NOTE: The following post is an article I wrote back in 2008 (modified and updated). It contains some of my personal opinions on fasting and my own experience. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you attempt to follow any of the activities described in this article, it is recommended that you first consult a physician for medical advice.
Most Christians who are familiar with the topic of fasting are basically trained to believe it has some kind of supernatural element attached to the activity. How often (during my church-attending days) I have sat in services where the congregation was encouraged to fast and pray so that the hand of God would “move” in their situation. The activity of fasting was virtually implied as some kind of “magical” formula to entice God to do certain things. If you really wanted something from God, you added fasting to your prayer.
For years I believed in “the power of fasting” (I still do) but I never really understood why. For the most part I was just aware that the Bible referred to it, Jesus did it, several of the patriarchs did it and called others to do it, etc. I heard preachers say things like, “If you really want to see the hand of God move in your life, start fasting.” So it did seem to be some kind of mysterious formula that, apparently, God really liked. On occasion I did add fasting along with prayer to my daily routine and, I must confess, I experienced things I did not experience otherwise. For example, a greater clarity of thought and ability to focus on spiritual things. It also seemed to add a kind of euphoria while praying. I felt closer to God and equally more energized, alert and focused. So it appeared, based on my own experience, that fasting worked. But why? More on that in a moment.
- Matthew 17:15-21 (NKJV) – “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.“
As much as I appreciated the experience wrought from fasting whenever I would do it, when I observed the Scriptures it sometimes confused me a bit. The Matthew 17 passage (for example) always caused more questions than it gave answers when I would read it back then. Here we have the disciples of Jesus not being able to cure an epileptic man (whose problem, apparently, was the result of demonic possession). After Jesus casts the demon out and the boy is healed, the disciples later come to Jesus and asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” It’s Jesus’ two-fold answer that puzzles me (or used to puzzle me I should say)… The NKJV Bible records that Jesus answered the disciples question immediately and directly… He said, “the reason the demon did not come out was BECAUSE OF YOUR UNBELIEF…” He then elaborates, further emphasizing how important belief is, saying, “for if you just had the faith of a mustard seed, you could tell a mountain to be plunged into the sea!” So it’s clear that Jesus said UNBELIEF was the problem… A very direct and bold answer.
If we go back just a few verses prior in Mark’s account of this happening, when the demon possessed boy’s father told Jesus that even His own disciples couldn’t cast the demon out, notice Jesus’ response:
- Mark 9:19 (NLT) – Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you until you believe? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
Interesting isn’t it how Jesus seems to be discouraged because of what? Their UNBELIEF! Exactly the same thing He said to the disciples! So we have a clear and consistent message here from the lips of Jesus…
But then, verse 21 continues with Jesus saying, “HOWEVER, this kind is different… it only goes out by prayer and fasting.” The “however” in this passage always confused me and still baffles me that few other Christians I know recognize this. It’s as though Jesus gives this direct and very plain answer (consistently throughout the entire passage) that He is looking for BELIEF and then cancels it all out by saying, “but, forget about all that… this kind is a totally different story… this one requires the added effort of prayer and fasting.” Why would He sigh in frustration with an UNBELIEVING generation and then admonish the disciples for their unbelief just to then tell them (essentially), “but nevermind all that… something else is the problem here”???
Okay… Let me just pause here for a moment as I can imagine some will have already taken issue with my comments… This article is not to suggest that fasting is un-beneficial or that Scripture does not support the practice, for it certainly is and it certainly does! As the flesh is subdued, many of life’s typical distractions seem to lose their influence and it becomes easier to focus on the Lord and the hearing of His voice. I will get to expounding on this detail in a moment, but I want to first highlight some apparent misconceptions regarding how this text has traditionally been presented. As with any topic like this, I encourage every reader to study the Scripture for themselves and seek the Lord for His wisdom (and, by all means, feel free to comment below or write me with your thoughts and reactions). These are my observations on the text and I am not speaking in terms of “thus saith the Lord” here so I hope that will settle any concerns some may have that I am suggesting some deviation from correct biblical doctrine. That is not my intention whatsoever.
Years later, when my eyes began to open to the fact that so many of the concepts I learned in organized religion were the product of man-made doctrines, I started to wonder if this passage had been misunderstood in some way as well… Even more, I wondered if my entire concept about fasting was built on a flawed premise? I was shocked to discover that the answer to both of these questions appeared to be a resounding YES!
The first bit of shocking information I discovered was the detail that Scripture (earlier in the text, before the demon incident) tells us that the disciples did not fast while Jesus was with them!
- Mark 2:19 (NKJV) – And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”
So if fasting was unnecessary while Jesus was on earth with His disciples, and it was Jesus Himself who told them so, why would He answer their concern plainly by saying that the reason this demon did not come out was, “because of your unbelief,” and then further say that if they only had but the faith of a mustard seed, they could move a mountain and literally NOTHING on earth would be impossible for them… but then turn around and tell them, “but nevermind all that, cause only fasting gets this one out boys”? It doesn’t seem to make any sense or rhyme with any context of Scripture that I can see… and that’s what leads to my next “revelation”.
The second bit of shocking information I learned in my studies of this Bible passage was the fact that the words “prayer and fasting” (and, actually, the entirety of verse 21) does not appear in the most trusted manuscripts of the original Greek text of Scripture! In fact, several newer Bible versions (such as the NAB, the NLT, the NRSV, the BBE, the CEV, the GW, the RV, the Message and others) omit this verse entirely because of this reality!!! Other versions, such as the NASB and the ASV put it in itallics to indicate that it does not appear in the original but was apparently added later in a few of the manuscripts! Adam Clarke’s Commentary states the following mind-boggling truth:
- “…there is great difficulty in the text. The whole verse is wanting in the famous Vatican MS., one of the most ancient and most authentic perhaps in the world; and in another one of Colbert’s, written in the 11th or 12th century. It is wanting also in the Coptic, Ethiopic, Syriac, Hieros., and in one copy of the Itala.”
The passage, as most of us know, has a parallel in Mark:
- Mark 9:29 (NKJV) – So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
Curiosity had me do some study to find out if this passage, by chance, might actually record the subject of fasting in the original text… To my surprise IT DOES NOT APPEAR HERE EITHER!!! Robertson’s Word Pictures Commentary accounts the following concerning the passage in Mark:
- “The addition of “and of fasting” does not appear in the two best Greek manuscripts (Aleph and B). It is clearly a late addition to help explain the failure. But it is needless and also untrue.”
Now, either the KJV is virtually the only version to get it right, or it was simply added to the translation and therefore does not represent the actual statements of Jesus at all in this case! I am not certain what to conclude on this point, but the most reputable sources I typically consult when I study the Bible seem to highlight the very thing I have just shared here; that it is an added text. Furthermore, commentaries aside, the general context of Scripture seems to reject the notion that Jesus would apply a formula after stating so boldly that the issue was the disciples lack of belief. I know how some have attempted to explain this paradox; by pointing out that the added benefit of fasting with prayer helps to bolster faith and also sensitivity to the Spirit of God… Thus, if the disciples had only fasted and prayed, they would have been sufficiently ready to handle the situation. But again, that all makes sense fine and well, except for the fact that Jesus Himself pointed out beforehand that there was no need to fast while He was with them on the Earth! When I read that and then I read the rest of the passage where Jesus plainly pointed to the problem of unbelief and then I am also forced to acknowledge how the majority of Greek scholars reveal the evidence that this part of the verse was added to the text and does not exist in the original, it sure seems like some tampering with the text has occurred. I can only presume to what end. Man is always inventing religious rituals out of virtually everything we see in the New Testament. Take the “sinner’s prayer” for example… Jesus, nor the apostles, ever invented such a thing; it does not exist in the Bible, yet it is practically the formula that virtually every religious organization uses in their evangelism tactics. I realize that doesn’t necessarily mean that every formula is wicked (especially since I understand that God looks into the hearts and is longsuffering with us and still works good amongst us despite our ignorance at times and well-intentioned but sometimes unnecessary tactics that we may employ), but we should seek to grow in our understanding and keep coming to maturity in the Truth. As Christ is revealed in and through us, and as we further yield to His Spirit in all things, these religious crutches we have adopted (in times past) to prop up our traditions and clever ideas will no longer be needed, for in truth they are NOT needed at all! What is needed is for us to hear His voice and obey when He speaks.
Funny how religion works its way into everything… even into our translation of Scripture it would seem. Jesus gave a simple answer to His disciples; that because of unbelief, the demon could not be expelled… but religion says, “That’s too simple… We need to add some more work to it. We need some kind of controllable formula and that which we may also point to our own efforts in creating the power to effect a result…. Ah ha! Yes! Prayer and fasting! Perform these rituals and then demons can be extracted!”
When it became apparent to me that fasting had been made into basically a “magic formula” (i.e. a religious ritual), I realized that I had probably made too much of something so simple. So I started to read some health books on the subject of fasting. One I really enjoyed was Paul Bragg’s book called “The Miracle of Fasting.” I was blown away at how incredible fasting is for the human body. After reading his book (and a handful of others) I decided to try fasting for a different reason than I had always done it for before; to improve my health. Because I was so conditioned to apply a spiritual motive to everything, I tried to find some kind of religious reason to justify my fast, but my primary motivation was from reading Bragg’s book on the healthy reasons to fast (which did include spiritual positives). I dedicated my fast to the Lord and off I went…
I fasted for 18 days on nothing but water and fruit juice. It was hard at first, because I LOVE FOOD, but once I got past the 3rd day it got much easier… In fact, by the 7th day I couldn’t believe how I felt… By the 10th day my body felt energized completely. My thinking was so clear and focused it was unbelievable. I slept like a baby and would wake up so amazingly refreshed and alert. I also was not hungry anymore. I lost all of my craving for junk food. All of my other senses just magnified. I smelled the most wonderful scents in the air; flowers and food smelled amazing (and food tasted amazing again when I returned to it after the fast), and because I was on such a high from having my system clear of toxins I wasn’t tempted to break my fast (nor was I interesting in starting to eat junk food after I came off the fact). It might sound weird to someone who has never fasted like this before but even colors become more vibrant while fasting. It was truly spectacular. I felt better than I had my whole life. My skin got clearer too. Best of all the weight started dropping off effortlessly. I lost nearly 60 pounds during that 18 day fast and I lost fat in all the places where fat usually collects. My stomach got thinner, as did my legs and arms and waist.
While fasting, because of the amazing clarity of mind, it did seem to make me far more sensitive to spiritual things. Spending time talking with God was amazing. It’s hard to describe to someone who has never experienced this before, but I felt His presence in such a profound and unique way. It was as though the Lord would just speak to my heart and my mind would instantly absorb it. It’s the closest thing to hearing an audible voice of God I have ever experienced. All of this because of the effect of fasting on my body.
After all this I began to understand that it wasn’t that fasting was anything supernatural in itself… It merely subdued the flesh from being a distraction to the mind and soul. While fasting you experience incredible detoxification (which is why you need to drink LOTS and LOTS of water). Early on in the fast, there are the natural hunger pangs, but most of these pass by the third day. Then there are moments over the next few days when they return, but they don’t last long. There are also days when you may feel sicker than a dog. Some of the symptoms are flu-like, but the good news is that they pass relatively quickly (usually after a few bough movements). Years of build up in the intestinal walls from toxins that exist in the processed foods we eat finally are getting eliminated from the bloodstream and colon. The minor periods of discomfort are well worth the benefits because once they purge from the body you feel AMAZING! Our bodies work so hard to constantly process the food we shovel in and, when you fast, it finally gets a long-needed rest. Everything goes into a radical period of renewal, purification and healing. It’s truly amazing. Forget the bad stuff you may have heard about fasting… It truly is one of the best things you can do for your body!
Now it makes sense to me why people fasted in Scripture; the subduing of the flesh clears your mind to focus on God. In fact, everything comes into clearer focus when you’re fasting. Now I see fasting, not as magic religious formula, but as simply one of the healthiest and most natural ways to cleanse the body of deadly toxins and energize the mind to focus clearly (and I love that God gave it to us). I say all of that to encourage the reader not to think of fasting as some kind of method to get what you want from God. I’m also actually pretty confident in saying that it won’t help you cast out demons either. 😉 (except for the ones living in your colon – haha)
Jesus did not prescribe a formula for His disciples in the passages we read earlier and I would not recommend anyone think of it as something weird or spooky spiritual at all. Fasting or not fasting isn’t going to win or lose you any brownie points with God, but I can tell you (from my own experience) that it is absolutely great for your body and may help you to focus more clearly on spiritual concerns if engaged from time to time. Fasting is a little hard, no doubt, but it’s also great fun because there are no harmful side effects and it’s such a positive thing to do for your body and soul.
If you’re interested, why not look at fasting from perhaps a little bit less-“religious” standpoint. In other words, just set aside the “churchy” hype surrounding it that you’ve heard so much about in Christian circles over the years (the buzz words, religious catch-phrases, etc.). Don’t think of it merely as a “spiritual exercise” so much as simply a natural tool God gave all of us; a healthy and effective way to put away the distraction of food for a season and give your internal organs a rest. It will help you to cleanse your system of harmful toxins while re-energizing your immune system and stimulating your senses, your mind and your body. If you do this, you will find how it helps you focus more clearly on whatever issue presents itself before you. Fasting does not need to only have a spiritual objective, but if that is your objective, you will find the benefits of cleansing your system through fasting to be immense! Fasting is pretty easy to get started on too. My general routine is listed below, but I heartily recommend reading Paul Bragg’s excellent book: The Miracle of Fasting.
NOTE: If you plan to attempt a long fast (more than 10 days), you should probably consult a physician to supervise your progress and help you know when to break it. I’m not a doctor and there may be important details related to your body type or physical condition that need to be taken into consideration. That having been said, I personally don’t feel there is any danger in fasting (especially on the short term)… Short fasts are extremely beneficial as well and you can do them regularly. If you’re nervous about the idea of fasting (or have heard fearful warnings from other people), just keep in mind that everyone fasts EVERY DAY when they go to bed at night to sleep. That’s why, when you have breakfast in the morning it’s called BREAK-FAST because you’re breaking your fast. It’s a normal part of life and I would argue that it’s an essential part of healthy living, because you body needs to rest and repair. And look to your Bible; fasting is everywhere in it. Jesus Himself did it. Fasting is a very good thing and nothing to be afraid of if approached sensibly. If you start out with several short fasts, as more and more toxins are eliminated from your body, it will get easier (and safer) to go for longer fasts. Try a 36 hour fast… Maybe try it every week for a couple weeks… Then try a 3 or 7 day fast if you feel up to it. Your body will love you!!! It’s very important to go to the bathroom regularly while fasting and eliminate the toxins that are breaking up in your system and ready to be flushed out. Don’t “hold it” when you have to go… Go as soon as you can. If you’re drinking a lot of water like you should be, going should not be a problem. You may also want to try an oral enema to help flush your system of toxins.
- There’s also a product you can buy called Bentonite. It’s a kind of volcanic ash “clay/gel” (sounds weird I know) and it contains lots of colloidal minerals. When ingested, it acts kind of like a magnetic sponge and pulls to itself all kinds of garbage lining the walls of your intestines and colon as it works its way through. It can also aid in the treatment of allergies, virus infections, parasites, or even food poisioning by attracting the bad stuff and readying it to be flushed out of the body. You take just one to three tablespoons per day, in divided doses (you may want to start with just one tablespoon in some juice for the first week before increasing the dose). Bentonite works best on an empty stomach, with no food in the intestines or colon (but if you are taking while not on a fast, take it about an hour before or after a meal for best results). After using the Bentonite throughout the day, follow it with the oral salt water enema the next morning.
- You can fix yourself an oral salt water enema first thing in the morning when you wake up. Simply add 2 teaspoons of NON-iodized sea salt to a quart of lukewarm water. Shake it up really good, then drink the entire quart. It’s also good to massage your colon as well. Please be sure that you use NON-iodized sea salt (check your health food store). Non-iodized is far more effective that regular salt. This oral enema will help to flush out your entire digestive tract and your colon through and through, usually within an hour. Not necessarily all at once though; You will likely have to eliminate several times until everything flushes out. This will help to clear out the plaque and debris from the intestinal walls. It will also clear out parasites that have been living there. Make sure to keep drinking lots of water so all the salt will flush out too. A cleanse like this along with your fast will work amazing results!
Another great cleansing drink to take while fasting is to sip a cleansing lemon drink. The following is not a precise regimen… But I hardly do anything precisely. I’m also not a health professional of any kind so always check with your doctor before starting a health program of any kind. Apply Cider Vinegar (ACV) is very healthy and will help keep you body’s pH acid/alkaline balance healthy. It tastes a little nasty but it’s great for the kidneys; to keep them flushing toxins out of the body. It helps remove artery plaque and fights germs, viruses, bacteria and mold naturally. It helps regulate the bloodstream and helps to remove crystals and toxins from joints, tiissues and organs. It also helps burn fat. ACV is especially good to consume each day, a few days before you fast, as it gets the body ready to start purging the junk. The most important thing is to drink LOTS of water. I can’t encourage that enough. Water will help get those nasty poisons that are being broken up and released out of the body. It also helps to metabolize the fat and flush it out. It will also help you feel “full” and keep you from getting constipated, which can happen during a fast if you don’t drink enough water. The first time I tried a 10 day all water fast it was terrible at times because I didn’t consume as much water as I should have been and became painfully constipated. Take it from me: DRINK LOTS OF WATER and you’ll be just fine!!! Ok, lecture over… Here’s some of the things I drink before and while on a fast:
- About 6,000 mg of Vitamin C powder (get from your health food store) in a glass of water or orange juice
- 1 gallon of distilled or purified water with a fresh squeeze of lemon (drink throughout the day)
- The Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Cocktail – Mix 1-2 tsps equally of Bragg Organic ACV and (optional) raw honey, blackstrap molasses, agave nectar or pure maple syrup in 8 oz. distilled or purified water. Take glass upon arising, one in the afternoon and one before bed. The Bragg brand is best because it is not filtered like the stuff you get at the grocery store. Check your health food store for it. It should have a dark web-like sediment floating in the bottom of the bottle (that’s the good stuff).
- Some of my other favorite ACV drinks include the following:
Delicious Hot or Cold Cider Drink – Add 2 to 3 cinnamon sticks and 4 cloves to water and boil. Steep 20 minutes or more. Before serving add Bragg Vinegar and raw honey to taste. (Re-use cinnamon sticks & cloves)
Bragg Favorite Juice Cocktail – This drink consists of all raw vegetables (please remember organic is best) which you prepare in a vegetable juicer: carrots, celery, beets, cabbage, tomatoes, watercress (this drink is a great liver cleanser too)
- Avoid milk/dairy products while fasting (this will help you clean out the mucus in your system).
- You can take your vitamins if you want, but remember that some may cause irritation on an empty stomach. The only vitamins I usually take while fasting are the vitamin C powder at the start of the day. If you are consuming other juices or health “cocktails”, these will supply some other vitamins and anitoxidants.
- Green tea is great to drink too (especially because of it high antioxidant content). Good for your cardiovascular system and helps lower cholestorol. It’s also a fantastic aid in killing harmful bacteria in the body and it even fights dental plaque.
With that, I’ll conclude this post. May God bless you as you enjoy walking with Him daily! Don’t fast because religion tries to pack it in your “spiritual pipe” to smoke (hehehe)… Fast because God gave it to us for our benefit. What a joy it is to know the Lord and walk with Him as, not only our Lord and Master and Savior, but also as our closest friend. May His love overshadow you and may you be filled with His wisdom and strength. God bless you guys!!!