What about fasting?

What does the Bible say about fasting?

The Bible tells us at many places about people who were fasting. Most of the time, it means that people did not eat for a certain period of time and used that time for more prayers.

What the scripture says

Scripture tells us how to fast. The Bible presents fasting as something that is good, profitable, and beneficial. The book of Acts records that believers were fasting before making important decisions (Acts 13:3 and 14:23). Luke linked fasting and prayer (Luke 2:37 and 5:33).


Fasting is not only about abstaining from food. It has also to do with your attitude. It helps us renew our relationship with God. If you don’t do it with a humble attitude, it’s useless (Isaiah 58:4-5, Matthew 6:16). Then you only do it for the good feeling it gives you or your intention that people see it and think highly of you. In the Bible, there is a special story in the book of prophet Jonah. He needed to tell the people of Nineveh that God would destroy their city because of their sinful deeds. As a response on Jonah’s preaching, everybody repented and started fasting, even the animals. Then God was merciful to them and they were all saved (Jonah 3:5-10).

Not dieting

If you are fasting, you need to set a certain time for it. Fasting has nothing to do with dieting. If you want to lose weight, you are focused on your body, not on God. Nor do you fast in order to save money to give to the poor. It should be noted here that some people are not able to fast, like diabetics or pregnant women.

Common usage

In Biblical times and later on in Roman Catholic tradition it was common usage to fast. From the time of the Protestants, this tradition was gradually lost, though more Protestants are starting to fast in recent decades.

Focus on God

When Jesus and Paul say that some forms of fasting are useless (Matthew 6:16), they mean the attitude is wrong. They don’t say that you don’t need to fast at all. In our time, there are still terrible sins being committed. When we sin, we are still called to repentance, like the people in Nineveh, and fasting may play a role in that. Also, fasting still can help us to focus on God, his Word, and his grace.

Read also Time alone with God

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Biblword is a ministry of GlobalRize. Marten Visser is the founding director of GlobalRize. Marten is a pastor from The Netherlands with long years of experience as a missionary in Thailand. We now have around 200 people from all over the world involved in GlobalRize’s ministry. Besides the English page, Biblword also exists in 13 other languages on Facebook.

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What does the Bible say about fasting?