What Does The Bible Say About Fasting and Prayer?

Fasting and prayer are two essential practices that have been embraced by Christians worldwide for centuries.

These practices are mentioned numerous times throughout the Bible and are often associated with spiritual growth and a deeper connection with God.

However, despite their significance, many Christians still struggle to understand the purpose and importance of fasting and prayer in their spiritual journey.

In this article, we’ll explore what the Bible says about fasting and prayer and how we can incorporate these practices into our daily lives to strengthen our faith and grow closer to God.

Fasting and Prayer in Christianity

Man praying

In Christianity, fasting and prayer are commonly observed for spiritual growth and development.

Fasting, which is the voluntary abstaining from food, drink, or other physical needs for a specific period, is a practice that is often done to show devotion to God, seek His will, and humble oneself before Him.

Prayer, on the other hand, is an essential means of communicating with God.

Through prayer, Christians express gratitude, confess their sins, intercede for others and seek guidance.

Fasting and prayer are usually done together to enhance spiritual maturity and draw closer to God.

By observing these practices, Christians can develop a deeper relationship with God, receive direction and guidance, and strengthen their faith.

The Bible provides examples of Jesus Christ, who fasted, prayed, and encouraged believers to follow His example.

Fasting can take on different forms, such as abstaining from food or other daily activities, and it is often combined with prayer to seek God’s guidance, strength, and direction.

These practices can bring about personal transformation and positive change in the community and the world.

What the Bible Says About Fasting and Prayer

A woman praying

The act of fasting and prayer is mentioned throughout the Bible’s pages, serving various purposes.

From the Old Testament to the New, there is no shortage of teachings and instances of individuals partaking in the powerful spiritual practice.

In the Old Testament, fasting and prayer are often connected with mourning and repentance, as numerous examples can attest.

1. Examples of Fasting and Prayer in the Old Testament

a. Fasting and Prayer for Repentance and Mourning (Joel 2:12-13)

The scripture referenced is Joel 2:12-13, which says:

“‘Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments.

“Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.”

In this passage, the prophet Joel is urging the people of Israel to repent and return to the Lord.

Fasting demonstrates a sincere desire to turn back to God and helps us focus on our spiritual needs.

It is an assertive spiritual discipline that can bring us closer to God and His mercy and grace.

b. Fasting for Seeking Guidance and Protection (Ezra 8:21-23)

Ezra 8:21–23 in the Old Testament shows an example of fasting as a means of seeking guidance and protection from God.

Ezra had gathered a group of people to journey from Babylon to Jerusalem with much treasure.

Rather than asking for a military escort for security, Ezra called for a time of fasting and prayer to seek God’s protection.

He states, “So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer” (Ezra 8:23).

This verse shows how fasting and prayer are powerful ways to seek God’s guidance and protection, even when things are hard.

2. Jesus’ Teaching on Fasting and Prayer in the New Testament

a. Warning Against Fasting and Prayer for a Show (Matthew 6:16-18)

In Matthew 6:16–18, Jesus warns against fasting for show or recognition from others.

He encourages His followers to keep their fasting private and not to make a show of it.

The purpose of fasting is not to gain approval or recognition from others but to draw closer to God and seek His will.

Fasting is a personal and private devotion to God, not a public display of piety.

b. Fasting and Prayer for Seeking God’s Guidance (Matthew 4:2)

Matthew 4:2, it is records that Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness.

This was a time of intense preparation for His ministry and a way for Him to seek guidance from God.

Jesus’ example shows us the importance of fasting and prayer when seeking God’s direction.

3. Fasting and Prayer in the Book of Acts

a. Fasting and Prayer Before Commissioning Missionaries (Acts 13:2-3)

In Acts 13:2-3, the church leaders in Antioch fasted and prayed before commissioning Paul and Barnabas for their missionary journey.

This shows the importance of seeking God’s guidance and direction through fasting and prayer before embarking on any mission or ministry.

b. Appointing Elders With Prayer and Fasting (Acts 14:23)

In Acts 14:23, we see an example of the early church appointing elders with prayer and fasting.

The verse says, “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.”

By fasting and praying, Paul and Barnabas sought God’s will in appointing elders and committing them to the Lord’s care.

This practice reflects the deep faith and trusts that the early church had in God’s leadership and guidance.

Today, the practice of appointing elders with prayer and fasting is still observed in many churches to seek God’s will and advice in selecting leaders who will serve and shepherd the church.

Benefits of Fasting and Prayer

woman in blue long sleeve shirt making call

Engaging in the practices of fasting and prayer has a myriad of benefits for Christians.

These benefits include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Building a deeper connection with God: Fasting and prayer help Christians to connect more deeply with God by prioritizing their spiritual growth above their physical desires. By removing distractions and focusing on spiritual nourishment, Christians can draw nearer to God and experience His presence even more profoundly.
  2. Seeking God’s direction and guidance: Fasting and prayer are powerful tools for Christians when it comes to seeking God’s guidance and direction in their lives. By seeking His order through fasting and prayer, Christians can better understand God’s will for their lives and ministries.
  3. Expressing gratitude and repentance: Fasting and prayer allow Christians to express gratitude and repentance. By turning away from their wrongdoing and focusing on God, Christians can seek forgiveness and show appreciation for all God has done for them.
  4. Promoting faith and spiritual growth: Fasting and prayer can encourage loyalty and spiritual growth. By relying on God’s strength and provision during the fast, Christians can grow their trust in God. Fasting and prayer can also help to reveal areas of weakness and sin that need to be addressed, leading to spiritual growth and transformation.

Conclusion

Throughout the history of Christianity, fasting and prayer have been considered crucial spiritual disciplines.

Christians have found numerous benefits from these practices by abstaining from food or other distractions and instead focusing on spiritual nourishment through prayer and meditation.

These include drawing closer to God, seeking guidance and direction from Him, expressing repentance and gratitude, and deepening their faith and spiritual growth.

Fasting and prayer have been demonstrated in the Bible and have become integral to the Christian faith for centuries.

Both practices provide believers powerful tools to strengthen their faith and develop a deeper relationship with God.

They serve as a means for individuals to seek guidance from God, express their appreciation and remorse, and ultimately advance on their spiritual journey.

Hence, fasting and prayer continue to play a significant role in Christianity today.

I will love to hear from you. Let me know if you have any questions or contributions on this topic.

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