Are you a person who prays? If your answer is yes, praise God, but if you are not or you feel in your heart that you do not pray/talk to the Lord as much as you should, my prayer is after this series, you will be encouraged to open that communication line with the Lord and see how it transforms your life.
There is a saying, "Prayer is the Key, it is the Master's Key," meaning it opens up the door to your blessings, breakthrough, etc. Today we will dwell on the first part of this series, looking at how we can incorporate fasting with our prayer and the benefits of doing so.
Definition of Prayer
According to Merriam Webster's dictionary, prayer is a Silent or spoken petition made to God or a god, and another dictionary refers to it as a spiritual communion with God or an object of worship, as in supplication, thanksgiving or adoration.
Well, for us believers, prayer is simply a two-way communication with God. We speak to Him, and He replies or talks back through many ways, e.g., His divine word (scriptures), a still small voice, prophecy, word of knowledge, dreams, revelation, etc.
Definition of Fasting
According to Merriam Webster's dictionary, fasting refers to abstinence from some or all foods (including liquids). It is the act of denying one's self the pleasures of food for a specified period. However, the principle of fasting can also apply to other daily activities in our lives, such as the Internet, watching television, sexual intercourse with spouse as in 1 Corinthians 7:5, (devoting time to prayer), social media, phone, and basically some type of daily routine consumes a lot of your time. Sacrificing that time for God brings about a change in one's life.
From the time of old, i.e., going back to biblical times, the Old Testament, to be exact, fasting was a common practice. The children of Israel were always aware of the benefits of fasting and prayer to God because each time they fasted, they saw the awesome move of God in their circumstances as individuals and as a nation. A few examples come to mind beginning with Moses, in Exodus 34:27-28, it revealed that he waited on the Lord for 40 days and 40 nights while receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. In Judges 20:26-28, when the children of Israel were in the battle with their kindred of Benjamin's tribe, who rose up against them. The children of Israel were consistently losing the battle until they fasted and sought the Lord for directions, and after a one day fast, God gave them the victory. Another example was also in II Chronicles 20:3 when King Jehoshaphat declared a fast throughout Judah when their enemies, the Moabites, and Ammonites rose against them. As they fasted and offered praises to the Lord, He gave them a great victory. Who can forget the beautiful and bold Queen Esther whose people, the Jewish nation was going to be completely wiped out as a result of hate and in Esther 4:16, she declared a three day and three nights absolute fast and left the rest to the Lord saying "If I perish, I perish" and what did the Lord do? He caused Esther to find favor in the King's sight, and God gave her and the Jewish people a great victory, while at the same time destroying their enemies', i.e., Haman and all the enemies of the Jewish people. There are more examples throughout the OT alone of how God delivered His people from harm when they repented of their sins, and earnestly cried out unto Him through Prayer and sometimes with fasting. It proved the Lord Jesus's words in Matthew 17:21 when He stated that "However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting" KJV. Even speaking about the Lord Jesus, He also fasted for 40 days in the wilderness before officially starting His ministry, Matthew 4:1-2, and this practice continued throughout the early church, which relied on fasting and prayer when seeking God's guidance. Acts 13:2, 14:23
Types of Fasting Unto the Lord
There are only three types of fast mentioned in scripture.
I). Partial Fast - Daniel engaged in a partial fast, according to Daniel 10:2-3, to seek the Lord's wisdom. He fasted for 21 days and didn't eat any pleasant food, neither meat nor wine. These verses confirm it was a partial fast because he only abstained from pleasant, exotic foods such as what was served on the King's table. This type of fast is usually called the "Daniel Fast," and it can involve just consuming fruits or vegetables with water. I believe this is the most common type of fasting today.
II). Normal Fast - This type of fast is usually with liquids (i.e., water) only for a specified number of days. An example of this fast is what Jesus did in the wilderness where He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights with no food, but it appears that He had only water because scripture mentioned that He was hungry and Satan came to tempt Him with food. Matthew 4:1-2.
III). Absolute (Dry) Fast- This is when no food and no liquids are consumed. This fast is rarely practiced and is only mentioned a few times in the Bible. Moses in Exodus 34:28, who fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, as mentioned earlier. Also, the Apostle Paul, during his Damascus Road experience, "was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. Acts 9:9 and Queen Esther in Esther 4:16. I have never tried this type of fast, but my husband has a few times in the past, and it's incredible the results he encountered both spiritually and physically.
A). How Are We to Fast?
In Matthew 6:17-18, Jesus states how we are to fast, and that is, by anointing our head, washing our faces so that no one will know that we are waiting on the Lord. In a nutshell, our appearance should not attract others' attention; we should dress up and look the way we usually do when we are not fasting. Jesus warns us to not be like hypocrites, trying to receive praise from others because that will be the only reward we will ever get. Matthew 6:16.
B). When Are We to Fast?
i). We can fast anytime, i.e., There are no restrictions on how often you are to fast. You do not have to wait for your church or fellowship to declare a fast for a specific purpose. For the benefit of personal spiritual growth, you can fast anytime you are led. Not too long ago, I committed myself to fast at least twice a week for my spiritual growth, sometimes we also fast as a family in my house, which is always good.
ii). As the Spirit of God leads you
iii). When there is a burden in your heart that refuses to go away even after just praying. (i.e., anything disturbing your peace) Sometimes it could be an attack from the enemy or a burden put there by God.
iv). When you face all kinds of storms or challenges (i.e., financial distress, marital problems, relationship issues with family, friends, sickness, etc. In situations like that, it never hurts to step up your prayer
vi). When you are about to embark on an essential assignment for God or a complex project. Matthew 4:2
C). Who Should Fast?
Every child of God (except for children under the age of 12), should fast at one time or the other in their prayer lives. In Jewish customs, thirteen is referred to as the age of accountability for boys and twelve for girls. I am always amazed to see the elderly, both Men and Women, well into their 80s and 90s', faithfully serving the Lord and loving every minute of it. Regardless of their age, health. They don't let it get in the way of doing God's work. It makes me always think that if these can still have that passion or zeal in their later years, how much more we, the younger ones. Look at Billy Graham today, who is 93 years old, Dr. Charles Stanley, who just turned 80 last September and many more people of God like that in their late 60s' and up around the world, still going strong by God's strength, Isaiah 40:31. In Luke 2:36-37, Anna, a prophetess of God, who was about 84 years of age and had lost her husband only after seven years of marriage, said that "she never left the temple. Instead, she served God with fastings and prayers night and day in His house. You begin to wonder at that age, what was she still fasting for? I believe this spiritual act or practice was enriching her life somehow, who knows maybe "longevity," and became "second nature" to her to do so ( a part of her daily spiritual routine).
Having said this, a bit of caution to those with some medical condition, I would encourage you to seek professional or medical advice before attempting to fast. Also, if you have never fasted before, not because of any medical condition, I will advise you start small, for example, you can begin with a one day fast for at least 6 hours and then as you faithfully pray, the Lord will help you to take it a step further. Do not attempt a three to seven-day full day fast if you haven't fasted before. Why? Because it can lead to dizziness, headaches, low blood sugar, etc. which are usually usual side effects, but it causes you to lose your focus on why you are waiting on the Lord and lead you to concentrate on the flesh instead. Always start slowly. Remember that the principle of fasting also applies to anything in your life you are willing to sacrifice or give up in a specified period to seek the Lord. You do not necessarily need to start with food for whatever type of fast you choose. It could be anything that you mainly cannot do without daily, as mentioned at the beginning of the message. However, if you can, let your first choice be food and drink. It is the most preferred and traditional option. Nevertheless, allow the Lord to guide you.
Before we look at the benefits of fasting with prayer, let me first state that it is essential that we are fasting for the right reasons or else it would have all been for nothing. Isaiah 58:3-4. Remember, God sees the heart of Man and knows when our motives or intentions are wrong. Genuine fasting is to break the power of flesh in our lives and with the right intentions; it is always useful when seeking the Lord for yourself or on behalf of others.
D). The Benefits of Fasting with Prayer
Now the benefits of combining fasting and prayer are many so that we will look at some of them.
i). Receive divine guidance Judges 20:26-28
ii). Receive victory over temptation Matthew 4:1-11 (Jesus, because He was in human flesh was prone to temptation just like us. With the help of the Holy Spirit, He resisted).
iii). When fasting is done with the right motives, a reward is given from God Matthew 6:16-18.
vii). When you fast and pray for those in need, the poor, etc., the Lord promises to guide you continually, satisfy your heart's desire and bless you with good health. Isaiah 58:11.
viii). True fasting and prayer bring fruitfulness, radiance, and God's goodness in your life.
ix). Receive restoration, promotion, and God will use us to impact the lives of others.
x). Able to discern more clearly the will of God for our lives through our spiritual eyes and ears.
xi). As a church group, community, or nation, when we genuinely fast and pray, God can move on our behalf, causing a change to occur to align with God's plan. 2 Chronicles 7:14.
Let me just conclude by saying that it is not too late to incorporate fasting with your prayer. Once you start slowly and then begin to advance gradually to more extended periods of fasting, you will begin to see it as second nature, and not only that, you will experience significant growth in your walk with the Lord. Throughout biblical history, we see that both men and women, young and old alike, boast of God's greatness. And even today, that greatness is still being seen as Christians worldwide are seeking the Lord through the act of prayer and fasting. I have been a witness to some powerful testimonies of God's awesomeness when His people pray. I encourage you today to become a Man or Woman of Prayer, taking that extra step with prayer and fasting unto the Lord. As you do so, you shall receive the divine encounter you have been waiting for as you allow the Lord to take you higher in your prayer life.