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
Daniel Fast Information at daniel-fast.com
Fasting for Beginners at DesiringGod.com
Thank you for sharing this invitation! It is interesting to think of a ‘fast’ in terms other than food.We forget how much of our time is spent now on Social Media,etc. Wishing you blessings!
Thank you for reading, Linda! May we help one another seek the Lord Jesus more and more as His return draws near. God bless you, dear sister!
Thank you for encouraging me & being the answer so quickly to my prayers to find prayer partners Who have the same mindset as mine abt prayer. May God bless us in this prayer group. Shalom!
Shalom Robert (Dan) Roy! Praise God! It is the amazing connective work of His Holy Spirit that has linked our hearts together. As it stands right now, we have close to 100 people committed to Fast and Pray Wednesday. As iron sharpens iron, may we fan the flame of Holy Spirit fire in one another!
I need to fast and prayer more often. It’s challenging, as I still have a son at home (17 years old), and I am the main preparer of food. Trying to fast when you are cooking for others is a temptation that I have trouble resisting! But when I have fasted, God has always been faithful to show me something or give me more wisdom. Fasting from digital stuff is hard, too, when you run an online ministry. UGH! Let’s be honest, Lisa (speaking to myself here), it is just hard and you are making excuses! (Ha ha …) I will pray about what God wants me to do. Love your posts – they usually challenge me! This one certainly did. God bless you!
Thank you for reading and being honest, Lisa! Maybe God is calling you to draw near Him in another way. Yes, I know this is a challenge, but we live in very challenging days. This has been burning on my heart for some time and now the Lord aligned enough of us together at the same time to move forward with His strength. However God calls, may we answer yes, with our whole hearts! Bless you, sister!
What a great ministry, Melissa, fasting and praying on Wednesdays. I don’t do this really at all and will consider making it part of my life. I fasted for 35 hours once, and to be honest, I didn’t have very many hunger pangs and it wasn’t that difficult for me. I found myself tracking what we studied in a group Bible study that prompted my fast: food is good but Jesus is better. You have challenged me to do more. Thank you.
Wow. Stephen, you do not crave food like I do! I can’t imagine fasting for 35 hours and not noticing the hunger pangs! If breakfast is a little bit late, I know it! I love your Bible study prompt, food is good, but Jesus is better. May the Holy Spirit lead you in whatever way is best for your spiritual growth. Thank you for reading and sharing your experiences!
Melissa, what a great idea to marshal your large following on Twitter to bring unity and a time of prayer from many Christians at the same time. I’d like to join you this Wednesday. My fast will be unique because of my health needs, but I will use the time sacrificed to that activity to pray for the work of the Holy Spirit in our world today and for many to turn to Christ. Thank you, sister.
Thank you, Melinda, for adding your heart and voice to our united prayers/fasting this week. I know you have numerous health concerns and cannot fast from food. There are many who are in the same position, so I tried to make sure other alternatives were highlighted. As you point out, a sacrifice of time, set aside for prayer, is a great sacrifice. We truly need a move of the Holy Spirit for the troubles we face in the world today are beyond us – pandemic, racial injustice and the need for deep healing, economic collapse that affects so many, political divisions, etc. We need to press into the Lord like never before. Thank you again!
Thank you for the reminder of the importance of fasting and prayer. The world needs a time of reflection, fasting and prayer. We need to focus on God instead of other things.
Yes, you are right, Melissa. The world needs a time of reflection, fasting and prayer, returning to the Lord and seeking God more than the things of this world. The pain and hurt we see everywhere is a soul cry, that many do not recognize as such. The world cannot meet this need. People need the Lord Jesus. Only Jesus can bring the healing we need. Bless you!
It has been a while since I fasted and prayed. I think this might be a good time to do one again. Only the hand of God can help with these times in our country. Thanks
May the Holy Spirit lead you, dear Yvonne. You stated this perfectly “Only the hand of God can help with these times in our country.” We need deep soul healing and hearts that are overflowing with the love and truth of Jesus Christ. Nothing else can heal these deep wounds across our country. May we stand in the gap for the lost and hurting, at such a time as this. God bless you!
I love how you highlight that there are a variety of ways to fast. It is a great reminder that fasting can help us focus more intently on God and what is important, heal, fill ourselves with love and God’s purpose.
Thank you for reading and sharing your comments, Anne. I have learned more about the alternate types of fasting from other Christians, and it is so important, because a great number of people battle health issues that would otherwise leave them out of this type of intensely seeking the Lord. May He truly become our greatest desire!
Love this, Melissa. I also remember fasting for the first time with a church youth group in high school. Like how you remind us there are different types of fasting and how it’s always in conjunction with prayer. Here’s something about a food fast that always stayed with me from David Platt in “Follow Me.” “When we fast for a meal or a day or a week, we remind ourselves that more than our stomachs long for the pleasure of food, our souls long for the presence of God.”
Wow, that is a powerful quote from David Platt! Thank you for sharing, Karen. Truly that is my desire, that I would surrender more of my life in every area and respond to my soul’s deep cry to be in the presence of God. Thank you again, Karen, for your thoughtful input and encouragement!
What good teaching! Fasting and praying lead to a movement of the Holy Spirit and that is what this country needs more than anything right now! Thank you for the reminder.
I agree, Barb! The problems we face in today’s world are bigger than anything that human ingenuity can overcome and accomplish. We need a mighty move of the Holy Spirit and this comes through prayer. God bless you!
We certainly need some prayer and fasting. I will pray about joining you. I’ve experienced problems in the past regarding foods and meal times since being put on so many meds through the years, but I am grateful for a pastor who preaches/teaches 2 or 3 times a year that fasting can be abstaining from music, TV, events, etc, as well as to ADD something like extra prayer time, drinking more water, different prayer lists for different prayer times, singing hymns only (literally with no music so as to learn them and lift our voice to God), and more. It is also important to pray to see if God wants you to even take part, so that it helps in keeping a vow or committment to do so. And like you said, don’t let slips and failures trip you up. Repent, ask for forgiveness, and for strength to continue, and keep trying.I will earnestly be praying to take part, and if so what He desires from me. But I will be praying!
Btw… I have nominated you for the Ideal Inspiration Blogger Award!
Please do not feel obligated to participate. If you do, no rush! Do as God leads you!
If you do, please let me know. I would love to read your post! God loves you!
Below is the link to your nomination!