Personal and Family Fasting
Zechariah 12:12
And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart…

On the pouring out of the Spirit the land is to mourn, every family apart, and their wives apart. The duties of fasting consist of —


1. A proper time must be set apart for these duties. And this is to be regulated by Christian prudence, as best suits the circumstance of the person or family. As to the quantity of time to be spent in personal or family fasting and humiliation, the duty, I judge, is to regulate it, and not it to regulate the duty. None need be solicitous as to what quantity of time, more or less, they spend in these exercises, so that the work of the time be done.

2. A proper place is to be chosen where the person or family may perform the duty without disturbance from others (see Matthew 6:18).

3. Abstinence is included in the nature of the thing; abstinence from meat and drink, and all bodily pleasures whatsoever, as well as ceasing from worldly business. The rule for abstinence from meat and drink Cannot be the same for all. These, however, are but the outward shell of these duties.


1. Serious meditation and consideration of our ways. Such times are to be set apart from conversing with the world, that we may the more solemnly Commune with our own hearts as to the state of matters between God and us. In them we are diligently to review our past life.

2. Deep humiliation of soul before the Lord; the which was signified by the sackcloth and ashes used, under the law, on such occasions.

3. Free and open confession of sin before God, without reserve.

4. The exercise of repentance in turning from sin unto God, both in heart and life, the native result of deep humiliation and sincere confession. The true way to deal with a hard heart is to believe the Gospel. "Without faith it is impossible to please God," and therefore impossible to reach true humiliation, right confession, and sincere repentance, which are very pleasing to Him.

5. Solemn covenanting with God, entering into or renewing covenant with Him in express words.

6. Extraordinary prayer, in importunate addresses and petitions unto oar covenanted God, for that which is the particular occasion of our fast. Now consider personal fasting and humiliation in particular.


1. God requires it in His Word, and that both directly and indirectly.

2. It is promised that the saints shall perform this duty.

3. It is recommended unto us by the practice of the saints mentioned in Scripture.

4. The duty of personal fasting and humiliation may be thus evinced.

(1) There is nothing in the nature of religious fasting and humiliation that of itself is public, or necessarily requiring a plurality of persons to join therein. The preaching of the Word and celebration of the sacraments do, in their own nature, require society, and therefore are not to be used by a single person alone in his closet. But one may keep a fast alone.

(2) Extraordinary duties are called for on extraordinary emergents and occasions. If, then, a church or congregation is called to fasting and humiliation on such occasions, is not a particular person called to the same, or such occasions in his cave?

(3) Extraordinary duties to be performed by a whole nation, church, or congregation cannot soon be overtaken, because all bodies are slow in their operations. What should particular persons do in such cases? Should they not keep personal and family fasts? Now consider a providential call to personal fasting and humiliation.

1. When there is any special evil actually lying upon us, the Church, or our neighbour, in whom we have a special concern; whether it be a sinful or a penal evil. And when the tokens of God's high displeasure are gone out in afflicting providences, it is time for us to roll ourselves in the dust, and so to accommodate our spirit and way to the dispensation, humbling ourselves before Him with fasting.

2. When there is any special stroke threatening or impending.

3. When there is some special mercy or favour to be desired of the Lord. Take a variety of these particular cases —

(1) When through a long track of sinning and careless walking, the case of one's soul is left quite in disorder and confusion.

(2) when one is under convictions, entertaining some thoughts to reform.

(3) when the conscience is defiled with the guilt of some atrocious sin.

(4) when one would fain get over a snare he is often caught in, and have victory over a lust that hath often mastered him.

(5) When one is under a dead desertion.

(6) When one is under a felt and smarting desertion.

(7) When one is pressed with some outward affliction, whether in his body, relations, name, substance, or otherwise.

(8) When, by the aspect of providence, one is threatened with some such affliction.

(9) When one would have light and direction in some matter of special weight.

(10) When duty being cleared in a matter of special weight, it comes to the setting to.

(11) When one, having some unordinary difficulty to encounter, is in hazard of being ensnared either into sin or danger.

(12) When one hath in view some solemn approach unto God; in which case a special preparation is requisite....Now consider some directions anent personal fasting and humiliation.

1. Make choice of a fit time and place.

2. Make some preparation for it the night before

3. Rise early in the morning, even sooner than ordinary.

4. Let holy thoughts at once have access to your soul.

5. Let your ordinary duties of prayer and reading of the Word be first performed; for extraordinary duties are not to jostle out the ordinary.

6. Begin with a solemn review of your sins — the sins of your nature, of your childhood, of your youth, of your middle ageTo recommend the practice of these duties to persons and families, these five things are offered in favour thereof; namely, that the practice of them is a proper means —

1. To bring strangers to religion acquainted with it.

2. To recover backsliders.

3. To prevent relapses.

4. To prepare for a time of trial.

5. To get matters clear for eternity.

(T. Boston.).

Parallel Verses
KJV: And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;

WEB: The land will mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;

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