Fasting is making a come-back in protestant circles. In the Roman Catholic church it always has been a part of the tradition. Among others there is more attention for Lent, the 40 days before Easter. People have a need to give meaning to this period and fasting is a part of that.

In the Old Testament fasting is mainly associated with morning and repentance. Because of the fasting God would care for His people and hear their prayers.

The disciples of Jesus didn’t fast at the usual day of the week, because ‘the bridegroom is with them’ (Marc 2:18-20). Jesus said they will fast on the day the bridegroom will be taken from them. He also connects faith with prayer and fasting at the (failed) attempt of the disciples to heal someone by casting out a demon. (Matthew 17:14-21)

In Acts praying and fasting is mentioned a few times surrounding the appointment of missionaries and elders (13:2,3; 14:23) and after that it isn’t mentioned any more in the New Testament.

Even if the custom doesn’t exist very long in my surroundings, I already saw quite a labelling practice:


  • If you want your prayers answered you will have to fast, because this way you show that you really mean it.

  • Fasting ads power to your prayers

  • By fasting you can hear Gods voice better

  • If you are fasting you don’t have to cook and you don’t have to eat so you can devote that time to God

  • You can also fast from social media or TV

  • The longer you fast the better, three days is sort of the minimum

How you can also look at it

Fasting is not a hunger strike to enforce an answer to your prayer. It also isn’t just not eating and the rest is as usual. Isaiah has something to say about that on Gods behalf and that isn’t pretty (Isaiah 58).

Every time a period of fasting is announced in church I wonder what the benefits are and why I should join in, because I am not such an admirer of fasting. Actually I believe we don’t have to fast any more because I think the bridegroom is among us. We also don’t have to repent for our sins because they are forgiven, but it is good practice to once in a while consider your own imperfection and the grace you need. I also don’t live under the impression God only reveals something after three days of fasting that He otherwise would have kept hidden from you, but it is a nice thought to set time apart exclusive for God.

A church usually fasts three days at the start of a new (church) year In the evening there is a meeting to pray and to exchange experiences. Every time I will join in, but only half, because I do drink tea and eat supper. In addition I just do what I normally do and am cranky because I am not allowed to eat.

But every time I come near the fridge I do have to think about God and in between as well, because I just don’t feel very well. And because I do use fasting as a means of pressure towards God, I only ask for things. So in short, my fasting is not very holy. I more or less behave like a sulking little child.

But despite me not repenting and absolutely not morning about my bad behaviour, I do have the feeling God is smiling at my clumsiness and after three days gives me a pet on the head and some candy for comfort, because always something nice will happen. So the next fasting I reluctantly will join in again.

This is because for me the biggest problem is in the ‘have to’ and the ‘not allowed’. By joining in on the fasting I don’t pay attention to that and for three days I do something that doesn’t make sense to me. The first day with a healthy aversion, the second day is better and on the third day I often see the fun of it. And for one reason of the other, it always pays out, even if my fasting bears some resemblance with the one of Isaiah 58

The moral of this story? Not a clue…