When You Fast


  • Humbles us before God, and can get God’s attention (1 Kings 21)
  • Is beneficial when seeking God’s protection of our families (Ezra 8)
  • Is a proper action for mourning, penitence, and prayer unto God  (Nehemiah 1)
  • Is a wise precursor to taking an otherwise presumptuous huge step of faith (Esther 4)
  • Is not beneficial if one is living in a lifestyle of sin (Jeremiah 14, Zechariah 7)
  • Should be done for God, not primarily for self (Zechariah 7)
  • Is not beneficial if merely performed legalistically and perfunctorily (Isaiah 58)
  • Is extremely beneficial, with many promises from God, if performed in a godly manner (Isaiah 58)

Many godly men and women have given us excellent examples of faithfulness in fasting:

  • Our Lord began his ministry with a 40-day fast. (Matthew 4:2)
  • In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus does not say “if you fast”.  Instead, Jesus says “when you fast” (Matthew 6:16-18).  In other words, He does expect His disciples to fast.
  • Jesus said that his disciples would fast after his ascension into heaven.  He has already ascended, which means that we should fast. (Matthew 9:15, Mark 2:20 and Luke 5:35)
  • Jesus said there are some spiritual battles which cannot be overcome except by prayer AND fasting.  (Matthew 17:21 and Mark 9:29)
  • Anna the prophetess is praised for her frequent fasting. (Luke 2:37)
  • When the Gospel is first brought to the Gentiles, it happens in the context of Cornelius fasting.  (Acts 10:30)
  • When God first sends Paul and Barnabus to be apostles to the Gentiles, it is in the context of their fasting and prayer.  (Acts 13:2-3)
  • When the apostles laid hands on godly men and ordained them to the ministry, they did so with prayer and fasting. (Acts 14:23)
  • Paul says that married couples should not normally be celibate.  However, he does give one explicit exception, in which case temporary celibacy is acceptable.  It is so they may fast and pray.  (1 Corinthians 7:5)
  • One of the ways in which God’s ministers are shown to be approved is via their fastings.
  • (2 Corinthians 6:4-5)
  • The apostle Paul, who tells us to imitate him, was a man who fasted often.
  • (2 Corinthians 11:27)
  • The Didache was written either during the late 1st century (late 90s) or early 2nd century (around the 120s). According to the Didache, Christians normally fast on Wednesdays and Fridays:

Catherine Mandell’s book, “When You Fast”, has delicious recipes for Wednesdays, Fridays, and the entire Lenten season.

Chapter 8. Fasting and Prayer
(the Lord’s Prayer).

But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week. Rather, fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday). Do not pray like the hypocrites, but rather as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, like this:

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for Thine is the power and the glory for ever.

Pray this three times each day.

About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in 1 Corinthians 7:5, 1 Kings 21:27-29, 2 Corinthians 11:27, 2 Corinthians 6:4-5, Acts 10, Acts 13:2-3, Acts 14:23, Church History, Esther 4:13-17, Ezra 8:21-23, Fasting, Isaiah 58, Jeremiah 14:10-12, Luke 2:37, Luke 5:35, Mark 2:20, Mark 9:29, Matthew 17:21, Matthew 4:2, Matthew 6:16-18, Matthew 9:15, Nehemiah 1:4-11, Zechariah 7. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to When You Fast

  1. Pingback: Orthodox Collective

  2. Scott Sholar says:

    Thank you for sharing, and God bless you.

  3. Pingback: Fasting and Spiritual Benefit | The Orthodox Life

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