Prayer and fasting scripture has been hotly debated for centuries. As a Christian, prayer is an important part of your life to help you grow closer to God. Fasting prayer may be even more powerful as it requires the person praying to humble themselves, letting go of the world to focus on the creator who meets their needs.
Prayer and Fasting in The Word
In the Old Testament, Moses fasted to bring himself closer to God, and David who was known as a man after God’s own heart mentioned fasting in the Psalms. Daniel fasted in order to understand dreams and the vision he was having.
In Matthew 17:21 Jesus says certain demons cannot be cast out except through prayer and fasting. Does this verse command today’s Christian men to fast when they pray? Join me in exploring biblical views on prayer and fasting from a Biblical perspective so we can answer these questions together!
Prayer is a way of communicating with God. Jesus often fasted as he prayed. He spent time in prayer and put aside all his needs to focus on The Father. He also advocated for prayer and fasting for everyone not just the disciples. He did this because prayer and fasting helps deepen ones faith by allowing them to focus on discerning the will of God, the Father.
Christ relied on prayers and fasting to perform many miracles such as healing the sick, causing blind eyes to see, feeding 5 thousand people with five loaves of bread, turning water into wine etc. His ministry relied heavily on prayer and fasting.
Prayer and Fasting after Jesus’ Ministry
In Acts 13:3 it is recorded that prayer and fasting was how ‘the Holy Spirit revealed’ Saul and Barnabas as God’s chosen vessels to lead new Gentile converts into the truth.
Later, in Acts 27, it is noted that Paul and other believers fasted on the Day of Atonement. This was likely a deep expression of gratitude and worship of God.
Should Christians Today Fast When They Pray?
There is no command given to pray within the New Testament, but there are plenty of examples of early Christians fasting when they prayed. In the passage from Matthew, Jesus seems to chastise the disciples because they did not know the demon they were trying to expel only comes out with prayer and fasting.
In fact, within this verse, he makes reference that this generation lacked faith, tying fasting and prayer to a measurement of a person’s faith.
Some Tips For Fasting When You Pray
There are a number of things you should keep in mind when you decide to fast. These concerns should not keep you from fasting, but should inform how you decide which method of fasting is best for you.
First, be sure to consult your doctor before you make any dietary change. This is especially important if you have a medical issue related to dietary causes. Illnesses such as diabetes, diverticulitis, low/high cholesterol, and other such medical diagnoses should be taken into consideration before attempting a dietary fast.
Fasting should also be voluntary. Don’t force your spouse or child to fast from any activity. This is especially true if they are addicted to the behavior you are trying to get them to fast from. Don’t use it as a method to stop addictive behaviors. If this is the concern, you should seek advice from a licensed counseling professional such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
If you notice that during your fast, you begin to develop physical or psychological symptoms that are not normal to you, stop the fast and consult a medical professional. No matter what anyone else tells you, the act of fasting should not cause you physical or psychological harm.
Don’t “reward” yourself after the fast. Carb or sugar loading after a fast can have serious medical consequences, not to mention make your body store up the extra nutrients as fat cells. If you fasted from an entertainment or other source, loading up on this activity can undo all of the relationship building you did with God during the fast. Instead of this, you should look to add more time to your schedule to devote to God. Committing to prayer or devotional 3 times a day for a few days is a great place to start.
Start small. You don’t have to do a 40 days your first time because Jesus fasted for 40 days. Remember, his actions are the goal, not the starting point. You wouldn’t expect to run a marathon before you ever walk a mile. The same holds true here. Begin with replacing a meal like breakfast or lunch with a devotional and deep prayer time.
Does Fasting Have to be Done with Food?
Not necessarily. When undertaking fasting, believers should seek the counsel of the Lord. Food may not be what is hindering you from a deeper relationship with God.
Some people fast from television, video games, or other entertainment sources. Others will fast from eating at restaurants, or candy, or even shopping.
The point of fasting prayer is to take a behavior that is keeping you from spending time with God and replace it with…you guessed it, spending time with God!
I’d like to encourage you to pray and ask other believers how they fast. Find a few believers who can help guide you, or will experience fasting with you for the first time.