What is fasting according to the bible?
Let me first establish a few principles about how to study the Word of God.
(Joh 6:63 NKJV) It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
1Co 2:13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
In order to understand the true meaning of fasting, we have to have the ability to see things spiritually. Let’s look at how Jesus uses physical things in this life to talk about spiritual truths.
(Mat 16:5 NKJV) Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.
(Mat 16:6 NKJV) Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”
(Mat 16:7 NKJV) And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread.”
(Mat 16:8 NKJV) But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?
(Mat 16:11 NKJV) How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
(Mat 16:12 NKJV) Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Luk 12:1 In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
Christ often spoke in parables to conceal the truth, but did explain them to his disciples. The leaven that He was warning them was the false doctrine of the Pharisees and their hypocrisy.
Fasting, physically speaking, is to not eat physical food, but fasting spiritually is to not take in false doctrine, and to abstain from all evil.
God tells us in Isaiah that he does not take pleasure in the physical affliction of our bodies through fasting from food; he delights when we stop doing evil and begin obeying his commandments. This is how we afflict our old man and flesh spiritually and lose our old life.
(Isa 58:3 ESV) ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.
(Isa 58:4 ESV) Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.
The people are physically fasting, but at the same time they are oppressing their workers and fighting among themselves. This kind of fasting keeps us from being heard by God.
(Isa 58:5 NKJV) Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the LORD?
Is it pleasing to God for us to afflict ourselves through depriving our bodies of food? Is this really what he wants from his people? God wants us to be humble before him and seek righteousness.
(Psa 51:16 NKJV) For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.
(Psa 51:17 NKJV) The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.
(Psa 51:18 NKJV) Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem.
(Psa 51:19 NKJV) Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, With burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.
Here is true fasting:
(Isa 58:6 ESV) “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
(Isa 58:7 ESV) Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
(Isa 58:8 ESV) Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
(Isa 58:9 ESV) Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
(Isa 58:10 ESV) if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
(Isa 58:11 ESV) And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Physical fasting is attempting to clean the cup from the outside.
Mat 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.
Mat 23:26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
God want us to abstain from evil and do his will.
People typically fast because they want God to do something for them or to answer their prayers. They want to “move the hand of God” as you said. What are the prayers that God does listen?
(Pro 15:29 NKJV) The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous.
(Jas 5:16 NKJV) Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Jesus was the most righteous man who ever lived, so how did he pray?
(Luk 22:41 NKJV) And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed,
(Luk 22:42 NKJV) saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
So if you truly want to please God and spiritually fast, pray that you would be given the strength to flee from evil and do his will. Be diligent to work out your own salvation, study to show yourself approved, search the scriptures for the truth and reject all the lies of the enemy.
This outward physical fast that has been ordered by your Church leaders will not cause them to be heard by God, because they are following another Jesus. Their fasting is to be seen by men, and their only reward will be glory from other men and not glory from the Father.
(Mat 6:1 NKJV) “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
(Mat 6:2 NKJV) Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
(Mat 6:16 NKJV) “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
Mat 6:17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,
Mat 6:18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
Here is an article by Mike Vinson that will help you as well: http://www.iswasandwillbe.com/christianfast.php
I hope this answers your questions.