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Image by: Timothy Valentine
In today’s Bible study I want to address the practice of fasting prayer. I will be discussing it’s biblical basis, history, it’s purpose in spiritual realm and most importantly it’s importance to us?
Is it biblical to fast and pray?
Yes, it’s Biblical. A quick look at the Old Testament and New Testament history can give us evidence that fasting and prayer is biblical.
The history of fasting and prayer?
i) In the OT this practice was closely linked with a “spirit of mourning” over some national crisis. (Jonah 3:5-10)
ii) As a means of producing repentance (Joel 2:12)
iii) At the day of atonement. (Leviticus 16:29-31) This was mandatory and included fasting also.
iv) In NT when anticipating a special opportunity for ministry. (Matthew 4:1-2)
v) Also the early church included this practice as a necessary prerequisite before releasing the early missionaries for ministry. (Acts 13:1-3)
What is not the purpose of fasting and prayer?
i) Some Christians think fasting and praying releases God’s blessings. This is not so. Not everyone who prays with this idea in mind are greedy for material possessions but the Bible says that God does not approve this thinking. (Isaiah 58:1-6)
ii) Fasting and prayer should never be viewed as a merit-producing, manipulative or in any other way an act of bargaining with God. The object of fasting is not to move God in closer alignment with us and our will, but rather to draw us in alignment with God and His will!
iii) We must remember that fasting is never to be used as a measuring stick to suggest one’s religious devoutness or spiritual superiority. At every point the act of fasting is disallowed as a proof of piety. Fasting is to be carried out in secret only before God. (Matthew 6:16-18)
Then what is the real purpose?
God is a spirit and he has created us in the same way (Genesis 1:26). Therefore we cannot relate to God from our flesh. But as fallen human beings our flesh looks forward to overcome the spirit. Our flesh becomes weaker, but the spirit becomes much stronger and sensitive to God’s voice as we starve the flesh and feed the spirit.
How long I must fast and pray?
Many Christians have asked how long a one should fast and pray? There are no regulations on this but it depends from person to person. Most fasts in the Bible were for one day, usually the hours between sun rise and sunset. At the most, people might fast three or six days (ending on the seventh day). But the Bible never encourages long fasts that would be damaging to one’s body and mind.
Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho, in his book Daniel says, that partial fasts are acceptable. If you are unable to fast for a whole day due to physical ailments or age, you can skip just one or two meals.
However don’t forget to couple your fast with prayer. I don’t encourage anyone to be busy with his day to day work while fasting. Usually new believers are taught to fast for three days, but this depends on each individual’s physical condition.
It’s important to know why do we do what we do? That is why I intended to write this study. Most Christians find fasting and prayer to be a pain. But it’s fun when you know what you are doing? In which occasions the church must fast and pray?
Repentance and mourning over national crisis
If my people, who belong to me, humble themselves, pray, seek to please me, and repudiate their sinful practices, then I will respond from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
In June 2007 all the ministers of Assemblies of God of Sri Lanka got together for a mass fasting and prayer. As we repented and sought God’s face, expecting him to heal the nation of Sri Lanka, God gave a vision to one of the bible students. In his vision God told him that terrorists are planning to carry out a wide area attack in the city of Colombo. We prayed according to that divine guidance and next day the media reported the following.
Military Intelligence revealed a major battle plan by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to cause widespread destruction in Colombo. The plan involved attacking several critical locations in Colombo simultaneously using aircraft, suicide bombers and sea tigers. Targets included the Colombo Harbor, Kolonnawa fuel storage complex and Kelanithissa thermal power plant.
As you see we cannot expect the heathen to repent and seek after God, so that he will heal your nation. But the church must seek God through repentance and fast and prayer.
When anticipating special ministerial opportunities
Previously we read that Jesus fast and prayed for 40 days, before he started his public ministry, which prepared him for the upcoming challenging mission. I am not telling that everyone should fast and pray for 40 days. But at the least we must do according to the faith that God has given each one of us. I have observed that Christians who fast and pray has a much effective ministry than those who don’t.
Decision making in the church
Wrong decisions can lead any church astray. This is why the early church sought God’s will through fasting and prayer as it’s mentioned in Acts 13:1-3.
There are many other applications of fasting and prayer as well. For example, When sensing the urgency for revival; when desiring to separate from the world and be joined more closely to God; when wanting to intensify devotion. Above all, fasting should be done with a pure heart and a desire to honor God and help others.