The Discipline of Fasting

By Dr. Derek Morris


A.              Fasting in the Scriptures

1.              Types of Fast

a.              Normal fast - Luke 4:1-2

b.              Partial fast - Daniel 10:3.

c.              Absolute fast - Esther 4:16; Acts 9:9.

d.              Supernatural fast - Deuteronomy 9:9.

2.              In the teachings of Jesus

Study the following passages of Scripture: Matthew 6:16-18 & 9:14-15.  What can we learn about fasting from the teachings of Jesus? 


B.                                Insights on spiritual fasting in the writings of Ellen White


The fasting which the word of God enjoins is something more than a form.  It does not consist merely in refusing food, in wearing sackcloth, in sprinkling ashes upon the head.  He who fasts in real sorrow for sin will never court display.  The object of the fast which God calls upon us to keep is not to afflict the body for the sin of the soul, but to aid us in perceiving the grievous character of sin, in humbling the heart before God and receiving His pardoning grace.[1]


The true fasting which should be recommended to all, is abstinence from every stimulating kind of food, and the proper use of wholesome, simple food, which God has provided in abundance.  Men need to think less about what they shall eat and drink of temporal food and much more in regard to the food from heaven, that will give tone and vitality to the whole religious experience.[2]


Now and onward till the close of time the people of God should be more earnest, more wide-awake, not trusting in their own wisdom, but in the wisdom of their Leader.  They should set aside days for fasting and prayer.  Entire abstinence from food may not be required, but they should eat sparingly of the most simple food.[3]


For certain things, fasting and prayer are recommended and appropriate.  In the hand of God they are a means of cleansing the heart and promoting a receptive frame of mind.  We obtain answers to our prayers because we humble our souls before God.[4]

The spirit of true fasting and prayer is the spirit which yields mind, heart and will to God.[5]

All the fasting in the world will not take the place of simple trust in the word of God.[6]


C.              The purpose of a spiritual fast

1.              Fasting helps us to focus our attention upon God

2.              Fasting calls us to prayer

3.              Fasting exposes those things which control us


D.             How should we fast?

1.              Plan a 24 hour partial fast.

a.              eat sparingly of the most simple food or you may wish to simply drink fruit juices.

b.              drink plenty of pure water.

c.              Begin your fast with prayer following a wholesome breakfast.  Break your fast the following morning with a light meal of fresh fruit and a special time of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord!

d.              Remember that you should not "advertize" your fast.  Such an attitude leads to spiritual pride and robs you of the special blessings that God desires to bestow during this time.

e.              Consider setting aside a day each week for this type of spiritual fast.

2.              Plan a normal or absolute fast in times of great need

a.              In times of crisis, God may impress you to enter into a normal or absolute fast.

b.              Realize that you must severely limit your activities during such a fast. (You should consult your physician if you suspect that such a fast might endanger your health).

c.              Do not become extreme.  There is no virtue in a marathon fast.

You are not called upon to fast forty days.  The Lord bore that fast for you in the wilderness of temptation.  There would be no virtue in such a fast; but there is virtue in the blood of Christ.[7]



     [1]White, Thoughts From The Mount of Blessing, p. 87.  (Emphasis supplied.)

     [2]White, Counsels on Diets and Foods (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1938), p. 188.

     [3]Ibid., pp. 188-89.

     [4]Ibid., pp. 187-88.

     [5]Ibid., p. 189.



Dr. Derek Morris is the editor of Ministry, host of Hope Sabbath School, and co-host of MINISTRYinMOTION.TV