“A friend of mine told me she is fasting and praying for a particular reason. Is this something we should be doing? I know the Bible talks about fasting, but is it for us”
The New Testament gives no command concerning fasting. However, we do read that the early church did practice fasting.
“Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:1 – 3, New International Version).
This passage precedes what we call the first missionary journey. It seems obvious that fasting was a serious part of their practice, since the Spirit called Saul and Barnabas during a time of prayer and fasting and these believers fasted again before sending the two missionaries on their way.
Later, toward the end of this first missionary effort, Paul and Barnabas returned to the churches they had established and appointed elders in those churches. Notice how they went about doing this. “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:23, New American Standard Version). As these two men of God were making important decisions, they fasted.
Jesus gives simple guidelines for those who choose to fast. “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:16 – 18).
Fasting is not to be done as a show or to impress anyone (including God). We are to fast on a personal basis, that is, it is up to the individual to decide when, how and why to fast. The apostles certainly practiced this, but they did it on a personal basis.
So fasting is not commanded but it is certainly recommended by the New Testament. Fasting has always played a role in refining people (and their hearts) in preparation for service to God. The Lord even taught how to fast. So clearly, fasting has a role in the lives of Christians today. But that is a personal choice each believer must make.