By Melissa McLaughlin
The first time I participated in a time of prayer and fasting was in high school. In order to raise awareness and raise money to fight world hunger, our church youth group organized a sleepover at the church that included a time of prayer and fasting. This afforded us the opportunity to experience, in a small way, the ongoing hunger many face daily and to pray for those suffering from this dire need.
This event impacted me deeply. Not only did I grow in understanding and compassion for people who suffer from hunger and malnutrition, but I also began to grasp the power of concentrated prayer, through the added element of fasting.
Where is fasting mentioned in the Bible?
There are many Biblical examples of fasting and prayer. I will mention just a few to provide a glimpse of fasting and prayer from our history as God’s people. It is important to note, prayer is an activity that can stand alone. However, fasting is always done in conjunction with prayer.
In the Old Testament, Nehemiah prayed and fasted after learning that the wall surrounding Jerusalem had been destroyed and the city and its people were despairing. Nehemiah sought the Lord through fasting, prayer, confession and tears, asking the Lord’s favor and guidance to rebuild the wall (Nehemiah 1:1-11). Similarly, in Daniel 9:1-27, Daniel fasted and prayed on behalf of the Israelites who remained in captivity at the time. Daniel acknowledged the justice of God in response to their sin and rebellion, but cried out for God to extend mercy toward His people. God sent the angel Gabriel to promise that Jerusalem would be rebuilt and the Messiah would come.
In other accounts, David fasted and prayed on behalf of his sick child in 2 Samuel 12:16. Esther called the Israelites to fast and pray as she prepared to request of the king that her people be spared the impending attack and expected doom. Esther 4:16
In the New Testament, Anna was a prophetess who lived at the Temple worshiping, fasting and praying, as she awaited the coming Messiah, recorded here in Luke 2:36-38. The New Testament story of prayer and fasting that has always caught my attention is found in Matthew 17:14-21. The disciples were unable to cast a demon out of a young boy. At Jesus’ rebuke, the demon came out and the boy was instantly healed. When the disciples asked Jesus later why they could not, he said, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
From these examples, we observe that when fasting is added to prayer, it brings a depth of sincerity, worship, heartfelt repentance, seriousness, intentionality, humility and an attitude of total dependency upon the Lord. Fasting is not a magic formula to force God to answer our prayers. However, it is a way of consecrating and setting aside a time of focused, surrendered devotion and communion with God. By abstaining for a short time from a physical blessing like eating, it enhances our spiritual awareness, as we demonstrate that Christ Himself is our greatest delight. Jesus is our Living Water and our Daily Bread.
What is a fast?
What is a fast? Voluntarily abstaining from a good and pleasant physical blessing, like food, for a short time for the sake of spiritual purposes.
What is the purpose of a fast? To take our eyes off the world in order to focus and more fully rely on God. A fast is never to punish ourselves but to help us draw near to the Lord Jesus and enjoy closer communion with Him through a greater awareness of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
How long is a fast? A fast should always be set for a given amount of time that is healthy for your body and in keeping with your specific health needs.
What are different types of fasts?
What can we abstain from when fasting? Typically people will skip one or more meals, but will still drink water and healthy fluids so as not to become dehydrated. A fast should never be longer than is recommended by your physician. Ordinarily people skip one or two meals for a given day of fasting, or as much as all food/meals in a given 24-hour period.
2. Daniel Fast
Another type of fast is the Daniel fast, based on Daniel 1:8-15. The Daniel fast includes eating only vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and water for a given amount of time.
3. Digital Fast
Another option is a digital fast. Many people in today’s world, feel that fasting from social media, TV, screen time, etc. is even more powerful than fasting from food. This has merit and is worthy of consideration.
Please note, some people cannot and should not abstain from food due to medications or medical conditions. In these cases, a digital fast is an excellent alternative.
Most importantly, each person should pray and ask the Holy Spirit to lead them to fast in a manner and time frame that God knows is best for him/her, given each person’s specific health situation.
How do I fast and pray?
When I fast:
1.I pray in advance of that day to ask the Holy Spirit to remind me, put the desire to fast within me and help me stay true to my commitment to fast for the given time period.
2.I ask the Lord’s leading regarding what my prayer focus should be for the day of fasting and prayer, unless that has already been determined.
3.I prefer to fast and pray with other people. I have found that if others are praying and fasting with me, my prayer time is more powerful and my fasting is more effective.
4.On the day of my fast, I start with my regular morning devotions, which include personal prayer, Bible reading and singing worship songs.
5.Then throughout the day, I ask the Holy Spirit to:
~Pray through me, lead my prayers, anoint my prayers and draw me closer to Christ.
~Help me remember to fast/abstain from whatever I committed to.
~Help me remember to pray for the prayer focus.
~Help me remember to pray for others who are joining me, that their time of prayer would be powerful and effective.
~Help me remember, that every hunger pang I feel, is a call to pray!
For me the hunger pangs are my prayer call, my prayer alarm. So for me, skipping a meal(s) increases my prayer time, as the time I would normally spend eating, craving and thinking of meals is replaced by time spent praying, longing for and thinking of the Lord Jesus.
Join a Group of Christians for Weekly Fasting and Prayer
For anyone who feels led, you are invited to join me, along with a group of Christians, who have committed to fast and pray on Wednesdays. For those who enjoy social media, some people from this group are using the hashtag #FastAndPrayWednesday in order to connect on social media. Feel free to join us there, as well.
For all who feel called to join us, we will fast and pray together each Wednesday. You can fast from breakfast, lunch, dinner (any or all) or TV, social media, internet, etc. As appropriate for your health and as the Lord leads you.
We will all pause, wherever we are, for a time of united prayer at 3pm EST. (No conference call. Simply individuals praying from home or the workplace, wherever we are, connected in prayer by His Spirit.)
What are we praying for?
We are praying for:
1.A great outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our given regions and upon the world.
2.For many to turn or return to Christ.
3.For God’s peace to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
4.For Godly wisdom and discernment for daily living according to His Word and His Spirit.
What if I fail?
If you try to fast and discover that you accidentally forget and eat something or you give in and eat something during the time you had set aside for fasting, simply ask God’s forgiveness AND forgive yourself. Ask for God’s grace and God’s help to pick up where you left off and continue on in prayer. Begin anew next time. Don’t let one time of falling short keep you from trying again. How do I know this? I speak from experience! I have failed at my fasting more than once. However, I continue in prayer for that given day and ask God to strengthen my will and resolve next time I embark in a time of fasting and prayer. He is faithful!
May many hear the call to fast and pray!
I pray you will consider joining us as prayer and fasting become a worldwide cry unto the LORD. Even now many are fasting and praying as the Day draws near.
Holy Spirit, move our hearts and stir the fire of our faith to bring forth your kingdom on earth through our fervent fasting and prayer!
Spiritual success in spiritual war depends entirely upon spiritual solutions. ~Dr. Tony Evans