Sunday, July 03, 2005

Types of Fasting

Types of Fasting...
As outlined by Elmer L. Towns in Fasting For Spiritual Breakthrough

Nine different types of fasts based on the passage in Isaiah 58:6-8.

The Disciple’s Fast:

Purpose: “To loose the bands of wickedness” (Isa. 58:6) –freeing ourselves and others from addictions to sin.

Key verse:

“ This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matt.17:21)
Background: Jesus cast out a demon from a boy whom the disciples had failed to help. Apparently they had not taken seriously enough the way Satan had his claws set in the youth. The implication is that Jesus’ disciples could have performed this exorcism had they been willing to undergo the discipline of fasting. Modern disciples also often make light of “besetting sins” that could be cast out if we were serious enough to take part in such a self-denying practice as fasting – hence the term “Disciple’s Fast.”

The Ezra Fast:

Purpose: To “undo the heavy burdens” (Isa. 58:6) – to solve problems, inviting the Holy Spirit’s aid in lifting loads and overcoming barriers that keep ourselves and our loved ones from walking joyfully with the Lord.

Key Verse: “So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.” (Ezra 8:23)

Background: Ezra the priest was charged with restoring the Law of Moses among the Jews and the rebuilt the city of Jerusalem by permission of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, where God’s people had been held captive. Despite this permission, Israel’s enemies opposed them. Burdened with embarrassment about having to ask the Persian king for an army to protect them, Ezra fasted and prayed for an answer

The Samuel Fast:

Purpose: “To let the oppressed (physically and spiritually) go free” (Isa. 58:6) –for revival and soul winning, to identify with people everywhere enslaved literally or by sin and to pray to be used of God to bring people out of the kingdom of darkness and into God’s marvelous light.
Key Verse: “So they gathered together at Mizpah, drew water, and poured it out before the Lord. And they fasted that day, and said there, ‘We have sinned against the Lord’” (1 Sam. 7:6)
Background: Samuel led God’s people in a fast to celebrate the return of the Ark of the Covenant from its captivity by the Philistines, and to pray that Israel might be delivered from the sin that allowed the Ark to be captured in the first place.

The Elijah Fast:

Purpose: “To break every yoke” (Isa.58:6)-conquering the mental and emotional problems that would control our lives, and returning the control to the Lord.

Key Verse: “He himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness…He arose and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and nights” (1 Kings 19:4,8)
Background: Although Scripture does not call this a formal “Fast,” Elijah deliberately went without food when he fled from Queen Jezebel’s threat to kill him. After this self-imposed deprivation, God sent an angel to minister to Elijah in the wilderness.

The Widow’s Fast

Purpose: “To share [our] bread with the hungry” and to care for the poor (Isa.58:7)- to meet the humanization needs of others.

Key Verse: “The jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah” (1Kings 17:16, NIV).

Background: God sent the prophet Elijah to a poor, starving widow-ironically, so the widow could provide food for Elijah. Just as Elijah’s presence resulted in food for the widow of Zarephath, so presenting ourselves before God in prayer and fasting can relive hunger today.

The Paul Fast

Purpose: To allow God’s “light to break forth like the morning” (Isa 58:8), bringing clearer perspective and insight as we make crucial decision.

Key Verse: “And he [Saul, or Paul] was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank” (Acts 9:9)

Background: Saul of Tarsus, who became known as Paul after his conversion to Christ, was struck blind by the Lord in the act of persecuting Christians. He not only was without literal sight but he also had no clue about what direction his life was to take. After going without food and praying for three days, Paul was visited by the Christian Ananias, and both his eyesight and his vision of the future restored.

The Daniel Fast

Purpose: So “thine health shall spring forth” (Isa. 58:8)- to gain a healthier life or for healing.

Key Verse: “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank.” (Dan. 1:8)

Background: Daniel and his three fellow Hebrew captives demonstrated in Babylonian captivity that keeping themselves from pagan foods God had guided them not to eat made them more healthful than others in the king’s court.

The John the Baptist Fast

Purpose: That “your righteousness shall go before you” (Isa. 58:8) –that our testimonies and influence for Jesus will be enhanced before others

Key Verse: “He shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink” (Luke 1:15)

Background: Because John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus, he took the Nazarite vow that required him to “fast” from or avoid wine and strong drink. This was part of John’s purposefully adopted lifestyle that designated him as one set apart for a special mission.

The Esther Fast:
Purpose: That “the glory of the Lord” will protect us from the evil one (Isa. 58:8)

Key Verses: “Fast for me… and my maids and I will fast…. And I will go to the king…. And she found favor in his sight” (Esther 4:16; 5:2)

Background: Queen Esther, a Jewess in a pagan court, risked her life to save her people from threaten destruction by Ahasuerus, king of Persia. Prior to appearing before the king to petition him to save the Jews, Esther, her attendants and her cousin Mordecai all fasted to appeal to God for His protection.

Categories of fasting - also by Elmer L. Towns
(Obviously, these should be modified as God directs.)

1. The Normal Fast
going without food for a definite period during which you ingest only liquids (water and/or juice). The duration can be 1day, 3 days, 1 week, 1month or 40 days.

2. The Absolute Fast
allows no food or water at all, and should be short. Moses fasted for 40 days; but this would kill anyone without supernatural intervention.

3. The Partial Fast
one that omits certain foods or is on a schedule that includes limited eating. It may consist of omitting one meal a day. Eating only fresh vegetables for several days is also a good partial fast. Elijah practiced partial fasts at least twice. John the Baptist and Daniel with his three friends are other examples of those who participated in partial fasts. People who have hypoglycemia or other diseases might consider this kind of fast.

4. The Rotational Fast
consists of eating or omitting certain families of food for designated periods. For example, grains may be eaten only every fourth day. The various food families are rotated so that some food is available each day.


Anonymous said...

What sort of fast do you think is best. Like I feel moved to do the Ezra fast, but I'm not sure what type of fast to do. I did the Daniel fast two years ago. Should I do the same type?

Jerrell Jobe said...

I don't know that we could resolve that "one" particular fast is "best." The "nine types" derived from Isaiah 58 are just that nine types... These are exhausted by any means. Each of these simply demonstrate various types and perhaps results. Though there are results that frequently follow fasting, results are often not the best motivation. When they are, our focus is prone to migrate to an image of what we'll be like once they take root. This "image" can become a sort of idol if we are not careful.

The operative phrase in your comment is, "I feel moved to..." The question becomes, what's moving you in that direction? If this is something God's moving you towards, why do you sense this is the case?

Anonymous said...

Hi, I would say allow God to direct in which fast would be situable for you. I believe these are models of fasting that people practiced during there times. As Jerell stated, what is "moving you" to go on a fast. You don't always have to fast from certain foods. You could be a person who loves to watch television or play on a lot of electronics. You could go on a fast from those things that take up a lot of you time and focus on replacing that time with God in reading and praying. It could be that God wants to spend some time with you.