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Prayer and Fasting

What is fasting? Simply put, fasting generally refers to the practice of “not eating” for spiritual purposes. In the Bible, people abstained from eating food for a period of time to accomplish spiritual purposes.

For example, on the Day of Atonement, the Jews were instructed by God to “deny” themselves and fast (Leviticus 23:26-32). This became an annual practice observed by God’s people. Sometimes, Israel fasted in the midst of a challenging time to seek God’s provision (1 Samuel 7:5-6). In the New Testament, there are examples of individuals fasting and praying (Jesus, Paul). In Acts 13, we read of the entire church at Antioch fasting and praying before Paul and Barnabas were released to their worldwide mission (Acts 13:1-3).

The guiding principle seems to be that fasting is a spiritual discipline to be used for spiritual purposes. In other words, it is not a “religious weight-loss” program! It is a meaningful exercise that is connected to the spiritual realm. Historically, God’s people (even Jesus) have felt led to deny their bodies food (sometimes water) in order to accomplish a spiritual purpose. Maybe it was to seek
God’s wisdom in a specific matter, or to augment a time of confession, or to fulfill a religious vow — the point is, the practice of fasting was always connected to a spiritual purpose. So, it is a spiritual exercise that can accomplish spiritual purposes in your life.

How do you fast?

Here are some suggestions.

  • Fast from food for the day. If you are healthy, you can do this. Often, I will fast from lunch-to-lunch. This seems to work well for many people. Prayer & Fasting Focus Sometimes I fast from breakfast on one day to lunch the next day. I am not a breakfast eater, so fasting from breakfast is not much of a sacrifice for me. And, breaking my fast at breakfast is not all that inviting to me, because I am not a fan of breakfast food. So – you decide how to do it. Drink plenty of liquids! Your body needs water and fluid. Drink water and/or fruit juices. Soft drinks are not good when you are fasting from food.
  • Fast from food for one meal. Perhaps your health will not allow you to fast the entire day. Maybe you can skip a meal that day. Again, drink plenty of liquids.
  • Fast from a meaningful activity. Some folks just can’t skip meals or nourishment for a day. That is ok. Choose a meaningful activity that you normally engage in (for example: social media, golf, entertainment, TV – whatever), and fast from it for the day.
  • Spend time in prayer and meditation. When I am fasting, I spend the time that I normally use for eating to be a time of prayer and meditation. I will read the Bible, sing praises to God and pray. I will pray for the specific need that has led me to the fast in the first place. I will spend the day in a spirit of prayer and contemplation. I use the “hunger pains” to remind me to pray and meditate!

Choose one day during our study to pray and fast. This spiritual exercise will serve to deepen your understanding of this complex doctrine. Each month in our Daily Bible Readings we have a specific Focal Passage.  Click here to view the focal passages.