Three Types of Fasting


It is important to STUDY the word of God and not just read it perfunctorily. STUDYING the word gives us UNDERSTANDING. With all thy getting get understanding the Bible says (Proverbs 4:7). “Get skillful and godly Wisdom, get understanding (discernment, comprehension, and interpretation)”. Proverbs 4:5 AMP. When we understand the mechanics of the word of God, then we are able to apply the PRINCIPLES to our native situations.

The Bible says to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Seeking is a verb. We must study, learn how the principles of the kingdom of God work. We must put in effort. When we understand the principles of the kingdom, God assures us of comprehensive addenda (Matthew 6:33). In other words, the starting point of acquisition of blessings is the grasp of the principles of the kingdom. If for example you understand the mechanics of the principle of sowing and reaping, you will reap a harvest of blessings. An understanding of the workings of the principles of the kingdom saves us from popularized error.

Take the issue of anointing oil. An understanding of God’s word informs us there is no power in any ‘anointing oil’. “Is any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick.” James 5:14 – 15. It is the PRAYER OF FAITH that heals the sick not the anointing oil. The oil is nothing but a faith channelizer. Anointing someone with oil without exercise of faith is no different from rubbing Vaseline on the head. And so the idea of a “powerful anointing oil” is nothing but bunkum. It is in fact idolatry – hacks back to the notion of magic portion handed out by voodoo doctors. African Christians are particularly susceptible to this notion because of druidical pervasiveness. You cannot use the principles of African traditional religion to practice Christianity. What has Christ to do with Belial? ‘Anointing oil’ is just olive oil. Note that it’s also used to cook. There is no power or mystique in any ‘anointing oil’. It is faith that activates God’s power. The oil is just a “point of contact”- a faith enabler.

The same pervasive sense of ignorance attends the notion of fasting, and charlatans have exploited it. There’s no power in doing without food. It is your faith that gets your prayer answered. The fast only tempers your corporal tendencies, helps you concentrate by putting your flesh under. It’s like someone trying to concentrate on his studies who locks himself up in a room to read for exams. It’s not the lock-up in an upper room that gives him knowledge, or makes him ace the exams. It is his study! In other words, fasting is an evocative concentrator, it is not efficacious. We discipline the flesh through fasting to be more attentive to the Spirit of God and to concentrate. Fasting without faith and prayer is but hunger strike. At best it’s a weight loss exercise.

People have lost their lives, or dangerously impacted their health over-fasting. It stems from erroneous belief. And many Christians think there’s only one form of fasting. In actual fact there are three types of fasting in the Bible. And I don’t mean “dry fast”, “wet fast” and other imaginative appellations that make fasting sound like dry-cleaning. The most commonly known fast is of course temperance fasting. It is dietary control as well as suppression of bodily lusts and tendencies. John’s disciples did a lot of temperance fasting. So did the disciples of the Pharisees (Luke 5:33). In Acts 13:1-3, we also see the disciples fasting and praying. Paul and Barnabas were commissioned during such fast.

But the Bible talks about two other forms of fasting: there is Penitent Fast and Equitable Fast. Penitent Fast is coming before God in repentance or for atonement. It is really an Old Testament practice. It was usually accompanied by the donning of sackcloth (burlap) with dust (ashes) on the head. For example, when God pronounced judgment on the house of Ahab on account of his wife Jezebel, the Bible says Ahab “tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted…” (1 Kings 21:27). Daniel went into mourning over Jerusalem eating only “plain and simple food, no seasoning or meat or wine.” He neither shaved his head nor bathed for three weeks. It was a sign of mourning, the doing of atonement (Daniel 10:2-3).  They fasted in this manner to show remorse, to show God they’re truly sorry, to implore God. In 2 Samuel 12, we see David fasting and laying on the ground before God. He was pleading for the life of the child born of adulterous liaison with Bathsheba. He did this for seven days.

Note however that in the New Testament you don’t need to go to such extremes to implore God, or say you’re sorry. God says it’s enough to say we are sorry once we mean it. If we confess our sins he is faithful to forgive us of our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). If after telling God you’re sorry you still feel condemned, that’s Satan putting guilt on you, not the Spirit of God. You’ve got to trust the word of God that when God says he has forgiven, he has forgiven. His word is enough. Just confess your sins to God and accept his word that he has forgiven. You don’t need feelings for confirmation.

In Isaiah 58, we find references to the 2nd and 3rd types of fasting, Penitent and Equitable fasting.  “They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me.” ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. “What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me.” Going through the motions of penance without feeling sorry will not cut it with God, Isaiah is saying.

“You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance; you dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?” “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them and do not hide from relatives who need your help.”  Isaiah 58:1-7.

In other words, there is a fast called Equitable Fasting. It is devoted to social justice and equity. God values equitable fasting. It comes with blessings: “Do this and your light will turn on at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. “You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am’” (Isaiah 58:8-9). God says in Isaiah 58 that benevolence to the poor and underprivileged is fasting. Fasting therefore is self-deprivation.

God goes ahead to emphasize that attitude and disposition matter when it comes to fasting: “Get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people’s sins…” (I dare say that is something a lot of Christians need to pay attention to). “If you’re generous with the hungry and start giving yourself to the down-and-out, your lives will glow… in the darkness. I will always show you where to go. I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything” (Isaiah 58:10-12 MSG). In essence if you want to be famous and significant, to be reckoned with, and desire God’s direction, be kind to the poor.

And so there are three types of fasting in scriptures: Temperance Fasting, Penitence Fasting, and Equitable Fasting.

Thank you for reading.

© Leke Alder |