Scudder on Fasting: When and How Long?

Scudder on Fasting: When and How Long?

From The Christian’s Daily Walk.  Headings are not the author’s.


Details of public fasts should be left to the authorities (church or government)

Public fasts are to be kept as often as authority shall see cause.

Have a right reason to fast (privately)

Private, as often as a man shall have more than ordinary cause of seeking unto God, either for others or himself, 2 Sam 12:16, Neh 1:4 [should be]:

  • for removing or preventing imminent judgments from the church and commonwealth, or for procuring their necessary good, Dan 9:3;
  • for subduing some headstrong lust;
  • for obtaining some necessary grace, or special blessing, Acts 10:30; or
  • for preparing himself for some special service of God, or the like.

Be careful to not get into the habit of frequent fasts

Though I cannot but justly complain of Christians seldom fasting, yet I dare not allow you to make this extraordinary exercise of religion to be ordinary and common, for then it will soon degenerate into mere form or superstition. I rather wish you to observe it as you shall have special occasion, and when ordinary seeking of God is not likely to prevail.

Avoid fasting on the Lord’s Day

It is indifferent which of the six days you set apart for fasting. Let it be as shall best suit with your occasions. As for the Lord’s Day, though it cannot be denied but that if the present necessity require, you may fast upon that day, neither can I utterly deny servants and such as are under the power of others (if they can have no other time) sometimes to make choice of that day; yet because the Sabbath is a day of Christian cheerfulness, and fasting is somewhat of the nature of a free-will offering, I think you will do best to set such a day apart to yourself for fasting, which is more your own, and not the Lord’s day.

Have your fasts normally last 1-3 days

The Scripture has not determined how long a continued fast should be kept. We have examples that some have fasted a longer time, as three days, Esth 4:16; some a shorter, but none less than one day, Judg 20:26. In hotter countries they could, without injury to health, abstain from food longer than we can who live in a colder; but I think the body cannot usually be sufficiently afflicted through want [lack] of food in less time than one day.