The main reason for this Q&A is the lack of understanding among Christians about fasting and prayer. Read on to learn a few basic truths about it.
1. Is fasting and prayer biblical?
Yes. Fasting and prayer is an approved practice in New Testament as well as the Old. Here’s why?
I. Jesus fast and prayed in the wilderness for 40 days, (Matthew 4:1-2)
II. He also urged others to do it the right way, (Matthew 6:16-18)
III. Early church leaders received God’s guidance by fasting and praying, (Acts 13:2)
IV. God urged His people to fast and pray, (Joel 2:12)
V. Prominent characters in the Bible fast and prayed, (Daniel 9:3)
2. What is its historical basis?
I. It wasn’t strictly Jewish. Pagan nations also have observed the fast, (Jonah 3:6-9)
II. In the Bible people observed the fast as a means of producing repentance, (Jonah 3:10)
III. Jews observed the fast on the day of atonement. This was mandatory, (Leviticus 16:29-31)
3. Is it different from prayer?
We pray regularly to have fellowship with God. Fast and prayer in the other hand is a spiritual discipline.
4. Why do we fast and pray?
It’s a deliberate act of starving our flesh, (obviously!). When the flesh is starved our spirit becomes stronger, sensitive and more receptive to the Holy Spirit of God.
5. What is fast and prayer isn’t?
I. A symbol of the individual religious devoutness or spiritual superiority, (Matthew 6:16-18)
II. A merit-producing, manipulative or in any other way an act of bargaining with God.
III. Not a way to move God in closer alignment with us and our will, but rather to draw us in alignment with God and His will!
6. How long must I pray?
I. Depends. There are no regulations. Most fasts in the Bible were for one day, usually the hours between sunrise and sunset. 3 or 6 days at the most, (ending on the 7th day).
II. Bible never encourages long fasts that would be damaging to one’s body and mind.
III. Partial fasts are acceptable. You can skip one or two meals and still call it a fast. Remember, God looks at the heart, not the fast.
7. When should I fast?
I. When anticipating special ministerial opportunities, (Acts 13:3)
II. Deliverance ministry also requires fasting and prayer, (Mark 9:29 – KJV)
III. When God’s will is not clear, (Acts 13:1-3)
IV. Intercession, (Esther 4:16)
V. In times of repentance and mourning over national crisis, (2 Chronicles 7:14)
8. Anything else I should know?
I. It’s always fast and prayer. If you are too busy to pray then don’t fast. I strongly discourage anyone from seeking to fast and pray in a busy day.
II. When in doubt, always consult your physician. Don’t fast and pray if you are not in the right physical shape for it.
III. Fasting and prayer is a voluntary act. Don’t force yourself into doing it.
Fasting and prayer is a widely practiced discipline in the Church. Hence it’s important that we know why we do what we do and the right way of doing it.