“Seasons of dryness are a normal part of Christianity. Just keep doing all the things until you start to feel alive again.” That is the advice I’ve been given many times. It’s not bad advice, but it’s not the only way to overcome the spiritual deserts we all experience. While studying about the different types of Biblical fasting I learned how to get breakthrough and spiritual refreshing.
How Many Different Types of Biblical Fasting Are There?
The answer is countless. I’ve read books touting the 9 types of Biblical fasting, the 5 types of prayer, the 20 ways to fast and pray. The truth is, there are countless types of Biblical fasting hidden within the pages of scripture.
Why can I say there are limitless fasting options?
Because every person is different, the things we are fasting from will differ. Therefore, there are countless different types of Biblical fasting.
“Fasting, at its heart, is about giving up something that satisfies you in order to intentionally pursue satisfaction in God alone.” ~A Beginners Guide to Pray and Fast: Taking Spiritual Warfare to the Next Level by Tiffany Montgomery.
Every single time I study the topic of fasting I am awed by the wonder of a God who cares more about our heart than the “rules of Christianity”.
Every time I see God show up through a different type of fasting I am reminded that God’s desire is not primarily to enforce rules but to encourage THE relationship.
What are the different types of fasting?
Since there are countless types of fasting, it would take a lifetime to lay out all the options, but I can share the basics to help you find the type of fasting that will help you draw nearer to God.
Know that each one has pros and cons and you should weigh them wisely. In all honestly, as I practiced various types of fasting and prayer I learned a lot from each form. Most of the time I failed at the fast, but I learned from it nonetheless.
Be okay with failing. See each attempt at fasting as a practice run to find the right path forward toward a spiritual breakthrough.
1. A 40-Day Complete Fast (No Food or Water)
Moses and Jesus both give us examples of a 40 day complete fast. Note please that they give extreme examples by having no food or water for 40 days. Consult your doctor before fasting from all food and water for more than 24 hours.
“So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:28 NASB)
“And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.”(Matthew 4:2 NASB)
2. A Complete Fast
The duration of a complete fast could range from part of a day to an entire day to several days or weeks. This was the most common in the scripture.
“Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, “The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty.” (Ezra 8:21-23 NASB)
3. A Partial Fast
A partial fast can also vary in duration from part of a day to weeks. While the complete fast abstains from all food for a time, a partial fast abstains from certain foods or drinks for the time. The most common partial fasting is often called a 3 day spiritual fast while others fast 10 days, 14 days, 21 days, 30 days or even 40 days.
In Daniel, we see believers who ate only fruit, veggies and drank water for 10 days to honor God while in captivity.
“Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink.” (Daniel 1:12 NASB)
4. The Daniel Fast is a partial fast
What is the Daniel fast according to the Bible? The basic idea behind this fast is to have no meat, no tasty bread, no wine, no oils for his skin, for 21 days.
“I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all until the entire three weeks were completed.” (Daniel 10:3 NASB)
These would have been things that satisfied Daniel. Why does the world latch onto the specifics of his fasting? The power that came and the answers to prayer that he saw are something we long for today. Note please, however, that fasting and prayer were his habits. The Daniel fast was not powerful because of what Daniel gave up, but rather because of the humility of Daniel’s life.
A humble Christian who fasts will see answers and feel refreshed regularly.
5. A Non-Food Fast
For those of us with a medical condition, the non-food fast is the safest way to practice this spiritual discipline.
In Scripture, we see several examples of non-food fasts.
- Oils (Daniel 10:3)
- Sex (1 Corinthians 7:5; Exodus 19:15)
- Unholy things such as foods, items, people, places, practices, etc. – (Joshua 3:5)
6. Group Fasting
A time of group fasting can be powerful on a personal and corporate level. This type of fasting can be a variation of any of the different types of Biblical fasting. The point is not that everyone is fasting from the same thing, but that they are fasting about the same thing.
Lent is a 40-day fast that believers join in together preceding Easter every year. Christians all over the world fast to prepare their hearts to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
At other times, a group may fast over a need in their church or the salvation of a loved one. Others may fast together over their marriage or children.
The concept is simple but the power that comes when two or more are gathers in His name is great! (Matthew 18:20)
7. Isolation Fast
While Jesus does not give us a detailed outline of things to abstain from during a fast He does show us how effective isolation is for fasting. Jesus often withdrew from His disciples to spend time alone with God (Luke 5:16).
Time alone with God is hard to find but it is one of the most effective of all the different types of Biblical fasting. In the 21st Century, time alone with God could look like:
- No other people around
- Your Bible (no Bible app with ads to distract you)
- Zero Internet
- A notebook (no tablet to distract you)
- No Radio
- Possibly device-free
- No social media
Alone. In solitude. No distractions from hearing God’s voice. This type of fasting takes practice and great planning to achieve. Time alone with God is powerful for reaching Spiritual Breakthrough! Try it. Plan to drive to work tomorrow without the radio on. Spend that time talking and listening to God and see how it feels.
How to Fast According to the Bible
When I see questions like:
- How many types of fasting are there in Christianity?
- What is the Daniel fast according to the Bible?
- How long should I fast for God?
I hear a heart that is longing to please God, to know how to fast and pray according to the Bible so you are pleasing God. That is an amazing place to start.
Now that we know the primary different types of Biblical fasting, we can see how others in the Bible were able to spin those to fit their situations.
But remember, Biblical fasting is more about the heart behind your fast than about the rules you are following while fasting!
Fasting in the Bible – New Testament Fasting Specifically
First, we see that Jesus fasted but we don’t see examples. Jesus lack of explanation is beautiful because it reinforces the point that fasting is between you and God.
The truth is, you know what you seek for satisfaction. What of that is often apart from God? That thing, or those things, are probably what you need to set aside for a time to re-engage with God.
For me, I turn to junk food when I am hurting or angry, knowing full well that I should turn to God. A partial fast (abstaining from junk food) for a period of time is a way that I can intentionally re-engage with God.
What are those things for you?
Esther Fast for Breakthrough
Have you heard of the Esther fast for a breakthrough in difficult situations?
This type of fasting is a combination of the complete 3-day fast and a group fast. The group prays and fasts over a specific issue together. This is powerful and effective and is seen repeatedly in Scripture.
“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 3:16 ANSB)
Daniel Fasts for 21 Days
We already looked at the Daniel fast but I want to touch on it again because it is so powerful. The concept of partial fasting for 3 weeks or a 21 day fast is solid but check your heart. If oils, sweets, or meats are not what you turn to for satisfaction, this type of fasting will fall flat.
Search your heart. Spend time asking God to reveal to you the things that you seek for satisfaction. It could be Facebook or Candy Crush instead of food. Be open to fasting from the things that will really drive you to pray.
21 days of fasting and prayer can change your life if you choose the right things to fast from.
How to Fast and Pray for a Breakthrough
While fasting for spiritual growth you want to intentionally plan times of prayer and scripture meditation into your day.
- Prayer – talking to God
- Scripture Meditation – God talking to you
Both are key to the breakthrough you are seeking.
Any of the 9 different types of Biblical fasting can help you get the breakthrough in your life. Any of them. Honestly, you may want to try many of them to find the right one for you.
After many years of practicing fasting I have a list of things to fast for God now. But when I first began, I was clueless about how to fast and pray in a way that pleases God.
I tried intermittent fasting, fasting from 6 am to 3 pm, then 3 pm to 6 am. Intermittent fasting helped me find the things that drove me to prayer. I started fasting from all food, then just certain food, finally fasting from non-food things until I found the things that helped.
My list of things to fast for God:
- My phone
- People – Isolation
- Red meat
I crave these things. They satisfy me. In and of themselves none of these things are sinful but they can keep me from the breakthrough and spiritual refreshing I desire.
When I am bored, I scroll through Facebook. At the end of the day, I realize I haven’t found time to do my Bible study. How many good but pointless things are there in my life that rob me of that time with God?
When good things keep you from doing God things, good things are bad. Fasting from good things can lead to spiritual breakthrough!
Which of The Different Types of Biblical Fasting
We’ve looked at several different types of Biblical fasting today. I’d love to know if you’ve tried fasting. What types of things drive you to prayer while fasting?
It took years to hone in on the Spiritual discipline of fasting, but I can honestly say it was the answer to overcoming that dryness. It has been years since I’ve walked through that spiritual desert because now I know how to draw nearer to God for a time of refreshing.
The Bible repeatedly tells us to draw near to God, to seek God with all your heart, to humble yourself before God. Fasting is a way to draw near, seek and humble yourself before God to receive the breakthrough you are longing for.
Maybe you felt the stir but you are still unsure of the specific how-to’s of fasting. No worries. I’ve written a short book to help guide you through the process of fasting.
A Beginners Guide to Fast and Pray: Taking Spiritual Warfare to the Next Level. Get your copy and start your journey to spiritual breakthrough today!
A Note from Cherith:
I have had the privilege of reading Tiffany’s awesome book, A Beginner’s Guide to Pray and Fast:Taking Spiritual Warfare to the Next Level myself, and I just want to take a minute to tell you about it.
You guys, this book is wonderful! It is short and easy to read, but it is absolutely jam-packed with insight. Even though I have fasted before, and felt like I had a pretty good idea of what the Bible says about fasting, I learned SO much! Not only that, I felt myself being convicted pretty much from page one!
God has used this book to open my eyes to a spiritual discipline I have not utilized to its full potential. There is all kinds of intimacy with God I’ve been missing out on as a result. I’m so thankful God led me to this book, and for the amazing ways He is using it, not just in my life, but in the life of many others.
I’m also incredibly thankful He brought the author, Tiffany Montgomery into my life! She has become a dear friend and prayer partner. I am regularly blown away by her humility before God, her gentle and quiet spirit, and her rock-solid faith! Please check out her ministry at Hope and Joy in Christ. You will be blessed!