Last night in Bible study we covered the passage Luke 5:33-35.
Then they said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?”
34 And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.”
We discussed the various types of fasts.
Total Fast: Nothing to eat or drink. This is the most severe form of fasting, and should not be done for any great length of time. Humans can live quite a while without food, but only about three days without liquid. ( I wouldn’t suggest testing that theory out!) Muslims routinely do a total fast from sunrise to sunset. I think that is about as long a total fast as I would ever recommend.
Water Fast: Nothing to eat, only water to drink. This is slightly less severe, and can be followed for many days. Our bodies do have a fat reserve which can fuel the bodies needs for a period of time. People may fast a meal, or a day, three days, seven days, or whatever amount you feel led to fast, up to forty days. I do not recommend long water fasts unless you specifically feel led by the Spirit to do so.
Juice Fast: Nothing to eat, but you can drink juice, or milk. This fast is slightly easier than the water fast because the juice will provide a supply of sugar to the bloodstream. The metabolism will function to process the juice and so it is less uncomfortable than the water fast. The juice fast is the form most commonly used by people doing fasts longer than three days.
Selected Fasts: The selective fast means giving up something for a period of time. There are many different forms of selective fasting.
The Daniel Fast: There are two forms of the Daniel Fast, the vegetable only, and the “no pleasant food”. The vegetable only fast is basically a vegetarian, or vegan diet. Either no meat, or no animal products. It comes from Daniel 1:12. The “no pleasant food” comes from Daniel 10:3. It is not clear what Daniel was referring to specifically, so individuals are left to their own interpretation and application; such as no desserts, no soda, no coffee, or whatever is considered “pleasant” by the individual.
The Ezekiel Fast: Ezekiel was commanded by God to eat a bread made from a certain mixture of grains. It comes from Ezekiel 4:9 and there are recipes available for people who want to follow this form of fast. I have occasionally heard of it available in retail stores as well.
These are two common forms of selective fasts, but there are innumerable variations. When people give something up for Lent, that is a form of selective fasting. The thing that is given up may be a certain food, or drink; or it may be an activity or favorite pastime, such as giving up television, or facebook and so forth.
The selective fast can be followed for an indefinite period of time, although most people will determine a start, and end date for their fast.
As you can see by these various forms of fasting, there is something available for people of all levels of discipline. It can be as simple as fasting a meal, to more lengthy durations. A person should start off slow and learn how they respond to the practice of fasting.
The important thing to remember with fasting is that we are seeking to deny the flesh, and emphasize the spirit. During a fast, we should spend an increased amount of time in prayer, Bible study, and reflection.
Why do I call fasting a neglected discipline? I suspect that only a small percentage of Christians practice fasting with any regularity, and many may have never fasted ever.
It is not necessary to fast in order to be saved, but fasting is a Christian discipline that can promote both spiritual growth in the individual, and have an impact on the spiritual realm.