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Scripture-Study List: Fasting

The Old-Testament prophet Ezra proclaimed a fast to “beseech God” for His help.

Ezra 8:21-23,31:

  • Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.
  • For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.
  • So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.
  • Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.

Esther, the Jewish wife of a gentile king, wished to alleviate some of the burdens that had been placed on her people’s shoulders. She decided to speak with the king, but feared he would be angry. Esther asked the Jews to fast on her behalf, that God would protect her.

Esther 4:16:

  • Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.

The Old-Testament psalmist used fasting and prayer to humble himself and to receive spiritual comfort.

Psalms 35:13:

  • But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.

The Old-Testament prophet Daniel also used fasting and prayer to beesech God that “thine anger and thy fury be turned away” (verse 16).

Daniel 9:3-4:

  • And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:
  • And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;

The people of Nineveh fasted in hopes that God would not destroy their city.

Jonah 3:5:

  • So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.

In the Old-Testament book of Joel, God instructed the ancient Israelites to fast.

Joel 2:12:

  • Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:

Jesus Christ Himself fasted to commune with God.

Matthew 4:1-2:

  • Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
  • And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

Jesus also taught that fasting brings blessings from heaven.

Matthew 6:17-18:

  • But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
  • That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.

On another occasion Jesus again taught His disciples the same principle: fasting, together with prayer and faith, can bring blessings.

Matthew 17:19-21:

  • Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
  • And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
  • Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

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