Types Of Christian Fasting
The Bible gives examples of many different kinds of fasting. (The terms “normal fast,” “partial fast,” and “radical fast” which appear below are not Biblical terms. They are a simple categorization of different fasts seen in the bible.
The Normal Fast :
There are very few rules when it comes to this fasting. This fast was conducted on the Day of Atonement. This fast was from sunset of one day to sunset of the next (Leviticus 16:29;23:32). This kind of fasting was seen in the rabbis who set the laws during that time. They believed that one could not eat a quantity as large as a date on this day. Of course, this direction is not from the Bible, but perhaps we can look at that as a template for a “normal fast.” So in this type of fast the person abstains from food and liquid for a period of one day (from sunset to sunset). This is a normal fast.
The Partial Fast :
In this type of fast, the person fasts on vegetables and water. There is no complete abstinence from food. Examples of this fast, seen in the bible are with regards to Daniel, Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego who ate only vegetables and drank only water (Daniel 1:15) and later on when Daniel alone practised a limited diet for three weeks (Daniel 10:3). Some people would argue that this isn’t really a fast at all, but Daniel 10:3 does use the word “mourned” which is a Biblical occasion for fasting, and a common synonym for fasting.
The Radical Fast :
This type of fast is one in which the person refrains from both food and water or simply food (but not water) for an extended period of time. A radical fast lasts for three days. An example of a radical fast can be found with Esther and her household. Esther decided to fast for three days abstaining from both “food and water” both “day and night” (Esther 4:15-16). The rabbi Ezra and the apostle Paul also went without food and water for three days (Ezra 10:6-9; Acts 9:9). David is another example of a radical fast. He went seven days without food (but probably with liquid) as a plea to God to save the life of his child (2 Samuel 12:15-20). Fasts that extend beyond three or seven days can be found in the Bible, but these exceptions were based upon direct guidance from God or a supernatural ability given by God to complete the fast. Examples of these extreme fasts are: Moses (Deuteronomy 9:9-18 and Exodus 34:28); Elijah (1 Kings 19:8); and Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11).