“Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer has become impossible and your heart has turned to stone. If you have never had any distractions you don’t know how to pray. For the secret of prayer is a hunger for God and for the vision of God, a hunger that lies far deeper than the level of language or affection.” Thomas Merton
Why Is Prayer Important for Fasting?
Prayer is great and fasting is fantastic, but the discipline of using them together can help us make life in a sinful world more bearable by connecting us to God and drawing on His power instead of our own.Sonya DowningChristianity.com Contributing Writer
When I googled “why prayer is important to fasting” to research for this article, I found a lot of articles on the health and spiritual benefits of fasting. I also found a few on the benefits of prayer and fasting together. I didn’t find anything about why, exactly, prayer is supposed to be part of the fasting process. First, let’s look at what fasting is. Many Christians picture fasting as a difficult undertaking. However, fasting can be a simple and powerful act that all can practice. Both short occasional fasts and extended fasting can have powerful results.
What is Fasting?
Fasting is Biblical. Throughout the Old and New Testament eras and during the last 2,000 years, fasting has been a primary means of humbling ourselves before God. Fasting is a common practice that can be found in Scripture. It is voluntary and total abstinence of food for a specific amount of time or days, and its aim is to devote oneself through prayer and seeking God. Jesus’ fasting can be read in one major occasion in Matthew 4:1–11. The ancient practice of fasting is a natural way to express your faith with your whole being – body and spirit together – whenever you experience a sacred moment that compels you to respond. Your spirit’s hunger for God can find fulfillment when you fast with your body.
Fasting is a way for us to reconnect and be with the Lord. So, below are a few reasons why prayer comes highly recommended with fasting — as it should be:
Reason 1: Fasting and Prayer are Mentioned Together in Scripture
Both the Old and New Testaments feature multiple instances of believers practicing fasting and prayer together. Here are a handful of the examples I found:
The Israelites fasted and lifted up prayers of praise and confession after sinning against God (Nehemiah 9).
Esther fasts with Israel and prays for the strength to ask her husband to spare Israel from Haman’s plot of genocide (Esther 4:16).
David mentions praying and fasting for his enemies (Psalm 35:12-14).
Daniel fasts and prays to lament Israel’s disobedience while exiled in Babylon and asks God to have mercy on His chosen people (Daniel 9).
The prophet Anna fasted and prayed regularly for Israel, then prophesied to Mary and Joseph about Jesus (Luke 2:36-38).
Paul and Barnabas pray and fast to ask for guidance in appointing elders over the first-century church (Acts 14:23).
Reason 2: Fasting Prayers Serve Multiple Purposes
We live in a fallen world, so we need a lot of help, sometimes even just to make it through the day. God offers us that help by asking us to pray and fast. The verses I mentioned above showcase the variety of what prayer and fasting make possible for Christians:
- Praising God (Nehemiah 9); Granting courage (Esther 4:16)
- Loving your enemies (Psalm 35:12-14); Reconciling yourself or your country to God (Daniel 9; Nehemiah 9)
- Remembering God’s promises (Luke 2:36-38); Granting wisdom (Acts 14:23)
Prayer is great and fasting is fantastic, but the discipline of using them together can help us make life in a sinful world more bearable by connecting us to God and drawing on His power instead of our own.
Reason 3: Prayer and Fasting Actually Works
From a purely practical standpoint, the combination of prayer and fasting can lead to staggering results. Let’s break down the examples given above to see how God worked through each of those instances:
God welcomed Israel back into His arms (Nehemiah 9).
King Xerxes not only spared Esther when he had every right to kill her for approaching the throne uninvited but also listened to her and helped her rescue Israel from Haman (Esther 4:16).
David doesn’t materially gain from praying and fasting for his enemies — quite the opposite, actually — but he reveals to the world that he truly is a man after God’s own heart (Psalm 35:12-14).
God hears Daniel’s pleas and sends an angel to prophesy to him (Daniel 9).
Anna gets to meet her Savior in person (Luke 2:36-38).
Paul and Barnabas found the men God wanted them to appoint as elders (Acts 14:23).
We should be praying and fasting whether or not we get the results we want; the hardships David faced in his life weren’t enough to stop him, so why are our hardships enough to stop us?
Seeing that those results are possible should be more than enough to encourage us to make prayer and fasting part of our lives the same way the heroes of the Bible did.
Power Through Prayer
The truth about prayer and fasting may make us want to practice these disciplines as often as we can without harming our bodies, but here’s the catch: They only work if you’re acting in service of God and not your ego or pride.
Jesus, Himself, speaks against those who pray and fast for selfish reasons in the Sermon on the Mount:
When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:5)
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18)
It’s great that you want to pray and fast, but before you do, ask God to check your motives. If you want to pray and fast to feel like a better Christian, stop right there and ask God to purify your intentions. But if you’re approaching these practices with love and respect for God, then you are free to approach the altar and do so.
The Challenge and Some Sample Fasting Prayers
You know that the Bible encourages you to pray and fast. You know what the two disciplines can do when used together. You know what God can achieve through you when you incorporate these practices into your life. And you know not to approach them for selfish reasons. There’s still one question left unanswered: What comes next?
What comes next is a challenge. I challenge you to approach God about whether your heart is in the right place to practice prayer and fasting. And if God says yes, I challenge you to do it. You’ll be amazed at what the Lord can accomplish in your heart and life if you choose to take this path.
Prayer for Healthy, Holy Fasting
Father, your Word is full of wisdom and knowledge. I pray that we, as children of God, trust you Lord and humble ourselves before you… seeking you God like never before. I pray for everyone fasting and beginning to fast.
I pray that they are led by you, Father, and not the world. I pray the distractions and temptations will not overcome them during this time. Thank you, Father, for loving us enough to send your Son to die for us. We will be forever grateful. In Jesus’ name, Amen (Rebecca Gordon)
Prayer for Fasting and Petition
Lord, please forgive us for craving food more than you. Forgive us for craving anything more than you. Lord redirect our hunger. Be our God. Open our eyes to the benefits of fasting. Open our hearts to you like never before. Give us the desire to turn to you with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our strength. May we no longer live by bread alone but by every word that comes from your mouth Oh LORD. Teach us to fast so that we might hold fast to you. In Jesus Name, Amen. (Alyssa Woollard)
To Align with God’s Heart
Lord, I want to get Your Word so deep into my heart that it becomes MY word! I want to see things the way You see them, hear things the way You hear them, and feel things the way You feel them. I want to get so aligned with You that our hearts beat in syncopation together. I thank You that once Your Word gets that deeply rooted in my heart, my spoken words will release rivers of power and authority against the works of the devil that he has designed for my destruction! I thank You that just as Your words created the universe, my spoken words of faith create a change in my atmosphere! I pray this in Jesus’ name! (Rick Renner)
Connecting with the Father
Father, purify my heart, that I would be focused on You and You alone as I surrender to You in me. If I rely on anyone’s approval but Yours, make it obvious so I can turn that part of my life to You again. As I start my “secret” life with You, cultivate our relationship and make it something incredible! Amen. (Pete Briscoe)
Sonya Downing is a novelist, freelance writer, and content editor with a bachelor’s degree in professional writing. Her freelance work has been published in Focus on the Family’s teen girl magazine Brio, The Evangelical Church Library Association, and The Secret Place quarterly magazine. She has also blogged for IlluminateYA Publishing and edited for Mountain Brook Ink. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Join us for both, The Be Still Challenge [starts 1/1/17] and the Daniel Fast [1/8-1/28/2017]. You will never be the same!
Two things that we do every year around here, The Daniel Fast and The Be Still Challenge. These two things, coupled together, make for a dynamic duo.
Before we started the ministry of YogaFaith, my husband and I personally joined Jentezen Franklin’s Church in Gainsville, Georgia on an annual, corporate fast, The Daniel Fast. There are other types of fasts, but in the first month of each new year, a duplication of 21 days of fasting as Daniel did in the Bible, sets the tone for the remaining 11 months.
When hundreds of thousands of people are corporately fasting, seeking and praying, miracles begin to happen. It’s one thing to hear the incredible stories from around the world, but quite another to experience miracles so great in your own life.
I use to read about miracles, and yes, I’ve experienced many miracles in my own life, but I hadn’t seen in any in years. I questioned God. “Lord, do You still part Red Seas? Do you still bring coins out of fish’s mouths?”
I realized I had become somewhat of a lazy Christian. When Jeremiah says, “When you seek me with your whole heart, you shall find me.” Jeremiah 29:13 [emphasis mine]
My whole heart? Hmm, you’re right, when was the last time I sought you with my whole heart. When was the last time I emptied myself out of ‘me’ and my will, wants and desires? A light bulb came on.
One evening, my husband and I had the opportunity to fellowship with a Pastor both of us had followed since we were young. Jentezen Franklin, he has become known as the “Fasting Pastor”, but he is so much more than that. The night we met him, He placed His hands on my husbands shoulders and told him, “That thing you’re praying…that thing is coming to pass. It shall come to pass. It will come to pass.”Wow! In a drought we heard these words, and wouldn’t quite know the true meaning of them until years later.
We starting fasting with Jentzen, as so many around the world do now, and sure enough, as we sought the Lord with our whole heart, as we emptied our self out and dethroned “king stomach”, we could actually hear the voice of God. We could listen to His Spirit keenly. Everything that was spoken was so crystal clear.
Everything that was spoken was so crystal clear.
The fast that we partake in is the Daniel Fast, it is a fast based on the first chapter of Daniel. Where a small army who had eaten no meat, fat or wine, defeated a vast army who were strong and ate mightily. They thought there was no way they could defeat their enemies. But there is a secret weapon that those who fast, seek and pray have. It’s called the anointing. This small army had it and you can have it too! Anointing means divine empowerment. Are you ready for the Divine Empowerment? Me too!
This year the corporate fast begins January 8th, and just like in Daniel, goes 21 days, until the 28th. Don’t let your mind chatter take over, it is well worth the sacrifice! Also note that you are not starving yourself, you are simply eating as Daniel ate in Daniel 1. However, you are also not stuffing yourself when you eat. Eat to be satiated.
See all the resources you need here. There is no need to purchase anything. Simply follow along and enjoy the daily prayers and meditations. Just like yoga, this fast will set your intention for the rest of the year. What a perfect time to dedicate the year unto the Lord, or offer up your first fruits.
Part Two of this Dynamic Duo is the Be Still Challenge.
While you are seeking the face of God, feel free to start this on January 1st. There are 31 days of whole worship, in body prayer and meditations. You are not at this alone. We want to help you and journey with you to make your fast successful! There are no words that describe the beauty that can come out of your January obedience.
If you would like a wonderful recipe book, I would highly recommend The Daniel Fast Recipe Book by Susan Gregory. See her website and a plethora of free resources.
As seen in the Be Still Challenge: We are offering tokens of remembrance for you for sharing your journey and encouraging others to fast-seek-pray!
Remember to share! share! share! the great news of getting still! Share-ers of their journey receive a few gifts as tokens to remember this January, January 2017, when you set aside time to seek and pray, God showed up and parted the Red Sea for you and your family!
Use any or all of the following hashtags. Hashtags keep all of our information and this time together CONNECTED. Not to be consumed by connection or plugging in, simply to stay connected to one another and hear what God is doing during the vital times of stillness. Do take time to unplug as much as you can. Seek Him!
PLEASE USE, we can only see these if your instagram/facebook accounts are public. #bestillchallenge #danielfast #yogafaith # #bestill
- Winner receives a beautiful prayer bead mala, custom made by Kelly McLellan from Getting Still, and YogaFaith Ambassador.
- 2nd Runner Up receives a Be Still Sweatshirt or Long Sleeve of their choice.
- 3rd Runner up receives a YogaFaith Tote bag and any choice of BEYOND YOGA tank.