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Fasting and Prayer Guide

Gathered below are short articles that explain what spiritual fasting is, why we need to do it, and some practical tips to help when fasting. There's also an inspiring prayer to say whilst fasting and some useful bible verse examples from the old and new testaments about this important spiritual discipline.

Why fast and pray?

Sometimes people fast when they face a difficult life decision. At other times a whole church may come together to fast (either all at the same time or in the form of a relay, say with each person taking a different day in the week). This may fall before some kind of mission or outreach event, or perhaps where the church needs to seek God about the future.

However, it is important to understand that we do not fast in order to "get something out" of God - whether this be for an answer to pray or for some kind of direction or decision. The reason we fast is to draw close to God.

Prayer for Fasting

An inspiring prayer meditation to help with personal spiritual renewal during fasting:-

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The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

Fredrick Buechner

Prayer for Fasting

(The prayer from the video further up this page)

I shall lay aside the pressure I feel, and retreat into your space,
Away from distractions, I’ll seek you face to face.
I shall lean into you Lord, where the weight of the world
Falls away from my shoulders, let your freedom unfold.

I shall burrow so deeply, in you I’m covered and safe,
Lift my eyes up to linger on the love in you gaze.
I shall shelter, encircled by the depth of your care,
Where your majesty leads me, I await you in prayer.

I shall whisper my worries, here I’ll open my fears
And lay here unfolded, in a river of tears.
I shall rest my soul gently and nestle into your hope,
Seeking only to dwell here, in your peace I will soak.

(a prayer poem by Julie Palmer copyright © 2018 www.lords-prayer-words.com)

Practical tips for spiritual fasting

It may not be appropriate or medically advisable to fast food - e.g. if pregnant or if you are involved in work which involves extensive physical exercise etc.

the purpose of the fast is not to lose weight! The goal of your fast is draw near to God.

fasting can mean skipping one or two meals, not eating at all between meals, not eating for a day or even three days or more.

consider fasting other things than food. Remember that the whole point of fasting is to draw close to God - sometimes other things can get in the way of this. Examples of things to consider abstaining from:-

tea or coffee
computer games

These are just some examples - what is difficult for one person to abstain from may be easy for someone else. Remember that fasting is a personal thing between you and God, so consider carefully something that would be difficult for you to give up (for a period). If it's difficult for you to do then this is probably the best thing to go for!

Breaking the fast
If you haven't eaten for a while (more than a day) then be careful not to eat too much to begin with, as this can be a shock to your system. This is especially true for long fasts (three days or more), where eating needs to be re-introduced gradually.
If you've been fasting together as a group or church, then why not come together and break your fast with a breakfast!

the prayer of prayer

When are we to fast?
Fasting is to be a regular part of our lives. If we are followers of Jesus, we will follow in His footsteps, and Jesus was a man of fasting. We can deduce this from three episodes in the gospels:-

From the disciples words to Jesus after he had spoken to the woman at the well. In John 4:31 they urge him to eat - ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ (NIV).

Jesus withdrew to the desert for 40 days to fast before he began his earthly ministry (Matthew 4:1-11)

Fasting enabled Jesus to be ready, just as we can be ready by making fasting a regular part of our lives. The disciples were not ready when they faced the boy who possessed by an evil spirit (Mark 9:18), and were unable to drive the demon out. However, Jesus was and the young man was restored to life (Mark 9:26-27). Jesus then advises his disciples that  “This kind can come out by nothing, except by prayer and fasting.”(Mark 9:29, WEB)

There may be a clue here as to way we can often feel disconnected from God - we are missing out on fasting.-
Most Christians see worship & prayer as an essential part of spiritual life  - but not many fast on a regular basis.
However, fasting was a regular part of the life of Christ, for the early disciples and the Apostle Paul.

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Fasting and prayer points

Don't make a song and dance about it!
Jesus was very clear that the sort of prayer that God values is prayer that is done in secret (Matthew 6:6). Likewise with the act of fasting - we are to appear as though we are doing nothing different (Matthew 6:16-18)

fasting and justice
The prophet Isaiah makes it clear that fasting is not to be disconnected from our everyday life, and society in general. True fasting will lead to an "equalling out", where those who have resources - (The Lord through Isaiah cites food, clothing and shelter - Isaiah 58:7) are to share with those who do not. (Fasting is not just about being humble before God - Isaiah 58:3)

make it regular
Consider making fasting a regular part of your life. Jesus said "when" you fast, not "if"! (Matthew 6:16) and also "when" you pray (Matthew 6:6).

Bible verses about fasting and prayer

Below are featured some useful scriptures related to fasting in the bible. They may be useful as a reading to inspire you in your fasting and journey with God in prayer and worship.

The Apostle Paul fasts for 3 days after his conversion:-

Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened, he saw no one. They led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. He was without sight for three days, and neither ate nor drank.

Acts 9:8-9 (NHEB)

And for 14 days on a boat:-

While the day was coming on, Paul begged them all to take some food, saying, "This day is the fourteenth day that you wait and continue fasting, having taken nothing. Therefore I beg you to take some food, for this is for your safety; for not a hair will perish from any of your heads."

Acts 27:33-34 (NHEB)

Take a moment to hear from God...

here are links to some beautiful and inspiring prayers.