There are many reasons why some people do not pray and fast. For some, there may be health conditions which make it difficult or even could be life threatening like diabetes. For young mothers, it could be that they are breast feeding their infants. Some ailments may allow for fasting by substituting a protein drink or juice and others may not tolerate it at all. If you do have underlying health conditions, it is highly suggested that you speak to your doctor about the best protocol for you.
For the majority of people, the issue is that they do not know how. They were not raised in a family who prays and fasts, no one has taught them, they are unsure of what they should pray about, how often to pray, or the reasons why they should fast.
This study is for the ones who want to but can not seem to find the motivation or maybe they can find the motivation, but they are unsure of what fasting and prayer looks like, or how long and how often they should do it. I have found scriptures pertaining to fasting and prayer and maybe together we can answer these questions, so that we can get where we need to be both as a church and as a body of Christ.
First lets examine some scriptures of why we should pray and fast. As always, I suggest you open your Bibles and read the entire chapter for yourselves to get a full understanding of the verses. I am not going to list every single verse, this is where your own studying and personal relationship with the Father comes into play.
We fast & pray for guidance and for God's wisdom Acts 13:2-3, “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work where to I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” In Acts 14:23, “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”
We fast & pray for repentance Jonah 3:5, “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them unto the least of them.” Joel 2:12-13, “Thereforeeven now, says the God, turn to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart and not your garments, and turn unto your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repent him of evil.”
We fast & pray for spiritual warfare Matthew 4:1-2, “Then Yeshua was led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted for forty days and forty nights, he was afterward a hungered.” When the disciples asked why they could not cast a demon out of the man's son who had a demon from when he was a child that made him foam at the mouth and that threw him into fires, we see our savior explain in Matthew 17:21 & Mark 9:29, “This kind only goes only by prayer and fasting.” Psalm 35:13, “But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; and my prayer returned unto my own bosom.”
We fast & pray in time of persecution Nehemiah 1:1-4, “And it came to pass in the month of Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, The Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, the remnant that are l left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and the gates are burning with fire. And it came to pass when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.” Ezra 8:21, “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.” 2 Samuel 1:12, “And they mourned, and wept, and fasted until evening, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the Lord, and for the house of Israel; because they were fallen by the sword.” 2 Chronicles 20:1-4, “It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle. Then came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, there comes a great multitude against you from beyond the sea on this side of Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazontamar, which is in Engedi. And Jehoshaphat feared and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.”
We fast & pray to seek God Matthew 9:14-17 & Luke 5:33-35, John the Baptist's disciples came and asked Yeshua why his disciples did not fast and pray and Christ replied, “Can you make the childrenof the bride chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they shall fast.” Luke 2:37, “And she was a widow of 84 years, which departed not from the temple, butserved God with fastings and prayers night and day.” Matthew 15:32, “Then Yeshua called his disciples to him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because theyhave continued with me for three days, and have had nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint along the way.”
So far we have seen that a fast can last from morning till evening. Some fasted for 3 days, Christ fasted forty days and nights, but the prophetess fasted day and night. But we have also seen that when we fast, we need a reason. This is how a lot of people draw a blank in their minds when they attempt to fast and pray. Set aside your reason or reasons.
Are you fasting and praying for a closer relationship with God? Wisdom? Are you Struggling with a habitual sin, thoughts, or addiction? Is it for repentance, warfare, or persecution? First, know your why. Then create your battle plan. Turn off your cell because even if nobody ever calls you, the moment you start a fast, your phone will ring non-stop. Disconnect from social media, news outlets, radio stations, lock your door, etc.... This needs to be just you seeking God time. Make yourself unavailable to everyone else and fully available to God.
If you have a husband and young children, either make plans for them to eat take out or prepare their meals for the days you plan on fasting and put in the fridge. Because lets be honest, its a temptation to cook food and smell it, when you are trying to abstain from it.
Do not compare yourself to others who have fasted and prayed or their routines in how they achieved it. Everyone's relationship with God is unique because of our individual life experiences, our personalities, our living situation, our personal battles, our spiritual gifts, etc. Find your own routine and make your own battle plan.
Fasting is not to be used as a diet plan, it is an accessory to prayer. By itself, it is nothing more than starvation. Its supposed to be us bringing our flesh under submission to the spirit, while moving our hearts closer to God's through the time we spend with him. When done right and often, fasting and prayer will tear up the roots of sin in our life and bring a break through.
Christ said in Matthew 4:4, that “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. So be sure you are replacing physical food with spiritual food by reading the word of God.
HOW TO PRAY & FAST
Now that you know why we fast & pray, and you understand the importance of a reason, lets look at how to pray & fast.
The whole objective is to train your body to deny the pleasures and cravings of the flesh. Much like you train a dog or a child to behave in certain ways and under certain circumstances.
Psalm 109:24, “My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh fails of fatness.” Matthew 6:16-18, “When you fast, be not as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, so that they appear unto men to fast. Verily, I say unto you, they have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face. So you appear not unto men to fast, but unto your Father which is in secret: And your Father, which sees in secret, shall reward you openly”.
Joel 1:14, “Sanctify you a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord.” Zechariah 8:19, “This says the Lord of Hosts; the fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.”
Daniel 6:18, “Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep went from him.” Daniel 10:2-3, “In those days, I Daniel was in mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came no flesh or wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”
Jonah 3:7-8, “And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd or flock, taste anything: let them not feed, or drink water: But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God; Yes let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.”
Nehemiah 9:1-3, “Now in the 24th day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackcloths, and with earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part, they confessed; and worshiped the Lord their God.”
Exodus 34:28, “And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, or drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.”
Isaiah 58:3-7, “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and you see not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and you take no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exact all your labors. Behold, you fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: you shall not fast as you do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to deal your bread to the hungry, and that you bring the poor that are cast out to your house? when thou see the naked, that you cover him; and that you hide not yourself from your own flesh? “
Galatians 5:22-25, “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance; against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit.”
If you have been paying attention, we have noticed that some fasted without food and some have fasted without food and drink. Some also played no music, while others read scriptures and worshiped God; But they all fasted and prayed in mourning, rending their hearts before God. Meaning that they poured their hearts out to God with tears of sorrow. They wept at the door, they knocked and repented, they made their flesh weak, to undo burdens and oppression. They fasted and prayed to loose the bands of wickedness and to draw close to God.
I know a lot of churches out there will tell people to fast from television or from a favorite hobby. Scripturally speaking, that is not fasting. That is temporarily changing priorities, changing habits, etc. The only place you will find people doing anything similar in scripture is when they turned from their sins. The type of praying and fasting that brings spiritual strength to cast out demons and to move mountains, is the fasting of food and/or drink for 1 to 3 days, with prayer, worship, and bible studying; and doing it often.
We have also read that you do not let your fast be known so that men can look upon you and think what a wonderful Christian you are, no, you do so in secret. This doesn't mean that you can not tell your spouse or ask them to fast with you, or maybe ask a close friend to fast with you, it means that you do not post it on social media, you do not go about town with a salivating look of starvation upon your face, while announcing to those who ask that you are fasting. Check your heart. Make sure your reason is not the prideful one that wants all eyes on you, so that men will see you and speak highly of you.
Lastly, if you are healthy enough to fast, then while you are fasting, remember a brother or sister who may not be able to because of health reasons. They need strengthening too. Pray for them as you are led to. In the times we are living in, there is no shortage of reasons to fast and pray. We all live among thousands of reasons. Brothers and sisters, lets start a new habit and put God's battle plan into action. If we all hit our knees in prayer & fasting, even if we all had different reasons, I believe we would become an unstoppable army.