Biblical Examples of Fasting
An example of an absolute fast is when Paul was on the road to Damascus and he saw Jesus. In Acts 9:9 says, “And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” After this Paul stopped persecuting Christians and began his ministry to spread the Gospel. He also wrote most of the New Testament, by his letters to many churches.
And Ester 4:16 “Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susa and fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for 3 days, night and day. I and my female servants will also fast in the same way. After that, I will go to the king even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.” After this fast they were spared the Jewish execution that was going to be taking place.
An example of a one day fast is in Nehemiah 9:1-2 it says, “On the 24th day of this month the Israelites assembled; they were fasting, wearing sackcloth and had put dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and they stood and confessed their sins and the guilt of their fathers.”
An example of a seven day fast is in 1 Samuel 31:13 where it says, “Afterwards, they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted 7 days.”
Some examples of people who did a 40 day fast Dr. Tanner and Jesus. Dr. Tanner who is a medical doctor, decided at that the age of 50 to fast 43 days without food. He did so under strict medical supervision. At the conclusion of the fast, he was much healthier. At age sixty he fasted 50 days, and in the middle of his fast, he said he saw the unspeakable glories of God. At age 77, Dr. Tanner fasted 53 days, and among other things that happened, his once thin, gray hair was replaced with new black hair! It was the same color that it was when he was a young man. What’s more, he lived to be 93 years old. (1)
Now in Luke 4:1-2 it says, “Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.” After this took place he began his ministry and healing those in need.
An example of someone who did a partial fast is Daniel.
Early on, Daniel and his friends set themselves apart from the others by refusing to defile themselves with the foods laid out for them on the king’s table. Notice that by simply taking such a stand, “God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials. Dan.1:9 Daniel explained that he and his friends would be in better shape after 10 days of eating only vegetables and drinking only water than the others would be after eating the king’s delicacies. The overseer continued giving them only their requested vegetables and water: “God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.” Dan.1:17
An Example of a 21 Day fast:
Daniel rose to positions of great responsibility within the kingdom of Babylon, even under subsequent rulers. In Chapter 10 of Daniel, as he was close to 90 years old, he received a message of great conflict and a vision, both of which he understood. Apparently troubled, he recorded, “In those days I, Daniel, was mourning 3 full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came to my mouth.” Dan.10:2-3 The Hebrew word used here for “Pleasant food” is lechem, or breads. So for 21 days, Daniel fasted all sweets, breads, and meats, and drank only water.
It was soon after that fast when Daniel’s encounter with the angel of God took place along the Tigris River. Notice something very encouraging in what the angel told Daniel: his prayers had been heard in heaven from the very first day he started to fast (Dan10:12)! The only reason the angel had not appeared to Daniel sooner was because he was fighting with the principality of Persia (Modern-day Iran).
So of the many types of fasts that are acceptable, what has come to be called as the Daniel fast is probably one of the more common and with good reason. It is one of the personal fasts recorded in the Bible that brought with it great favor from the Lord. For 21 days, you eat only vegetables and fruits and drink only water. No colas, burgers, meats, sweets, or bread.
This is perhaps the most celebrated holy day on the Jewish calendar. It means “Day of Atonement” is was established by God for Israel, in Leviticus 16:29-30: “This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.”
Notice the word “afflict”, which means fasting. Even Jews who typically do not observe any other Jewish festival will often participate in Yom Kippur by fasting, attending synagogue, and refraining from work to atone for sins against God. Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is the final day of “appeal” to God for atonement, which is preceded by ten Days of Awe that are spent in reflection on one’s life and sins.
An exciting example is in 1973 the nations of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria allied to attack Israel and wipe out that nation. All of Israel had been fasting and repenting of sin before God for 24 hours on Yom Kippur. The allied enemies of Israel picked the wrong day to attack.
History records that the soldiers literally ran out of the synagogues to the front lines, having had nothing to eat for 24 hours. At first, the battle was going toward the Arab armies who pushed Israel back for 3 days. It appeared that victory for Israel was impossible, but the battle turned on the third day. Even though they were significantly outnumbered, Israel’s army was victorious and took back what ground they lost, plus even more. Today, when you hear news reports about things happening in the “occupied territories,” remember that those are the additional lands Israel claimed in the Yom Kippur War.
The enemy thinks you are weaker when you fast. He will try to convince you that you are dying without food- but you are not. God is preparing to breathe life into your situation to open a door to His promise.