Did you know fasting and prayer is a spiritual discipline we should be practicing today?
My fasting and prayer life is weaker compared to other areas. I’ve been intentionally working on this and have learned a lot along the way. Maybe you find yourself in the same spot. Before learning about fasting, I didn’t think it was that important. Churches don’t really talk much about fasting compared to other topics like praying and reading the Bible.
But the Bible does talk about fasting and it’s often coupled with prayer. Here’s the ultimate fasting and prayer guide for new believers.
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What does the Bible say about fasting and prayer?
So, let’s begin with the Bible. What does the Bible say about fasting and prayer?
The Bible assumes we will fast. In Mark 2, it reads:
“Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day,” (Mark 2:18-20 ESV).
In this parable, the bridegroom is Jesus and the wedding guests are believers. Jesus’ disciples didn’t fast while he was there, but they did fast after he had left.
Bible Verses on Fasting and Prayer
Fasting and prayer was normal amongst those who followed the Lord. There are many Bible verses that speak on fasting and prayer.
Here are several Bible verses on fasting and prayer:
- 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 had fallen by the sword,” (ESV).
- Acts 13:2 – “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them,” (NIV).
- Acts 14:23 – “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,” (NIV).
- Daniel 10:3 – “I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over,” (NIV).
- Esther 4:16 – “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish,” (NIV).
- Exodus 34:28 – “So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments,” (ESV).
- Luke 2:37 – “and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day,” (ESV).
- Nehemiah 1:4 – “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven,” (ESV).
- Daniel 9:3-5 – “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws,” (NIV).
Psalms for Fasting
There aren’t as many psalms that speak about fasting, but there are a couple. Here are Bible verses in the psalms for fasting:
- Psalm 35:13-14 – “Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning as though for my friend or brother. I bowed my head in grief as though weeping for my mother,” (NIV).
- Psalm 69:10 – “When I wept, [and chastened] my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach,” (KJV).
People Who Fasted in the Bible
There are many people who fasted in the Bible. Some of these people include:
- Moses (Deuteronomy 9-10),
- David (2 Samuel 1, 3, 12),
- Elijah (1 Kings 19),
- Daniel (Daniel 1, 9),
- Ahab (1 Kings 21),
- Esther (Esther 4),
- Ezra (Ezra 10),
- and Jesus (Mark 1, Matthew 4, Luke 4).
There are many others who fasted in the Bible. Fasting was a norm amongst believers of the Lord.
Types of Fasting in the Bible
People fast from all kinds of things today like social media and technology. There’s nothing wrong with fasting from these things. It can be beneficial to take a fast like this.
But, fasting in the Bible always meant abstaining from food (either fully or partially). When Daniel fasted, he fasted from all delicacies. He only had vegetables and water. When Moses fasted, he abstained from all food.
How long does the Bible say to fast?
The Bible doesn’t give us an indicator of how long to fast. How long you fast is between you and God.
Pray about how long you should fast and perhaps God will give you a timeframe.
The Benefits of Fasting
There are many benefits of fasting. Just on a nutrition level, fasting can help you flush out your toxins, help you lose weight, and make your face clearer. (Disclaimer: I’m not a nutritionist. Please consult a doctor before fasting).
On a spiritual level, fasting can bring you closer to God, give you clarity and guidance, and mature your faith.
How to Start a Fast
You want to fast but you don’t know how to start. Here’s how to start a fast.
Before you fast, pray about it.
Pray about your fast before you start. Here are some prayer points:
- Prayer point 1: Give the Lord thanks for everything in your life.
- Prayer point 2: Ask the Lord how long you should fast for.
- Prayer point 3: Ask the Lord what he wants to come out of this fast.
- Prayer point 4: Ask the Lord what the nature of this fast should be.
- Prayer point 5: Ask for the Lord to draw you closer and have a deeper intimacy with him.
Prepare for your fast.
Once you’ve prayed and know the nature of your fast, prepare for everything. If you’re cutting out a certain food group, make sure to eliminate temptations.
For example, let’s say you’re fasting from dessert. If that’s the case, you should get rid of any dessert you may have stashed in your cupboards or fridge.
Another way to prepare for your fast is to prepare your heart. Continue to be in prayer about your fast days before it starts. Ask for God’s strength to pull through.
How to End a Fast
When you’re approaching the end of a fast, it’s tempting to slack off and celebrate that you’re almost done. However, it’s important you continue to press in at these last moments.
Here’s how to end a fast.
Pray about your fast.
First, pray about your fast. Pray that God would help you remain strong in these last moments. Pray for perseverance and for a heart that would desire the Lord more.
Review your goals.
Whenever starting a fast, I write down my desires/goals. I pray about these desires during the fast and surrender them over to the Lord.
Before ending my fast, I pray about these desires once more. I praise God whether he decides to intervene in my life in this way or not.
Give thanks to God.
Give thanks to God for sustaining you during this fast. The Bible says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” (Matthew 4:4 ESV).
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