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5 Types Of Fasting For Christian—Your Spiritual Growth Guide

Know the different types of fasting for Christians, based on Biblical wisdom, to deepen your faith in Christ.

Perhaps you have read about fasting and prayer in the Bible, or you’ve heard about it at church, but what is it? What is the concept of spiritual fasting, and how does that apply to you, the New Testament believer? 

Unfortunately, many of us gloss right over fasting in the Bible and dismiss it as something people used to do. But we miss out on so much when we don’t integrate fasting into our spiritual lives. 

When we tap into the benefits of fasting in our personal lives, we find a renewed focus and a closer connection to God that we had previously not experienced. There is a reason God advises, or commands, us to fast.

To be clear, fasting is not dieting. We often hear the term intermittent fasting, which is a way of eating (or not eating) and losing weight. Spiritual fasting is not about losing weight. Rather, spiritual fasting is about removing food, or something else, from your life in order to focus on growing closer to God.

Biblical and spiritual fasting are extremely powerful. Look at Jesus in the wilderness. While He was fully God when He walked this earth, He was also fully man as well. After His 40 days fast in the wilderness, He was extremely close to God.

But, He was weakened physically. He was also wide open to spiritual attack, and we see Satan taking full advantage of that. If you know the story, you know Jesus, while tempted, never gave in to the temptation. He refuted Satan’s lies with Biblical truth, something we all need to do as well. 

Continue reading for 5 Bible fasting types.

Read more about fasting here with these verses on fasting.

5 Types of Biblical Fasting

A text overlay in the image reads as: 5 ypes of Fasting for Christian: Your spiritual growth guide. In the left side image is a Christian woman reflecting on a bridge, seeking solace and connection with God.

Type 1. Absolute Fast

An absolute fast means abstaining from both food and water. We see a few Biblical examples of this type of absolute fast. Moses, on Mount Sinai, fasted before God for 40 days and 40 nights. We see a parallel fast with Jesus fasting for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, although in this instance the Bible does not specify (as with the other accounts) that Jesus fasted from water. 

Both of these accounts are extreme examples of absolute fasting. This type of fasting is only physically possible with the direct help and sustenance of God Himself.

We also see an example of absolute fasting in Esther, when Esther commands the Jewish people to abstain from food and water for a period of three days. Also, Saul, in Acts 9, after being blinded by God, did not eat or drink during the three days he was without his sight. 

Absolute fasting should only ever be undertaken for extremely urgent spiritual needs and only for short durations. While our bodies can go without food for longer periods of time, we do require water more frequently. 

Before undertaking any type of fast, but especially an absolute fast, you need to be sure you’re following the guidance of God and practicing safety first and foremost. 

Type 2. Water Fast

In a water fast, you abstain from all food but still drink water. And only water. In the case of absolute fasting, the Bible specifies that the individual fasted from food and water. In all other cases, we infer that the individuals, or groups, fasted from food only.

Some examples of fasting for spiritual breakthrough in the Bible are:

  • In Judges 20:26, we see the Israelites fasting from sunrise to sunset as they sought direction from the Lord.
  •  In Ezra 8, we see Ezra proclaiming a fast to implore God for protection as they traveled back to Jerusalem. 
  • When Nehemiah heard about the walls of Jerusalem being torn down and burned, he fasted before God for an undisclosed amount of time.

Fasting durations in Scripture vary. From 1 day fast to 40 days fast, we also see 3 days fast and fasts whose durations aren’t mentioned. Durations for personal fasts should be something you pray about and seek the Lord’s guidance for.

The entire point of water fasting is to grow closer to God. Removing the things in your life, namely food, that consume so much of your time and energy, and using that extra time to spend in communion with Him. Also, allowing the natural cravings our body has for food, to be a reminder to seek God out in prayer.

Type 3. Partial Fast (Daniel Fast)

Another Biblical fasting example is found in Daniel, chapter 1. We often refer to this as the “Daniel Fast.”

This was when Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were taken into captivity from Israel to Babylon. They found favor in the king’s sight and were brought into his court for training.

When offered the foods of the king’s palace, Daniel implored the court officials to be allowed to abstain from the rich food and wine that would have gone against their Jewish law. Instead, he asked that they would be allowed to eat only vegetables and water. 

In the end, they found favor and were allowed to give this odd diet a trial run. When, after ten days, they were found to be in better condition than the people eating all the king’s food, Daniel and his friends were allowed to continue with their fast.

The key to the Daniel Fast spiritual benefits lay within the state of their hearts, not necessarily in the food they did eat or did not eat. God showed Daniel and his friends favor because they remained faithful to Him even in the midst of great upheaval

We see a similar fast in Daniel 10, where Daniel fasts from certain foods (although it doesn’t say all food) in order to come before the Lord in mourning in response to a vision he was given. This fast lasted for a period of three weeks. 

In partial food fasts, the individual will abstain from a particular food, not from food in general. This is usually food we really like and crave. Something that would be a personal sacrifice on your part, showing God what you’re willing to set aside in order to grow closer to Him. 

Type 4. Regular Fasting

Just as we seek the Lord through prayer and Bible reading, fasting should be something we incorporate into our lives on a regular basis. This is crucial to our spiritual lives and our relationships with God.

Don’t take my word for it, read what Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 6:16–18.

 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,  so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:16–18

The key word Jesus uses here is when. Not if you fast, but when you fast. Jesus expected His disciples to fast on a regular basis. 

And if you thought this was just an Old Testament ritual, let’s see what was going on in the early church. In Acts 13:2, we read:

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Acts 13:2

And in Acts 14:23:

“Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.”

Acts 14:23

Fasting is mentioned as casually as worship and prayer. It was something the early church practiced on a regular basis. And if the early church set that example for us, then it’s something we need to take a closer look at and see how we can incorporate it into our spiritual lives. 

Type 5. Selective/Focused Fasting

A selective/focused fast is abstaining from something, not food related, in order to focus on God. 

A selective fast is taking something that consumes a large portion of your thoughts and time and removing that thing from your life. Then, instead of filling that void with something else, you use your time and energy to turn toward God. 

Some Biblical examples of this would be the Nazarite vow detailed in Numbers 6. This was meant to be a temporary vow of dedication to the Lord, one that the individual would take voluntarily. The restrictions of a Nazarite would be:

  • abstaining from wine and other strong or fermented drinks
  • no grapes or raisins, nothing from the grapevine, not even seeds
  • they must not cut their hair for the duration of the vow
  • they could not go near a dead body, they must be ceremonially clean at all times

Modern applications of a selective fast would be things that consume large portions of our time, thoughts, energy, or money. Things like hobbies, social media, TV, or certain social activities. 

When deciding what to fast from, use spiritual discernment and pray before making this commitment to the Lord. Your selective fast should be about something that requires sacrifice on your part.

How to Prepare for a Biblical Fast

Prior to fasting, Biblical fasting preparation is key to getting started.

Before you begin, you need to examine your heart and come before the Lord in prayer. Why are you fasting? What do you hope to accomplish during this fast? It’s important to have a clear direction before beginning.

Next, you need to seek God’s guidance on the type of fast and the duration of it. Are you going to fast from all food, certain foods, or is God calling you to give up a non-food related activity? How long should a Biblical fast last? 

The answers to these questions will vary from person to person. Allow God to direct your heart in these areas and follow His leading.

If you’re going to be fasting from food, especially if this is your first time fasting, it can be helpful to tweak your diet now to help make your fast easier. Cutting out carbs and sugar can make those fasting days a little more manageable.

Prepare to experience hunger. Part of the point of fasting is that you will experience hunger pangs. Usually, when we feel hungry, we seek out food. On a water fast, use those hunger cues as a reminder to seek out God.

Instead of filling your body with physical nourishment, use this time to fill your body with the Living bread and water.

Journaling can be really helpful during this time as you reflect on how you’re growing closer to God and what He is revealing to you during this time. Also, be prepared for spiritual attacks as you move into a fasted state.

The last thing the enemy wants is for you to utilize the power that comes through fasting. He will move to come against you and derail you from your fasting journey.

Remember, greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world! 

Tips for a Successful and Spiritually Fulfilling Fast

If you want your fast to be successful and spiritually fulfilling, you must commit yourself to spending time with God through prayer and Bible reading. Often, the temptation can replace whatever it is you’re fasting from with something else. Don’t make that mistake. The entire point of removing something from your life is to fill that void with God.

If you’re fasting from food, use the time you would be using to prepare and consume food, to focus on God through prayer and Bible study. If you’re fasting from TV or social media, use the time you’d spend watching your favorite show or scrolling through Facebook to spend time in God’s presence.

It may even be helpful, if possible, to seek out a fellow believer to pray and fast with you. Having some accountability in your spiritual fast can be a great way to stay faithful in your fast.

Breaking the Fast—Guidance on Reintroducing Food

Now that you’re beginning to fast, the question now becomes: How do you break a Biblical fast?

When fasting from food, especially during longer, extended fasts, it’s important to break your fast gently. When reintroducing foods back into your system, start with things like broth, fruits, and vegetables. Start with small portions and gradually increase in size as your body gets used to food again.

Be mindful when ending your fast and express gratitude to God for everything He’s taught you and done in you during your fast. Reflect on the things He has shown you and taught you during your fasting time with Him.

FAQs on Types of Biblical Fasting for Christian

Is fasting safe for everyone?

Fasting from food may not be something that is safe for everyone. It is always best to consult your medical doctor prior to starting a water fast. However, we can all fast from something. If fasting from food isn’t something safe for you, pray about what you can give up to draw closer to God.

How does fasting improve my relationship with God?

Fasting improves your relationship with God when you use the absence of (whatever you’re giving up) to draw closer to Him. It’s not the act of giving something up, it’s what you do with your time during the absence.

Can I still work and exercise during a fast?

You can usually still work and exercise in a fasted state. This will vary from person to person, but know that our bodies are amazing creations that were designed to work well in the absence of food. In all things, listen to God and your body during your fast.

How to overcome cravings or distractions while fasting?

The biggest thing to understand about cravings is that they will come and they will go. Drink some water and commit those times when cravings hit, to prayer. Use those feelings of longing and turn them inward to Jesus. Allow Him to satisfy you instead. 

For distractions, again turn toward Christ. You will be tempted to fill your time with other things. Stay focused and remind yourself of why you’re fasting in the first place. 

What if I break my fast earlier than intended?

Give yourself grace. God certainly does!

There is power in fasting. Sacrificing your time and your personal needs and desires to draw closer to God will change your life in ways you cannot even begin to fathom. If you’ve never attempted a fast before, I urge you to pray about doing so.

This should be a regular part of our spiritual walk with God. Just as we need physical food and water to sustain life, we also need regular time with God spent in prayer, Bible reading, and fasting. 

I hope this article has given you a bigger look at how to do a Biblical fast. My goal is that this helps you feel more confident in taking steps to begin your own Biblical fast and grow closer to God in ways you never thought possible.

I have done many fasts throughout the years, and the clarity gained through them has been profound. Taking that time away from food and spending it in the presence of God has been some of the biggest blessings in my life. It can be for you as well.

To get started with your fasting journey,check out this resource for Biblical fasting for beginners.

A Christian woman in prayerful reflection on a bridge, seeking solace and connection with God.

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