. Jonah walked through this vast city, proclaiming the destruction God was to bring upon it because of its many sins. He warned of its impending doom. "So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a FAST, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and CRY mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not" (Jonah 3:5-10).
The king was absolutely TERRIFIED by Jonah's message of impending doom! He began fasting himself and commanded EVERYONE else to fast — INCLUDING ALL THE ANIMALS! Christ mentioned this marvelous example of repentance to the self-righteous Pharisees (Mat. 12:41). In the Great White Throne Judgment resurrection, will the example of these people condemn the vain and haughty Pharisees for their rejection of Christ's warning to repent?
Ezra Fasted and Prayed
Ezra was another man of God who knew the value of fasting. When the children of Judah were about to return from Babylon, he realized that many perils lay in their path. He was frightened lest enemies fall upon his defenceless group, slay them, and scatter them to the winds. Notice what he did. Ezra ordered the people to FAST and PRAY to God for protection (Ezra 8:21-22). "So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us" (8:23). "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Rom. 15:4).
Daniel Fasted and Prayed
Daniel desired SPECIAL UNDERSTANDING from God and so he FASTED (Daniel 9:3). Daniel also prayed to God (9:4-20). Daniel humbled himself before God by FASTING! He also confessed his sins and the sins of his people, and claimed God's mercies and forgivenesses. When his fervent PRAYER was ended, the archangel Gabriel came to give him the understanding he sought (9:21-23). Later, Daniel once again sought special understanding by FASTING and PRAYER? (Daniel 10: 2-3, 12). He was "greatly beloved" because of his sincerely repentant and obedient attitude toward God. From the first day he began "chastening" himself WITH FASTING, his prayers were HEARD! God sent the archangel Gabriel to reveal some of the most vital prophecies of the Bible!
How NOT to Fast
Mat. 6:16-18 says, "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may APPEAR unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in SECRET: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."
Do we fast to get the approval of men or God?
Fasting while disobeying God is futile.
Isa. 58:1-11 says, "Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we FASTED, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we AFFLICTED our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your FAST ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a FAST that I have chosen? a day for a man to AFFLICT his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to LOOSE the bands of WICKEDNESS, to UNDO the heavy BURDENS, and to LET the OPPRESSED GO FREE, and that ye BREAK every YOKE? Is it not to deal thy BREAD to the HUNGRY, and that thou BRING the POOR that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the NAKED, that thou COVER him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy LIGHT break forth as the MORNING, and thine HEALTH shall SPRING FORTH SPEEDILY: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the GLORY of the Lord shall be thy REWARD. Then shalt thou CALL, and the Lord shall ANSWER; thou shalt CRY, and he shall say, HERE I AM. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and SATISFY the AFFLICTED soul; then shall thy LIGHT rise in OBSCURITY, and thy DARKNESS be as the NOON DAY: And the Lord shall GUIDE thee continually, and SATISFY thy soul in drought, and make FAT thy bones: and thou shalt be like a WATERED GARDEN, and like a SPRING of water, whose waters FAIL NOT."
Instead of making a PRETENCE of seeking God, purge your life of all sin.
God WILL NOT HEAR the prayers of those who continue SINNING. Isa. 59:2 says, "But your INIQUITIES have separated between you and your God, and your SINS have hid his face from you, that he will NOT HEAR." Jeremiah 14:10-12 says, "Thus saith the Lord unto this people, Thus have they LOVED TO WANDER, they have not refrained their feet, therefore the Lord doth not accept them; he will now remember their iniquity, and visit their sins. Then said the Lord unto me, Pray not for this people for their good. When they FAST, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence."
Sin cuts them off from God. To quit sinning, often means a COMPLETE CHANGE in thoughts, attitudes, and habits. One must be willing to SURRENDER EVERYTHING TO God — bringing every thought into captivity to Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).
How Many Days Should We Fast?
Moses "did neither EAT BREAD, nor DRINK WATER" for FORTY DAYS (Ex.34:28; Deut.9:9,18). Elijah also "did EAT and DRINK, and went in the strength of that meat (food) FORTY DAYS and FORTY NIGHTS" (1 Ki.19:8). Christ also "fasted FORTY DAYS and FORTY NIGHTS" (Matt.4:2). The "king of Nineveh ... caused it to be proclaimed and published ... saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not FEED, nor DRINK water" (Jonah 3:5-7).
Daniel said, "I ATE no pleasant BREAD, neither came FLESH nor WINE in my mouth ... till THREE whole WEEKS were fulfilled" (Dan.10:3). David fasted for SEVEN DAYS (2 Sam.12:16-20). Esther told the Jews to "fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink THREE DAYS, NIGHT or DAY" (Esther 4:16). Paul also DIDN'T "EAT nor DRINK" THREE DAYS (Acts 9:9). Ezra "did EAT NO BREAD, nor DRINK WATER" (Ezra 10:6). We also read about the Pharisee who fasted "TWICE in the WEEK" (two days a week) (Luke 18:12).
Christians are required to fast only ONE DAY a YEAR -- on the DAY OF ATONEMENT for 24 hours.
Fast Before Making Important Decisions
Proverbs 11:14 says, "Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety." GOD is our greatest Counselor.
Acts 13:1-3 says, "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had FASTED and PRAYED, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away."
Acts 14:23 says, "And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had PRAYED with FASTING, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed."
Again we clearly see that before elders were ordained in the Churches in Asia Minor, the evangelists and ministers PRAYED to God with FASTING, before coming to their all-important decision.
He will strengthen you by FILLING YOU WITH HIS HOLY SPIRIT! He will give you the SPIRIT OF POWER, LOVE AND A SOUND MIND (II Tim. 1:7). You'll receive His joy, peace, patience, gentleness, humility, faith and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
Even while you are going without physical food and drink, you can receive spiritual nourishment. John 7:37-39 says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)."
Do you also receive spiritual "food" through the study of God's Word when fasting? Deut. 8:33 says, "And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live." (cp. Mat. 4:44) John 6:63 says, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
By FASTING, STUDYING and PRAYING we can learn the answers to our questions from God himself.
Fast To Cast Out Demons
At one point during His ministry, a man came to Jesus' disciples and asked them to cast a demon out of his son. They couldn't do it (Mark 9:17-18). But "When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting" (Mark 9:25-29). Because Jesus was close to the Father through MUCH PRAYER and FASTING, He received the SPIRITUAL POWER necessary to cast out this particularly obstinate and rebellious demon!
Jesus admitted He could do NO spiritual works OF HIMSELF in John 5:30, which says, "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." Then WHERE did Jesus say the spiritual power He demonstrated time and again really come from? John 14:10 says, "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works."
Jesus received SPIRITUAL POWER from God the Father to do mighty miracles and accomplish the work of God — because He FASTED AND PRAYED A GREAT DEAL! You ALSO can receive that spiritual power. By drawing close to God with PRAYER and FASTING, YOU can receive new vigor, enthusiasm, spiritual steadfastness and REAL POWER! Fasting can help CHANGE YOUR APPROACH TO GOD, broaden your horizons and fill you with greater faith. Fasting will not only cause you to be more THANKFUL for the blessings of God — the little things like food and drink — but it can help change your entire approach and OUTLOOK TOWARD EVERYTHING! Fasting and prayer can literally ALTER AND CHANGE YOUR WHOLE LIFE! Do you want God to intervene on YOUR behalf? Do you really want to RECEIVE MORE of the Holy Spirit? Do you desire to have close, INTIMATE CONTACT with your Heavenly Father, who bestows every good and perfect gift? Do you desire to have greater spiritual POWER and IMPACT in your Christian life? Do you want to be FILLED with the Spirit of God — the spirit of love, POWER and sound-mindedness? DO YOU DESIRE to WALK WITH GOD? Then FOLLOW THE EXAMPLES set for you in God's Word! Seek God by chastening and humbling yourself before Him with FASTING! Remember the examples of Moses, David, Jehoshaphat, Daniel, and the nation of Judah in Ezra's time. Remember the New Testament examples of Christ and Paul! Remember the very words of Jesus Christ, speaking to you and me: "THE DAYS WILL COME, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and THEN SHALL THEY FAST IN THOSE DAYS" (Mark 2:20). If you will obey Christ, and seek God by fasting whenever you need to, your life will be MIRACULOUSLY CHANGED! You'll be blessed beyond your ability to comprehend. You will be blessed with spiritual love, CLOSENESS TO GOD, and DYNAMIC SPIRITUAL POWER!
Are There Physical Benefits To Fasting?
"Everyone has a physician inside him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness." -- Hippocrates. "Instead of using medicine, rather, fast a day." -- Plutarch. Plato said that he fasted for greater physical and mental efficiency. Aristotle, his pupil, also fasted. Both Galen and Avicenna also prescribed fasts for their patients. Pythagoras wouldn't admit any disciple into their higher teachings unless they had first purified themselves through fasting.For all fevers and diseases in the acute crisis stage, Hippocrates prescribed either a strict fast with nothing but water or medicinal teas, or a very slender liquid diet. Fasting is also recommended for colds and flu, arthritis and rheumatism, digestive complaints, and all humoral and metabolic disorders.
The Physiology of Fasting
Enhancing the Cleansing and Detoxification
While fasting, there are a number of therapeutic measures that can be taken to enhance the cleansing and detoxification process. The most popular and common ones are as follows:
Breaking a Fast
The most critically important part of a fast is how you end it, or break it. Any fool can fast, but breaking it properly is an art, and not so easy. The body must make a gradual, step-by-step transition back to a normal diet. If a prolonged fast isn't broken properly, toxins and fecal matter can recongest the gut, and the bloodstream, and all the benefits of the fast are nullified.
A number of studies prove that fasting can produce profound, measurable benefits. Among these are intelligent autolysis, which simply means that your body has the ability to intelligently adjust to changing circumstances--breaking down tissue in one part of the body and reassembling it in another, as circumstances require. Or to put it another way, because this process is intelligent, your body, while fasting, breaks down unneeded, damaged, and toxic tissue first. Then when you start eating again, it rebuilds from the ground up with fresh, new, healthy tissue.
The benefits of fasting reside in this process of intelligent autolysis, not in weight loss. In fact, when it comes to weight loss, the critics are right. Prolonged fasting can be counterproductive since, with no calories, your body quickly goes into shut down mode to prevent starvation. In other words, prolonged fasting slows your metabolism so that your body learns to "survive" on fewer calories. This means that you progressively lose less weight as the fast goes on, but even more important, you have a high rebound effect once you start eating again…since your metabolism is now slower and it takes even fewer calories to put weight back on. Short term fasting and alternate day fasting, on the other hand, can be useful tools to kick start the weight loss process. As for fasting as a form of detoxing, yes, there is some benefit in that regard, but fasting is more of a complement to the detoxing process, rather than a primary means of detoxing itself.
Fasting for detoxing and weight loss are misguided and the critics attacking it for those reasons are missing the point. The critics who simply say that there is no value to fasting and that it is dangerous and unhealthy are just wrong. The key value to fasting lies in autolysis.
Prof Valter D. Longo is an American biogerontologist and cell biologist known for his studies on the role of starvation and nutrient response genes on cellular protection and aging. In fact, Prof Longo was behind the studies I referred to in last year's article that revealed the benefits of fasting when it comes to cancer and chemotherapy.
The core conclusion of his new study in the journal Cell Stem Cell is that fasting not only protects against immune system damage -- a major side effect of chemotherapy -- but it also stimulates the regeneration of the immune system by shifting stem cells from a dormant state to a state of self-renewal. 2 Or to put it another way: fasting, for as little as three days, "flips a regenerative switch" which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system. Or as Prof Longo says, "It gives the 'OK' for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system." The three day figure is especially interesting since doing a three day fast once a month has been the recommendation of other experts in fasting--along with one day a week and five days twice a year--for your entire life.
The new research shows that this could be particularly beneficial for people suffering from damaged immune systems, even cancer patients on chemotherapy. And it could also help the elderly whose immune system become less effective as they age, making it harder for them to fight off even common diseases. And, of course, it would help anyone just looking to tune up their immune system and optimize their ability to fight any disease.
As the study points out, in earlier studies, both with mice and a Phase 1 human clinical trial involving patients receiving chemotherapy, periods of not eating significantly lower white blood cell counts. This is not particularly surprising and certainly would match the expectation of fasting's critics. To repeat: if you don't get sufficient calories, your body begins to shut down, losing its ability to generate new cells--including immune cells. However, what this latest study found is that, at least in mice, fasting cycles then "flip a regenerative switch," changing the signaling pathways for hematopoietic stem cells, which are the stem cells responsible for the generation of blood and immune system cells. As the study's authors state, "We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system…What we started noticing in both our human work and animal work is that the white blood cell count goes down with prolonged fasting. Then, when you re-feed, the blood cells come back. So we started thinking, well, where does it come from?"
They continued, "The good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting. Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or ageing, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system…When you starve, the system tries to save energy, and one of the things it can do to save energy is to recycle a lot of the immune cells [or any cells, for that matter, Ed.] that are not needed, especially those that may be damaged."
The study has major implications for healthier aging since immune system decline contributes to increased susceptibility to disease as people age. By outlining how fasting cycles -- periods of no food for two to four days at a time over the course of six months -- kill older and damaged immune cells and generate new ones, the research also has implications for chemotherapy tolerance, for those with a wide range of immune system deficiencies, including autoimmunity disorders, and anyone looking to refresh their immune system.
We've always known that prolonged fasting forces the body to use stores of glucose, fat, and ketones, but we now understand that it also breaks down a significant portion of older white blood cells. Longo likens the effect to lightening a plane of excess cargo. During each cycle of fasting, this depletion of white blood cells induces changes that trigger stem cell-based regeneration of new immune system cells. In addition, prolonged fasting reduces the activity of the PKA gene, an effect previously discovered by the Longo team to extend longevity in simple organisms and which has been linked in other research to the regulation of stem cell self-renewal and pluripotency -- that is, the potential for one cell to develop into many different cell types. Pluripotency is the reason the researchers believe the regeneration effect happens systemically throughout the body when fasting, not just in the immune system--although that's all the researchers measured in this study. Prolonged fasting also lowered levels of IGF-1, a growth-factor hormone that Longo and others have linked to aging, tumor progression, and cancer risk.3
Now, before we get too excited here, it's important to remember that when it comes to the human body, things are rarely one-dimensional. Trying to equate aging to high levels of IGF-1 can run you right into a paradox. Here's why. IGF-1 is produced primarily by the liver. It stimulates systemic body growth and has growth-promoting effects on almost every cell in the body, especially skeletal muscle, cartilage, bone, liver, kidney, nerves, skin, hematopoietic cell, and lungs. It is one of the most potent stimulators of cell growth and proliferation. IGF-1 is a potent inhibitor of programmed cell death. In other words, it counters the wasting effects associated with aging and prolongs the life of cells. Sounds good, right?
The problem is that this can be a two-edged sword. If you don't have cancer, it keeps you young and vibrant. If you already have a cancer, it can speed up its growth and proliferation. That said, IGF-1 is the primary reason that people take HGH injections or HGH secretagogues--to remain youthful as they age. IGF-1 is the primary mediator of the effects of human growth hormone. HGH is released from the pituitary gland and then stimulates the liver to produce IGF-1.
Whereas HGH stimulates production of IGF-1, under-nutrition retards it. Thus, under-nutrition, or prolonged fasting, allows cells to die, thus clearing the way for new cells to take their place. The bottom line is that IGF-1 is neither good nor bad. And fasting is neither good nor bad. They are each part of a health puzzle, and each is useful for what it does. On a day-in, day-out basis, stimulating HGH and IGF-1 production in the body is probably a good thing for maintaining youth and vitality and living a long healthy life as it maximizes the lifespan of your existing cells and tissue. Doing regular 3-day fasts to temporarily stop that process, break down unhealthy tissue and cells, and trigger stem cells to rebuild new cells and tissue would seem to be a perfect complement to that routine. In other words, it's not one or the other, but each in its own place and time.
And now, let's return to the most important conclusion drawn from the study.
"And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting. Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or aging, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system." This is intelligent autolysis. This is the true value of fasting, not weight loss and detoxing.
And finally, Prof Longo says, "We are investigating the possibility that these effects are applicable to many different systems and organs, not just the immune system."
This is why fasting is almost always part of any catastrophic illness program. Prof Longo's studies will find that intelligent autolysis occurs throughout the body, as does intelligent rebuilding once the patient starts eating again. There is nothing magical about this. This is what the body is designed to do. Man is the only animal that seems to not know this. Notice how in nature virtually every other animal stops eating when it is sick. They innately understand the need to fast and let their bodies break down the diseased tissue and heal itself. Fasting is consistently observed in the animal kingdom. Fortunately, animals don't have nutritionists telling them to do otherwise.
The study's co-author, Tanya Dorff, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital, said, "While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy."4
Chris Mason, Professor of Regenerative Medicine at UCL, said, "There is some interesting data here. It sees that fasting reduces the number and size of cells and then re-feeding at 72 hours saw a rebound. That could be potentially useful because that is not such a long time that it would be terribly harmful to someone with cancer."
And as Prof Longo points out, "There is no evidence at all that fasting would be dangerous, while there is strong evidence that it is beneficial."
The fundamental problem we face when it comes to fasting and detoxing is that there are thousands of experts, each with their own opinion and protocol. There's water fasting and juice fasting and drinking detox juices without fasting. There are colon cleansing protocols and colon cleansing pills you take while eating your normal diet. There are fasting programs for losing weight and fasting programs for detoxing--with multiple interpretations as to what detoxing really means. And then when we talk about detoxing, are we talking about intestinal detoxing, liver detoxing, heavy metal detoxing, kidney and gallbladder flushes, juice fasting, water fasting, the Master Cleanse, or any of a number of other variations on a theme? No wonder the establishment is so hostile to the concept.
As WebMD says in countering the whole concept of detoxing and fasting, "The good news is that your body has its own natural detoxifying process that works quite well. The liver and kidneys do a good job of processing chemicals and eliminating them in sweat, urine, and feces. For example, the colon's natural bacteria detoxify food wastes and its mucus membranes prevent bacteria and toxins from reentering the body. The liver combines its own chemicals with other chemicals, making water-soluble compounds that your kidneys can excrete in urine. And some chemicals are also excreted through the lungs and skin."5
Or according to the Making Sense of Chemical Stories report published by the London based group Sense about Science, "The human body is perfectly capable of protecting itself from life's excesses. It is a myth that the detox process can be speeded by special diets, body wraps or pills."6 As the report goes on to state, pretty much echoing WebMD's sentiment, "The gut stops many potential poisons getting into the system in the first place. And the liver deals with those that do."
Dr. John Hoskins, a toxicologist, was also quoted in the "Making Sense" report, "There's a sucker born every minute. The only thing that loses weight on a detox diet is your wallet."
And finally, Catherine Collins, an NHS dietician, described detoxing as "a marketing myth" and a "silly concept."
You get the idea: neither WebMd nor Sense about Science are very big on fasting and detoxing.
And yet, according to a 2007 study published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, the incidence of chronic constipation in the United States is just over 17 percent, or well over 50 million people.7 Clearly, for those 50 million people, their normal elimination channels are not up to the task. They need intestinal detoxing.
Then there's the fact that the incidence of liver cancer in the United States tripled between 1975 and 2005.8 And again, for these people, there's something about the processes of the liver cleansing itself that is not working. Clearly, for these people, their livers can't deal with the toxins that get through the gut.
One of the reasons for all this confusion is that people are conflating detoxing and fasting, and as I said, although they are related, they are not the same thing. So, with that in mind, let's take a look at fasting.
I would agree with fasting critics that fasting, unless done properly, is not a great way to lose weight. They are absolutely correct that extended fasting, for two reasons, is not what you want. First, because of the lack of protein, much of your weight loss during fasting tends to be muscle--not what you want. And as I mentioned earlier, any fast longer than 48 hours runs the risk of causing your metabolism to slow down, which means you gain weight more easily once the fast is over.
If you want to use fasting for losing weight, then fast one day a week. That doesn't cost you muscle tissue and it doesn't slow down metabolism, but it does save you a couple of thousand calories or more that day. Multiply that by 52 weeks a year and you've save yourself 20-30 pounds a year. That's not a "marketing myth." It's simple math: calories in vs calories out.
As for detoxing, if you're looking to remove toxins from organs in your body, then you need to run protocols that are specific for those organs. Fasting in conjunction with those protocols can facilitate them, but it does not replace them.
So what exactly is the benefit of fasting then?
Quite simply it's intelligent autolysis! As Prof Longo's study showed, during fasting, the body gets rid of the cells and parts of your body that are damaged or old--the inefficient parts, if you will. Then, when you start eating again, it replaces those parts with new, undamaged cells and tissue. That's why you fast. That's the primary benefit now proven by science--a benefit not provided by your liver and kidneys, even on their best day, despite what skeptics might say.
The fasting schedule should be one day of juice fasting with chlorella a week. Perhaps Monday. If you're trying to lose any weight, do both Mondays and Fridays for a couple of weeks. By not doing consecutive days, your metabolism never slows down, and you don't have to worry about poor nutrition or loss of muscle mass. Instead of mere water fasting, try juice fasting with chlorella or spirulina.