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In the New Testament

In the New Testament, the same aspects of fasting can still be seen - expressing grief, accompanying prayer, and, sadly, religious performance.

However, there is a new area distinct to the New Testament, which is less about times of unusual seriousness, and more about our ongoing relationship with God, particularly in relation to worship.

Serving-worship

There is a dynamic where fasting helps us to come before God in an attitude of serving-worship, and as a result increases our sensitivity to God's prompting. Rather than being reactive in a serious situation, we are being proactive, going to God in worship and saying "what can I do for you?"

When Jesus was presented as a baby at the temple by his parents, one of the people who recognized something of his mission was a prophetess called Anna.

Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

Luke 2:36-38

Here, the word for worshipping is literally to serve. Anna's relationship with God was a continual fellowship with, and service for, God, and fasting along with prayer was the means by which that was accomplished.

This pattern is repeated in the church at Antioch:

Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon (called "the black man"), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas), and Saul. One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them." So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way.

Acts 13:1-3

The initial fasting was again in the context of worshiping, and again, the word for worship is to do with serving - literally, to serve in an official capacity at your own cost. Putting it all together, these church leaders came together, fasted, and worshipped God in an attitude of "what can we do for you" - and the result was the commissioning from the Holy Spirit of Paul and Barnabas.

Summary

  • Fasting comes from the heart
  • Fasting should be between us and God, and not for show
  • Fasting can be a response to our situation, as we repent or seek God for specific direction
  • Fasting can be proactive, as we spend time with God and ask "what can we do for you?"
< Fasting in the Old Testament Appendix 1 - Old Testament Word Study >

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