The Discipline of Fasting

Lesson 1998
Tags: Fasting
Excerpted from “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”: Spiritual Disciplines for Devotional Vitality
Related Resources: Perspectives on Fasting

“But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast . . . and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly:” (Mt 6.17-18).


  • Fasting is a neglected spiritual discipline. It is discussed dozens of times in the Bible. In addition, it has been widely practiced at various times in church history, most notably during times of revival such as the post-apostolic period, the Reformation, and the 19th century.
  • It is important to discuss what fasting is not. Biblical fasting is not a matter of asceticism, that is, denying ourselves something that is supposedly evil so as to earn God’s favor. Neither do we fast because we think we can force God to do something through the seriousness of our commitment.
  • What is the purpose of fasting, then? Fasting is really a means of freeing ourselves to get in touch with God. Scripture and history make clear that fasting should always be accompanied by prayer. While it is probably true that prayer—not fasting—brings about spiritual results, it is also likely that fasting enables our prayer lives to reach new heights of devotion and power. According to the Bible, fasting is a means of seeking the blessings of God in virtually every area of life.
  • It is imperative to remember that while fasting is a spiritual discipline, it is also a physical act. As such it should be carried out with respect for truth in the nutritional realm. As the Creator and Sustainer of our bodies, God gains no glory from a “discipline” that succeeds in diminishing our physical stamina. Therefore, some people should not fast, and those who do should take care not to abuse the practice.


Challenge the participants to engage in a one-day fast in the next week, then be prepared to report to the whole group the following session.

Further Reading

Bright, Bill. “Releasing God’s Power through Fasting.” Partners in Prayer. John Maxwell. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996.

Foster, Richard J. “The Discipline of Fasting.” Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. Rev. ed. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988. 47-61.

Linder, Robert D. “Fast, Fasting.” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Ed. Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: BakerBooks, 1984.

Towns, Elmer L. Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1996.

Wallis, Arthur. God’s Chosen Fast. Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1968.