Spiritual fasting or fasting for spiritual purposes has been practiced by nearly every religion worldwide for millennia. Today, many people practice spiritual fasting as well. In this article, we will explain what spiritual fasting is and its benefits.
This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD
Fasting is the process of abstaining from food, while spiritual fasting means focusing on prayer while fasting. Spiritual fasting is biblically-based, with the goal of bringing a person closer to God. Fasting is referenced many times in the Bible, increasing its validity with people all over the world.
Spiritual fasting helps clear the body (physically) and the mind (mentally) of earthly things. In turn, the “hunger” a person feels is directed towards God. Spiritual fasting can increase mental clarity, allowing a person to hear God’s voice more clearly.
Spiritual fasting is individualistic and personal in nature. Many churches will urge their members to go on a spiritual fast together, but the goals and results of the fast can vary, depending on each person’s particular goals. For example, some will use spiritual fasting to improve their health and wellness. These types of plans could include weight loss or attempting to cure various health issues. Others see spiritual fasting as a way to grow spiritually. Examples would include cleansing their soul or renewing/strengthening their faith.
Spiritual fasting often consists of fasting from food, but there are other things can fast from as well, which can include the following:
- Social media
- Video games
- Secular music
Often people choose to abstain from things that are meaningful to them. Through removing this item from your life, a void is created, providing room in the mind to connect with God.
Fasting is mentioned many times throughout the Bible:
- Moses fasted for 40 days and nights. (Deuteronomy 9:9, 18, 25-29; 10:10)
- David fasted, mourning the death of Saul (2 Samuel 1:12)
- David fasted, mourned the death of his child (2 Samuel 12:16)
- “But I, when they were sick— I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest.”—psalm 35:13 ESV.
Here are a few different types of fasting referenced in the Bible:
- Partial Fast. Partial fasting consists of not eating certain foods or removing a specific meal from your diet: “At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips, and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.” Daniel 10:2-3
- Daniel Fast. The Daniel Fast is a 21-day, plant-based diet that consists of no added sugars, caffeine, meat, alcohol, additives, or preservatives. Proponents of the daniel fast believe it helps with various health issues, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and weight loss. To read Dr. Pompa’s article about the Daniel Fast, click HERE.
- Complete Fast. A complete fast consists of consuming no food or liquids during the fast: “Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and walked to the chamber of Jehohanan, son of Eliashib. And while he stayed there, he ate no food and drank no water because he was mourning over the unfaithfulness of the exiles. Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the room of Jehohanan, son of Eliashib.” Ezra 10:6
- Sexual Fasting. The Bible references abstaining from sex as well: “And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” Exodus 19:15.
No matter the reason for spiritual fasting or fasting in general, it tends to lead to spiritual growth or awakening for those that allow it. Spiritual fasting leads to a clearer mind, generating feelings and thoughts not usually felt under other conditions or circumstances. These could include a livelier imagination and increased alertness.
In addition to the spiritual benefits of fasting, there are many physical benefits as well. For example, abstaining from food can lead to many changes in the body, including the following:
Controls Blood Sugar
When fasting or not eating for prolonged periods, insulin levels tend to decrease. This insulin dip may help regulate blood sugar levels.
May Improve Heart Health
Fasting may help lower low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol in the body. Elevated levels of bad cholesterol can increase the risk of atherosclerosis, which could cause heart attacks and strokes.
May Improve Brain Function
Fasting may help protect the brain from neurodegeneration, which affects the neurons in the brain. It also helps to stimulate the growth of new brain cells.
May Boost Metabolism
Intermittent fasting may stimulate the production of fat-burning hormones, which are essential for managing weight.
In addition to physical and mental benefits, spiritual fasting has many advantages also. The benefits of spiritual fasting include the following:
May Provide Clarity
Fasting causes the body to go into ketosis, which occurs when the body burns ketones instead of glucose. When the body produces ketones, the brain can start functioning more efficiently*, which improves mental clarity.
Deeper Connection to God
The combination of fasting and increased mental clarity could help improve the thoughts and focus on God and spirituality. This clarity is especially true if the purpose of the fast was to get closer to God.
The ability to abstain from food or other items a person enjoys for an extended period shows willpower and self-discipline. This ability allows people to maintain better control of their lives and not become overwhelmed by things they can’t control.
Keeps You Humble
From a biblical perspective, fasting is a method chosen by God for people to humble themselves before Him. By taking the focus off themselves and on God, this is a sign of humility and humbleness.
Aside from incorporating the elements of faith and God, fasting for spiritual purposes is not much different than fasting in general. Many physical and mental benefits are achieved by fasting, no matter the reason for the fast. For spiritual people, adding a spiritual purpose to fasting can be healthy for the body and the mind and spirit.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is based upon the opinions of Dr. Daniel Pompa. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Pompa and his associates. This article has been medically reviewed by Dr. Charles Penick, MD for accuracy of the information provided, but Dr. Pompa encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.