30. What is the biblical fast?




The biblical fast consists in abstaining from all kinds of food and drink for a certain period of time (such as one day, three days, seven days, forty days).

Moses twice stayed on Mount Sinai forty days and forty nights and neither ate bread nor drank water, as he himself said: “When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the Lord made with you, then I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water” (Deuteronomy 9:9 – NKJV), and again: “And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you committed in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger” (Deuteronomy 9:18 – NKJV).

The Scripture says that Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, where He fasted forty days and forty nights and in those days He ate nothing (Matthew 4:1-2; Luke 4:2). The fact that it is not written that in those days He drank nothing either, does not mean that He drank something. For instance, the Scripture says that in Jerusalem about forty Jews banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul (Acts 23:12), however the same Scripture says also that when those men came to the chief priests and elders they said: “We have bound ourselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul” (Acts 23:14 – NKJV). Note how they did not say that they had bound themselves under an oath that they would neither eat nor drink, but they just said that they would eat nothing; yet Luke says that they had bound themselves under an oath saying that they would neither eat nor drink.

After Paul saw Jesus in a heavenly vision on the way to Damascus, he neither ate nor drank for three days (Acts 9:9).

If those who fast are married people, the fast entails also abstention from sexual intercourse. For in this case, husband and wife decide to deprive one another with consent for a time that they may give themselves to fasting and prayer, as it is written: “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5 – NKJV). Therefore, if the husband decides to fast, it is necessary for his wife to agree with him.

Fasting is an important and serious thing: if one fasts for pure reasons, that is to say, to humble himself before God, to confess his sins to Him, to ask Him for help and guidance on certain occasions, or just to have a deeper fellowship with God for a time, he will be rewarded by God.

Furthermore, it is important to underline that when one fasts he must not disfigure his face to show men he is fasting, otherwise he will not be rewarded by God. For Jesus said: “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you don’t appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:16-18 – NKJV).