Although the Bible does not give a direct command on this issue, examples of fasting appear in both the Old and the New Testaments. One of the most telling passages in which fasting is mentioned is Matthew 6:16, where Jesus is teaching His disciples basic principles of godly living. When speaking on fasting, He begins with, “When you fast,” not “If you fast.”
Jesus’ words imply that fasting will be a regular practice in His followers’ lives.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, said, “Jesus takes it for granted that His disciples will observe the pious custom of fasting. Strict exercise of self-control is an essential feature of the Christian life. Such customs have only one purpose — to make the disciples more ready and cheerful to accomplish those things which God would have done.”
Wesley Duewel, a twentieth-century writer, said, “You and I have no more right to omit fasting because we feel no special emotional prompting than we have a right to omit prayer, Bible reading, or assembling with God’s children for lack of some special emotional prompting. Fasting is just as biblical and normal a part of a spiritual walk of obedience with God as are these others.”
People fast for a number of reasons. Following are seven circumstances in the Bible in which believers sought God through this discipline.
1. To prepare for ministry. Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness fasting and praying before He began God’s work on this earth. He needed time alone to prepare for what His Father had called Him to do (Matthew 4:1-17; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-14).
2. To seek God’s wisdom. Paul and Barnabas prayed and fasted for the elders of the churches before committing them to the Lord for His service (Acts 14:23).
3. To show grief. Nehemiah mourned, fasted, and prayed when he learned Jerusalem’s walls had been broken down, leaving the Israelites vulnerable and disgraced (Nehemiah 1:1-4).
4. To seek deliverance or protection. Ezra declared a corporate fast and prayed for a safe journey for the Israelites as they made the 900- mile trek to Jerusalem from Babylon (Ezra 8:21-23).
5. To repent. After Jonah pronounced judgment against the city of Nineveh, the king covered himself with sackcloth and sat in the dust. He then ordered the people to fast and pray. Jonah 3:10 says, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He relented and did not bring on them the destruction He had threatened.”
6. To gain victory. After losing 40,000 men in battle in two days, the Israelites cried out to God for help. Judges 20:26 says all the people went up to Bethel and “sat weeping before the Lord.” They also “fasted that day until evening.” The next day the Lord gave them victory over the Benjamites.
7. To worship God. Luke 2 tells the story of an 84-year-old prophetess named Anna. Verse 37 says, “She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” Anna was devoted to God, and fasting was one expression of her love for Him.
Despite biblical examples throughout Scripture, many Christians are slow to fast. I believe there are three main factors that cause believers to be hesitant — fear, ignorance, or rebellion. - faithgateway.com
Dr. Bill Bright, in his guide Why You Should Fast, he listed the following reasons for seeking God through self-denial.
•Fasting was an expected discipline in both the Old and New Testament eras.
•Fasting and prayer can restore the loss of the “first love” for your Lord and result in a more intimate relationship with Christ.
•Fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God.
•It enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.
•Fasting will encourage the Holy Spirit to quicken the Word of God in your heart and His truth will become more meaningful to you.
•Fasting can transform your prayer life into a richer and more personal experience.
•Fasting can result in a dynamic personal revival in your own life and make you a channel of revival to others.