There are several reasons for fasting. Elmer Townes has identified nine types of fasting in his book Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough. What follows is a brief description of each of the nine he identified.
The purpose of the Disciples Fast is to break the power of addiction. Many people struggle with behaviors that seem uncontrollable. It is as if we lose all sense of self-control and are controlled by whatever this overpowering behavior may be: drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, and so on. The Disciples Fast has the power to rid us of the “sin that so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1).”
The purpose of the Ezra Fast is to “undo heavy burdens.” When Ezra returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple (Ezra 8), he prayed and fasted for God’s protection rather than asking the king for an army to protect him and his fellow travelers.
The purpose of the Samuel Fast is for freedom for the physically and spiritually oppressed. Apart from Christ, humans are held captive by sin and darkness. The Samuel Fast can be used when praying for someone’s salvation. This fast can also be used when praying for the physically oppressed, those in abusive relationships, forced into human trafficking and the like.
Who can forget when Elijah ran from Queen Jezebel? Elijah went without food for 40 days (1 Kings 19). The purpose of this fast is to overcome fear and other negative emotions that prevent us from experiencing the fullness of joy in the Lord.
The purpose of the Widow’s Fast is to “share food with the hungry” and to care for the poor. In 1 Kings17:8-16, Elijah went to the widow who was gathering wood in order to prepare one last meal before she and her son died. Elijah told her to fix him a cake first, and then one for herself and her son, which she did. She intentionally went without food in order to provide for Elijah. When we engage in the Widow’s Fast, we intentionally forgo a meal (or meals) and give the cost of that meal to provide for the poor.
Saint Paul Fast
When we have an important decision to make, the Saint Paul fast can be useful. In Acts 9, after Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus, he did not eat or drink for three days. This event was a major turning point in the life of Paul. When we encounter important decisions and sense that we are at major turning points in our lives, we can use the St. Paul Fast.
When we, or a loved one needs a healing from God, the Daniel Fast can be helpful. Daniel refused the kings food in Daniel 1 and became healthier as a result.
John the Baptist Fast
John the Baptist did not drink wine as a part of his commitment to the Lord. He was the one in the desert crying out “prepare the way of the Lord.” His role in God’s plan of salvation was to bear witness to who Jesus was. When we want to fulfill our call in God’s plan and increase our witness to who Christ is, the John the Baptist Fast may be a powerful place to start.
Queen Esther saved her people from the wrath of a tyrannical king. Before she entered his presence to make her request, she asked her uncle, Mordecai, to ask the Jews to pray and fast for her. Whenever we need protection, appealing to God through prayer and fasting is a great place to start.
Prayer and fasting are ways that we can bring our concerns before God when we
- need to break the power of addiction
- feel burdened
- need spiritual or physical freedom
- are experiencing negative emotions
- desire to aid those less fortunate
- need to make significant life decisions
- need a healing
- want to increase our witness for Christ, and
- need God’s protection.
Next time I’ll describe several different ways of fasting as well as some practical tips on fasting.
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