Fasting and prayer is a Christian's best weapon to seek God's guidance during a pivotal moment in their life. It's one of the spiritual disciplines that produce potent and perceptible results. Christians have been using fasting and prayer for two thousand years. Fasting has become an enduring discipline for the church to grow closer to God. It helps build deeper intimacy and open the doors of your soul for God to speak directly with you.
What is Fasting?
According to Dictionary.com, fasting is to abstain from solid food, or to
"eat only sparingly or of certain kinds of food, especially as a religious observance."
You might have also heard of the Daniel Fast, which is a different type of fast in which you avoid meat, wine, and rich foods in favor of water, fruits and vegetables for 21 days of prayer and fasting to grow closer to God.
In Daniel 9:3-5 NIV, it goes into detail about Daniel's fast:
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.
As you see here, fasting can be used as a statement of faith to build a deeper relationship with God.
Why Should Christians Fast?
Maybe now you're wondering
"Why should Christians fast?" The reasons lean heavily on the Old Testament. Here are some reasons:
Sanctification: Moses fasted for 40 days before he went up the mountain to receive the commandments. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness while being tempted by the devil.
Repentance: God's people know they are sinful. Typically they realize their rebellion and come seeking God's grace. Fasting shows an inward heart of repentance to God. Such acts might not earn His forgiveness but demonstrated genuine contrition. This is demonstrated in 1 Samuel 7:6:
When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the Lord.” Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah.
Grief: God's people also used fasting as a way to mourn. It represents a faithful heart to God even amidst great tragedies. You can see it during the death of Saul in 1 Samuel 31:11-13:
When the people of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all their valiant men marched through the night to Beth Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them. Then they took their bones and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days.
Before God comes in with the revival of the nations, the Holy Spirit will call God's people to repent, fast, and pray. According 2 Chronicles 7:14:
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Fasting in the Bible
There are many Bible verses that help us find the true meaning of prayer and fasting.
Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days and 40 nights after His baptism by John the Baptist. In Matthew 4:1-2:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
David fasted after committing adultery with Bathsheba. In 2 Samuel 12:13-20:
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”
After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.
On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”
David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.
“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”
Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.
Moses fasted for 40 days before he went up the mountain to receive God's commandments written on stone tablets. In Deuteronomy 9:9-10
When I went up on the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord had made with you, I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water. The Lord gave me two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God. On them were all the commandments the Lord proclaimed to you on the mountain out of the fire, on the day of the assembly.
Paul/Saul fasted for three days when he encountered Jesus. In Acts 9:7-9:
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
There are different types of fasting in the Bible. Spiritual fasting allows you to humble yourself, grow closer to God, and spend quiet time in God's word. Fasting helps in your quest of finding hope in difficult circumstances.
7 Steps for How to Fast and Pray for a Breakthrough
In this section, we will break down how to fast and pray. We have created a list of basic steps to successfully help you prepare yourself for praying and fasting. Let's break down how to do a Biblical fast for a breakthrough:
1. Determine Your Prayer Requests
Your fasting is centered around your spiritual growth, so it starts in your prayer life. Some people create a prayer guide to use through their days of prayer and fasting. It can be as simple as laying down the goals and objectives of the fast. Ask yourself why you are fasting. Seek the Holy Spirit to clarify the intent of the fast.
2. Commit to Your Fast
Pray about what kind of fast you want to take on. Some people might take on a day fast, while others will choose juice fasting. Here is a simple way to do this:
Determine the length of your fast: is it a meal, a week, a month?
What kind of fast does God want you to select?
What times of fasting do you want to dedicate to prayer and meditation of God's word?
Writing down these commitments help you sustain the fast when the world tells you abandon it.
3. Prepare Yourself Physically
Fasting is not always easy to start. If you are a beginner, you might not want to do a lengthy fast right away. Please take the necessary precautions, especially if you have medical issues. You should see a physician if you need professional assistance.
Begin to taper your meals days before starting a fast
Avoid sugary or high-fat food before the fast
Try eating more fruits, vegetables, and water two days before starting a fast
4. Prepare Yourself Spiritually
The foundation of prayer and fasting is to grow closer to God. Begin by sanctifying yourself:
Look at yourself for unrepentant sin
Confess your sins to God and ask for forgiveness
Ask God to guide you, surrender your life to Jesus Christ
Meditate on how you can become more Christ-like
Don't underestimate the attacks of the enemy. Sometimes the battle between the flesh and the spirit are intense as your fast.
5. Following Through
When you start fasting, follow through with the fast you committed to. Here are some helpful guidelines:
Limit physical activity
Rest as much as your day-to-day allows
Prepare for physical and mental discomforts. Withdrawal from food, caffeine, and sugar can cause headaches. You may also feel tired or weak throughout the day.
The first three days of the fast are the most difficult. Your spirit and flesh will be challenged. Drink more water as you fast.
6. Prayers and Meditation
This is the most important part of the fast. Focus on using this time to grow your relationship with God. Here are some ideas on how you can do this:
Start your day with prayers and worship
Meditate on the Bible
Invite the Holy Spirit to guide you on your day
Ask God to give guidance on His will for you, your family, and your community
Pray on His vision for your life.
Avoid distractions like YouTube or television
7. Breaking Your Fast
Now that your fasting is complete, you can begin to nourish your body again. But do it slowly! Try starting with smaller meals or snacks before eating solid meals. Here are some tips:
Try eating salad or fruits for the first day
Begin to introduce rice and carbs your second day
Start moving back into your normal diet on the third day
If you are sincerely seeking the Lord, your times of fasting will be eye-opening and amazing. You will start to see God working in all aspects of your life. As you stop depending on the world (food) and you start relying on God, you will experience His goodness in your life. You will see major breakthroughs and miracles in all things. You will see that God will win all your victories for you.