In our last lesson, we examined our motives for fasting. Now that we understand the right reasons to fast, what do we do now? Do we just stop eating until we can’t take it any longer? No not at all! The Bible gives us seven models for different kinds of fasts. In this and our next lesson, we’ll explore four of them in depth and mention the other three, giving you plenty of Scripture references so you can study them on your own.
1. The Esther Fast—The Three Day Fast
In Esther Chapter 3, King Ahasuerus promotes Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, to the lofty position of Chief Prince. The King commands that all of his servants bow and reverence Haman. Mordecai, a devout Jew, refuses to bow to Haman. Mordecai’s faith does not allow him to bow and reverence anyone or anything but God. The prideful Haman gets extremely angry and hatches a plot to destroy Mordecai and all the Jews:
And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.—Esther 3:5–6, (AV)
Esther is Mordecai’s cousin whom he raised and the wife of King Ahasuerus. She is going to take matters into her own hands and do what she can to rescue the Jews. But in order to do so, she has to break protocol and directly approach the King without having him first call for her. This action can cost her her life.
All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.—Esther 4:11, (AV)
To prepare herself and seek God’s favor, she called for a corporate three day fast: “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.”—Esther 4:16, (AV)
God honored Esther’s called fast. Mordecai and the Jews were saved, Esther lived, and Haman was hung. Esther’s fast is a severe or strict fast. They ate no food or water for three days. It had a very specific purpose…to seek God’s favor in the time of crisis.
Are you in trouble? Is your home in trouble? Are your kids in trouble? Are your finances in a state of crisis? Is your marriage in trouble? These are all sound Biblical reasons to practice the Esther fast. When you are confronted with a severe crisis situation, the three day strict fast is an appropriate way to seek God’s will and favor.
2. The Daniel Fast—The Twenty-one Day Fast
Daniel was taken into captivity by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar. By the time we get to Daniel chapter 10, Babylon had already been conquered by the Medo-Persian empire and Cyrus the King of Persia was in the third year of his reign. Daniel 10:1–3 says:
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel, whose name was called Belteshazzar; and the thing was true, but the time appointed waslong: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the vision. In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.
The intensity of Daniel’s vision led him to humble himself before God with a twenty-one day fast. Note that Daniel ate no meat, no bread, and had nothing other to drink than water. The Daniel fast is understood to be nothing more than fruits, vegetables and water for the duration of the fast. Yes, it is a fast in which you can eat!
Earlier Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) challenged Melzar to give them nothing but pulse to eat and water to drink for ten days so they could prove they could remain healthy without eating the king’s meat and drinking the king’s wine.
“Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.”—Daniel 1:11–13, (AV)
Pulse is vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, and tubers. They drank only water. In chapter 10, pulse again was Daniel’s diet for his twenty-one day fast. God’s response to Daniel’s humility and brokeness as he prayed is nothing short of miraculous.
And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and uponthe palms of my hands. And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.—Daniel 10:10–13, (AV)
God heard Daniel’s prayer on the first day of his fast. I won’t pretend that I understand everything that goes on in the spirit world because I don’t. All I know from this portion of Scripture is that spiritual warfare was taking place as Daniel fasted and prayed. Did God unleash His power in response to Daniel’s fasting and prayer so the angels could overcome Prince of Persia? I don’t know, but it almost appears so. No matter what happened though, God responded to Daniel in a supernatural way.
We’ll be exploring two more fasts in depth in Getting on the Fast Track—Part 6 before moving on to our concluding lesson.