There are many types of fasting in the Bible, various reasons for fasting, and different lengths of fasts. All are important and good to refer to when we are fasting to draw closer to God. Fasting without prayer is pointless; it is a given that the time you would be spending eating or enjoying other things would be spent instead in prayer and consecration. Those two together will move heaven and earth! This is what makes Biblical fasting different than other types of fasting.
Types of Fasting in the Bible
The Daniel Fast
Daniel’s Fast has become everyone’s fast in the 21st Century! This particular fast of going without certain foods as Daniel the prophet did, is a common practice among Christians and has even become a yearly corporate activity for many churches.
*Pro Tip: If you’d like to try doing The Daniel Fast yourself, be sure to check out the free resources and printables here on our web site, such as our 21 Powerful Prayers for the Daniel Fast and our Easy Daniel Fast Recipes. You can even download your own Daniel Fast meal plan!
In the first and tenth chapters of the Book of Daniel, we can read that the prophet asked his Babylonian captors if he could refrain from the rich, sweet diet that they thought would make them healthy and strong. But Daniel, and the men from Judah, followed the Law of Moses and did not consume many of the items on the list. To make matters worse, much of the Babylonian diet consisted of food previously offered to idols in some way. That was most definitely not something you would partake of if you were a follower of Jehovah.
Daniel’s 10 Day Fast
So Daniel requested that they be allowed a 10 day fast on HIS chosen diet of only vegetables and water and see if they were not as healthy, or more so, than those that followed the rich and calorie-laden diet of the Babylonians. The king agreed and at the end of the ten days? “At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.”
You can see how beneficial a fast of this nature was to the body! Ten days is not very long to see such great results.
Daniel’s 21 Day Fast
Later on in Daniel 10, the prophet embarks on a 21 day fast of the same nature and there was literally a war in the heavens! “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia. Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days” (Daniel 10:13, 14).
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
Our fight is not against flesh and blood, or against other people, it is against the powers that influence people! It is a spiritual battle, and spiritual battles are won in the spirit, through prayer and fasting.
King Darius was fond of Daniel and entrusted him with his entire empire: “Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm” (Daniel 6:3). The king did not even know the God of Daniel but when he was forced, by his own decree, to throw Daniel into a den of lions, Daniel’s witness caused this king to intercede on Daniel’s behalf: “Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.”
Daniel’s King’s Fast
After sealing the stone with his own seal, the king went to his palace and fasted all night long:
- He did not eat.
- He did not sleep.
- The Bible even says he did not listen to music!
Even today, some choose to fast from things that would take them away from God or things that they may love a little too much or maybe even spend an exorbitant amount of time on.
This type of fast could coincide with the denying of food or it could be a fast all its own. Some choose to fast social media for a week or two, or longer. Others do without music, especially what we would consider “worldly” music, and let Godly worship music fill their iTunes and radios.
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Truly, this is a personal fast that God may prompt you to do if something is taking precedence over the Word of God, or even your prayer life. Anything can become an idol in our lives and fasting that particular thing, or doing away with it completely, can bring you back to where you can hear the voice of God again.
Related: This spiritual fasting plan includes a social media fast you might want to try.
King Darius was overjoyed that his prayers were answered when he went to the lion’s den! “And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.” Daniel 6:20-22.
The Jonah Fast
In the case of Jonah, ordered by God to go and preach to the Ninevites, we see another type of fast. It took some convincing to get Jonah to go, but after his encounter with the Big Fish, he takes off for the city of Nineveh, preaches what God tells him to preach and then seems surprised by the reaction of the king.
“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?” Jonah 3:6-9.
The entire city believed the Word of the Lord and they repented. Even their animals went on this fast! It appears that they also went without water for three days and covered themselves with sackcloth and ashes… a sign of absolute humility in those days.
And did it work? “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.” Jonah 3:10 NKJV.
Desperate times require desperate measures! Repentance, a broken spirit, turning from sin and turning to God for forgiveness will cause the Lord to reach out a hand of Mercy.
The Ezra Fast
It says in Ezra 8:21, “Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions.”
Ezra found himself and his people facing a challenge, and he needed God to protect them and provide divine direction. They were delivering valuable materials that would be used to rebuild the temple, such as gold and silver. It’s likely thieves were watching and waiting for them on various portions of their journey. He needed God’s direction and protection!
This call to a time of prayer and fasting worked! Ezra 8:23 tells us, “So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.” God heard! God answered!
We can see that fasting can be done in different ways and for varying lengths of time. Here are more types of fasting in the Bible, based on the lengths of the fasts, and their Scripture reference:
One day fast
“And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son, for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.” 2 Samuel 1:12
Three day fast
No food or drink. Esther calls the people to fast for three days in this fashion. “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in [c]Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” Esther 4:16
Seven day fast
“Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.” 1 Samuel 31:13
Ten day fast
Daniel is a prime example of that in Daniel 1:11, “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink.”
Fourteen day fast
The Apostle Paul is on a doomed ship and tells all of those aboard that they must stay in the ship and promises they will not be harmed as they come off of their 14 day fast. “And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.” Acts 27:33-34.
Twenty one day fast
As we have mentioned earlier, Daniel the Prophet fasted 21 days in the tenth chapter of Daniel.
Forty day fast
Jesus, Moses and Elijah all completed a 40 day fast:
Moses’s 40 day fast
Moses fasted when he went up to Mt. Sinai to receive The Ten Commandments. “And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” Exodus 34:28.
Elijah’s 40 day fast
Elijah also fasted forty-days and forty nights. “And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.” 1 Kings 19: 7, 8.
Jesus’s 40 day fast
And then Jesus fasted 40 days and 40 nights, overcoming the enemy of our souls so that we may also be overcomers. “Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.” Matthew 4:1, 2.
Reasons For Fasting in the Bible
We have discussed the lengths and types of these fasts, what about WHY we should fast? Here are some reasons that patriarchs and others fasted in the Bible:
- When they were facing war: See 1 Samuel 7:6. “So they gathered together at Mizpah, drew water, and poured it out before the Lord. And they fasted that day, and said there, ‘We have sinned against the Lord.’ And Samuel judged the children of Israel at Mizpah.”
- In repentance: “And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 1 Samuel 7:3-6. And in the book of Joel: “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
- When a loved one was sick: David fasted for his son until he learned he had died. “David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground.” 2 Samuel 12:16
- When someone had died: 1 Chronicles 10:12. “All the valiant men arose and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons; and they brought them to Jabesh, and buried their bones under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days.”
- When seeking forgiveness: Nehemiah 9:1-3. “Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads. Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed.”
- When afraid for their lives: 2 Chronicles 20:3. “And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.”
- When seeking clear direction: Acts 13:2. “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”
How Do We Apply These Fasts in the Bible to Our Lives Today?
As the Bible says: “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” 1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV. They are examples, instructions, to strengthen us, encourage us and empower our walk with God. Not just for our comfort, but so that we might be strong in the Lord, in the power of His might and be able to be that Light in the dark, dark world we find ourselves living in.
Fasting with a right spirit, for the right reasons, truly does get God’s attention. We don’t do it to be seen or heard or to make ourselves something we are not. It is all about Jesus, and when the glory goes to Him, we will see the miraculous and be a part of a great and necessary awakening in these last and glorious days until we see the coming of the Lord.
Which types of fasting in the Bible has impacted you the most? Did you learn about a new one in this article?
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