Fasting is both wonderful and mysterious. These truths from Scripture can help ground us as we fast.

The Why and How of Fasting

by Adam Wittenberg
6/25/15 Christian Living

This is part 1 of a 3-part series on the foundations of fasting.

Fasting is both wonderful and mysterious. Believers throughout the ages have gone without food in order to receive more of God, achieving personal and national breakthroughs. Yet so many questions remain: Is fasting for today? Is it for me? What if I’m weak or break my fast early? Will God love me any less if I don’t fast? Will He love me any more if I do?

Whether you’re new to fasting, about to start a long one (like the Jesus Fast called by Lou Engle and endorsed by IHOPKC), or just need encouragement to fast in a healthy, biblical way, these truths from Scripture can help keep you grounded.

1. Fasting Isn’t (Only) about Us
We’re not called to work our way to God. This is what sets Christianity apart from other religions—God has come to us, invaded our time, space, and lives, and welcomed us into His family through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection (Ephesians 2:1–10).

Salvation is accomplished through Christ’s work, and we respond by giving Him our lives. This means He is Lord over every area of our lives—including what we eat. Since fasting is to be a normal part of the Christian life (Jesus said “when you fast,” not “if you fast” in Matthew 6:16), God is more than willing to help us walk it out, just as He helps us with prayer, worship, or anything else that we do to draw closer to Him.

Don’t hurry past this point—fasting that doesn’t rely on God is little more than dieting (at best), and can lead to self-righteousness and pride (at worst). We all need grace to fast, no matter how long we’ve been doing it, and we can taste God’s mercy when we ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7Hebrews 4:16).

2. Fasting Works for Us
God gave fasting for our benefit. Jesus said that His followers would fast after He was taken away (Luke 5:35). We are longing for Jesus, for His return, and for His power and beauty to be seen “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

We seek spiritual breakthrough and direction, ask for mercy over our nation as well as our personal circumstances, and hunger for deeper revelation of God and His Word—all good gifts that our Father wants to give us. Sometimes fasting just speeds the release of His promises by taking away distractions so we can enter His presence more easily. Fasting clarifies our desires, shows us that the one thing we can’t live without is Jesus, and helps us find our true satisfaction in the Giver (God) more than the gift—although we still get both!

Jesus said that the kingdom is worthy of our wholehearted pursuit (Matthew 13:44). God wants to give us the promised blessings, but sometimes we’ve got to be hungry enough for them (literally). Joel 2:12–32 is a great picture of how God wants to use fasting and repentance to bring an outpouring of His Spirit “on all flesh.”

3. God Honors Small Beginnings
Since we’re not performing for God, and since He promises great rewards to those who seek Him (Matthew 6:18), why not put your faith into action? The Lord will honor even the smallest fast, even if it is just one meal, if it is done in faith.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Too many Christians think fasting only applies to long stretches of time—such as twenty-one or forty days—and so they are afraid to try (or tried and broke their fast early, thus creating a sense of failure). But setting aside one day a week to seek God through prayer and fasting—by abstaining from certain foods or drinks—is something that can be done for a lifetime and that will result in great benefits and a closer relationship with God.

God will meet us through these short, regular fasts of one or two days per week as we try to build a healthy habit of it. And regular fasting can open the door for longer fasts as we get to know our spiritual and physical rhythms (think of training for a marathon—one wouldn’t try to run twenty-six miles on the first day!).

Start small, ask for grace, and see what the Lord does. And whether the blessings come quickly or take a while, they will come. As Luke says, “men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).

Up Next: Tips for Fasting (Part 2 of 3)

Disclaimer: This is not intended as medical advice; please check with your doctor before fasting if you have any health issues or concerns. Minors are discouraged from fasting food, but should only fast with their parents’ approval and supervision.

For additional resources, you can read Mike Bickle’s book The Rewards of Fasting (free download) and IHOPKC’s Fasting Guidelines as well as listen to teachings about fasting on The Mike Bickle Library.

Adam Wittenberg


    A Detroit native who was raised in Vermont and Connecticut, Adam worked as a newspaper journalist until 2012, when he moved to Kansas City to complete the Intro to IHOPKC internship. Afterwards, he earned a four-year certificate in House of Prayer Leadership from IHOPU and is now on full-time staff in the Marketing department at IHOPKC. He also serves in the NightWatch (overnight prayer hours) and is active in evangelism. He, and his wife Stephany, have a vision to reach people everywhere with the good news of Jesus Christ.

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