News Articles

Bible Study: Fasting to focus on Jesus

NASHVILLE (BP) – This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, Lifeway publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week’s Bible study is adapted from the Bible Studies For Life curriculum.

Bible Passages: Daniel 9:1-7, 17-19

Discussion Questions:

  • How do you tune out distractions when you really need to focus?
  • What are some reasons for fasting?
  • How would you summarize the purpose of biblical fasting?
  • What obstacles might hinder us from prayer, confession, and fasting?

Food for Thought:

In the Old Testament, Jewish people observed days of fasting as a part of their religion to help them keep their minds focused on God (Jeremiah 36:6,9) or when individuals faced difficult circumstances (2 Samuel 1:11-12; 12:15-16).

Fasting is more than just abstaining from food. Fasting is a way to keep believers focused on greater things than their immediate physical needs. Daniel fasted and prayed because of extreme circumstances. As he prayed and fasted Daniel wore sackcloth, a rough material similar to burlap, and sat in ashes as was customary during that time. For Daniel, this was not a routine observance of his faith. He was deeply burdened.

Daniel had been brought to Babylon as a captive during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (Daniel 1). King Nebuchadnezzar and King Belshazzar had died, and now Darius was king in Babylon, the Chaldean kingdom. Likely Daniel was around 80 years old. Daniel had faithfully studied the Word, so he knew Jeremiah had prophesied that Israel’s exile and captivity would last around 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10). Since the exile would soon be over, Daniel turned to God in prayer. Instead of celebrating the inevitability of freedom, however, Daniel put on sackcloth, sat in ashes, prayed and abstained from eating. His burden for Jerusalem shifted his focus away from food and comfort to what was really important.

Fasting was still practiced during the time of Jesus. Jesus taught about the proper practice of fasting and prayer (Matthew 6:5-18). Members of the church at Antioch fasted and prayed before sending Barnabas and Paul on mission (Acts 13:2-3). Fasting does not appear to be as common today but the spiritual discipline of fasting is still appropriate. When believers fast, it should be done in a biblical and responsible manner:

  • The purpose of fasting is to focus on Jesus, not impress others.
  • People with medical conditions should consult their physicians before fasting from food and ease into the practice gradually.
  • If unable to fast from food, believers should practice other spiritual disciplines that will help them stay focused on Jesus. A person can engage in a fast from media or other activities.

Bible Studies for Life

Bible Studies for Life connects the Bible to life for adults, students and kids. Bible Studies for Life helps individuals and groups know God’s Word through trustworthy content, creates biblical community through engaging and conversational group studies, and helps people engage the culture missionally by unpacking what the Bible says about real-life issues. More information can be found on the internet at https://www.lifeway.com/en/bible-studies-for-life.

Other ongoing Bible study options for all ages offered by Lifeway can be found at Lifeway.com/SundaySchool.

    About the Author

  • Staff/Lifeway Christian Resources