If God's people - those whose faith is in Christ and who embrace the empowerment of the Spirit - seek the salvation of sinful men through the promotion of the Christian faith, then prayer must be the chief ministry of the Church. It is not the obligation of the few but the necessity of all to pray simply because we need God. No work for God can be accomplished or effectual if the Living God is not the One moving in the midst of His people.
And, if His people do not pray, then God will not - cannot - move to heal, deliver, and save.
Prayer with Fasting
Prayer is the chief ministry of the Church
"So I earnestly pleaded with the Lord...as I prayed, I fasted..."
(Daniel 9:3, Living Bible)
Reading: Joel 2:1,15-17
The purpose of this essay is to present the absolute necessity for us to pray and to provide a prayer model in order to encourage the Church to commit to enter and maintain a life of prayer.
Examples of Prayer
A. The Bible portrays Jesus as the Preeminent Model of the Life of Prayer.
At the start of the ministry God devolved upon him, Jesus was found praying; and, as he did so, God answered by granting him the empowerment of the Spirit and affirming his divinely ordained vocation: "And as he was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him...and a voice came from heaven" (Luke 3:21).
At the testing of his fitness for the work God had appointed him, Jesus was found, again, praying; and aware of the importance for success, he continued to pray through until, whatever the test that lay before him, he would be found faithful to have succeeded and passed it: "Then Jesus was led by the Spirit...fasting forty days and forty nights..." (Matthew 4:1-2; see, also Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1).
Jesus did not wait for others but took the initiative to seek God in prayer: "he went to a solitary place where he prayed" (Mark 1:35). As a result of his passionate and persistence in prayer, he received not only a ministry but a power ministry:
- preaching with authority (Mark 1:14-18)
- performing exorcisms (Mark 1:39)
- curing illnesses (Mark 1:40-41)
Jesus sought any and every opportunity to pray. he exhibited such an intense passion for God's glory and the salvation of sinners coupled with the longing for the Father's Voice and Presence in his life, that it would overcome the natural demands of the body and mind for sleep and nourishment: "Jesus went out to the mountainside to pray to God and spent the night praying to God when morning came" (Luke 6:12-13a).
- Literally: "to pray...in the prayer of God." Jesus prayed thievery heart of the Father. Jesus' petitions mirrored the very desires of God, for not only he prayed but he prayed God's prayers.
- "If we spent the whole night in prayer, it should not be charged as enthusiasm. Our Savior did it."
Again, we see Jesus in Matthew 14:23: "leaving them (his disciples) he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray."
- Compare John 6:14-17a: "...refusing the acclaim of the multitude [seeking to forcefully make him king], he gave himself to a long period of solitude in order to affirm his obedience to the Father," rather than the cries and demands of the multitude.
Jesus Christ enters into and experiences the presence of the power of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth through prayer as seen in Luke 9:29f: "As he was praying the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning...Moses and Elijah appeared...a could appeared and enveloped them...A voice came from the cloud."
B. New Testament Examples of the Holy Spirit associated with Prayer and Fasting.
- of Jesus: I will put my Spirit upon him" (Matthew 12:18c; compare Luke 4:18).
- of a man named Simeon who was "looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him" (Luke 2:25)
- of a widow, Anna, "a prophetess," that is, a women filled with the Holy Spirit to speak for God revealing His will to the people; she "never left the temple, serving night and day with fasting and prayers" (Luke 2:37).
C. Old Testament Examples of Prayer with Fasting.
- Moses: "I remained on the mountain forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water" (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 9:9,18,25; 10:10).
- Daniel: "I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer...with fasting" (Daniel 9:3).
- Hezekiah: "Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord" (Isaiah 37:15,21; 38:1-6; 2 Kings 19:1, which suggests he may have fasted; also see verses 14-15a; 20:1-2).
Definition of Terms
- There are different New Testament Greek words translated as "prayer" but its basic meaning is "to petition, to ask, to seek" (James 5:13-16). In the Old Testament, the Hebrew words most commonly refer to intercessory or petitionary prayer (Psalms 17; 86; 90).
- Prayer can be viewed as seeking. It is a communion with God in worshipful dependence for all that is necessary to true life and genuine happiness (Psalm 27:4,8).
- It is like breathing, which to neglect is fatal. As one cannot have life without acts of breathing, so one cannot have share in the life of God without praying (Psalm 30; 86:1). The Christian who has stopped praying must stop to consider whether or not he is a Christian.
- Prayer is the continuous act that demonstrates an unbreakable attitude of helplessness, repentance, and communion with God (Luke 18:1; 21:36; Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
- As believers, we are commanded to pray. To not pray is rebellion and sin (Matthew 5:44; 1 Timothy 2:8).
- Prayer is the work expected of every believer. Jesus does not say, "if you pray," but, "when you pray." To not pray is sin. For a professing believer in Christ to not pray is to reject his office of the priest - one who intercedes for men to God and intercedes for God to men - for which God has called him to take up when he first prayed sought God in prayer (Matthew 6:5; 1 Samuel 12:23).
- Prayer is the fruit of the Spirit. One of the clear evidences of being filled with the Spirit is having a life of prayer. To neglect prayer, to be without a life of prayer, betrays the true state of the one who professes to be a Christian (John 15:7-8,16).
- Prayer is cooperating with God; it is doing what here one earth what Christ would do were he you on the earth. As such, prayer is the exhibition of His reign over the earth (Romans 15:30; Colossians 4:11-12; 1 Corinthians 3:9). Prayer
is the Christians primary mode of access both to the divine Person and the divine power...we can say that prayer brings us into the divine activity, so that we become real participants in the great drams of redemption.
- In the OT fasting is simply to abstain from food as a sign of being in mourning, having sorrow. The NT Greek word simply means to abstain from food.
- It is not abstinence as a means to lose weight. It is not to abstain from watching movies or participating in any enjoyable activity. The fasting God calls us to is not a "hunger strike" to achieve political purposes to as a show of civil disobedience to protest against an injustice. The Bible views fasting solely as the act of abstaining from food for the the sole purpose of spending time in prayer. To choose a time to fast while doing your own thing is not fasting, not the kind that God is pleased with. We do not dictate what to abstain from, how, and for what purpose, not if Jesus Christ is Lord of our life.
A prominent reason for fasting Jews to fast was to display penitential mourning in order to avert God's wrath.
- Therefore, fasting is always associated with prayer: "It complements and strengthens desire...and faith."
- Fasting requires the setting aside of time normally for eating in order to pray (Matthew 4:1-3a; Mark 1:35; 14:32; 2 Samuel 12:15-16; 2 Chronicles 20:1-4,13).
- It is the voluntary setting of food aside as a genuine demonstration of abject need and earnest humility with the honest intent to submit in obedience (Nehemiah 1:1-4; Joel 1:14).
- Fasting is the combative stance against demonic powers:"He fasted...the tempter approached" (Matthew 4:2-3, NAB; 17:21; Daniel 10:2-3).
Methods, Patterns, and Reasons
for Praying with Fasting
for Praying with Fasting
A. Four methods of fasting
- Normal - no food or drink except water (Matthew 4:2; Luke 4:2).
- Partial - restricted diet (Daniel 1:8,11).
- Absolute - neither foo nor drink, not even water (Esther 4:16; Acts 9:9).
- Forced - when circumstances make eating or drinking impossible (1 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 11:27).
B. Four patterns of prayer and fasting:
- In private: Moses (Deuteronomy 9:9); Paul (Acts 9:9).
- In community: Israel (Judges 20:26; the Early Church (Acts 14:23).
- In the Holy Spirit: (1Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20).
- In the Name of Jesus: (John 14:13; 15:16; 16:24-26). Commenting on Micah 4:6, where we read, "we will walk in the name of the Lord," McComiskey writes:
To walk in the 'name' means more than simply adhering to the religious requirements associated with the deity in question. It means to live in reliance on the strength of that deity...it involves reliance on the might of his power by which his attributes are manifested.
C. The basic and primary reason to pray with fasting is to receive an answer from God (1 Chronicles 5:18-20; Ezra 8:23; John 14:14; 14:7; James 5:17-18. About 29 times in the Psalms is the plea, "Hear me, O Lord," and about 12 times confidence that God will answer is expressed; see Psalms 69:16-17; 143:1,7). Prayer with fasting
is calculated to give [a sharp] edge to a man's intercessions and power to his petitions. Heaven is ready to bend its ear to listen when someone prays with fasting...[it] gives power to a demand bringing pressure to bear in support of one's request.
Fasting helps to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything...to attain what we seek for the Kingdom of God.
D. What prayer with fasting is not.
- An end in itself (Isaiah 58:5; Zechariah 7:5). Prayer with fasting is not something to do merely because we profess to be Christians o religious and that is what a Christian does or religious person does.
- To earn or deserve God's favor (Luke 18:11-12).
- To look good or spiritual before others (Matthew 6:5,16).
- For one's own benefit, concerns, pr prosperity (Matthew 6:33; Philippians 2:3-5).
- Merely thinking or meditating on your requests, or silent praying. One who always "thinks" his prayers is confusing thinking with praying. Prayer that cannot move the mouth to express it will certainly find it impossible to move God's heart to answer.
- A substitute for repentance and obedience (Jeremiah 11:1-15) Prayer with fasting is not acceptable before God if we persist in sin. Disobedience defeats the whole purpose for which prayer with fasting aims: the dependence of the people on God in Christ through the Holy Spirit by which he manifests his glory by answering prayer (Isaiah 58:1-12; John 14:13-14; 15:7-8).
Excursus 1: When Everyone Says, "No," God says, "Yes"
God always answers prayers with either a "Wait" or "Yes," but nowhere does the Bible show God answering "No" to those who place their trust in him, who not only have faith but are faithful.
- There is no place in the Bible that shows God either answering negatively, rejecting, or ignoring the prayers of obedient believers (Jeremiah 29:11-14).
- The Bible portrays God as not only answering prayer but answering specifically to the request that is bing made (Matthew 7:7-11).
- The Bible reveals God rejecting the prayers of the disobedient (Jeremiah 11:9-14; 14:10-12).
- As believers, we are to never be afraid to ask God thinking he will answer in ways that would have a negative and detrimental impact on out lives. For example, God will not send us sickness when we pray for patience (2 Peter 1:3-4). We need not be afraid of God answering prayer. We need to fear to disobey.
Excursus 2: Praying "in the Spirit"
We turn briefly to the topic of praying in the Spirit (Jude 20; Ephesians 6:18; Romans 8:26; Luke 24:49; John 16:7; Acts 2:4,15-18). With respect to the Spirit and His gifts:
- We are to desire the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1).
- The apostle Paul is an example of a believer who prays both in the Spirit and with the mind, that is, he prays in tongues and in his spoken earthly language (1 Corinthians 14:15b-18).
- God bestowed men with gifts; it is God's will that men be supernaturally gifted (Ephesians 4:18).
- Therefore, the apostle admonishes believers not to stifle their use (1 Thessalonians 5:19).
- The promise of the Spirit, who anoints believers with gifts of empowerment, is given to us, our children, and to all through all generation who answer God's call (Acts 2:39).
Nevertheless, there are those who object to spiritual gifts, especially speaking in tongues, having either any purpose or relevance for today and, therefore, have ceased. Some objections are listed below flooded by s response to challenge it's validity:
- Objection: We need the fruits of holy living, not the gifts of the Spirit. Response: It is not an issue of either/or but of both; that is, we need both the fruits of the Spirit for holy living and the gifts of the Spirit for ministering in acknowledgement of and showing forth the reality of the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).
- Objection: We ought to seek the Giver and not the gift. Response: The Spirit is the gift and with him comes the empowerments provided; living in the Spirit is living in the anointing that administers gifts (Acts 2:38).
- Objection: Seeking gifts is selfish. Response: First, should we allow another's self-centeredness determine what we believe? Or, should we allow another's negative moral judgment of others determine whether or not we ask God for His help? Second, if seeking the Spirit is selfish, so is edifying oneself. But what is the apostle Paul's attitude? He encourages us to "desire spiritual gifts" and admonishes us to "forbid not to speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:1,39; and see above).
- Seeking gifts of the Spirit leads to the demonic. Response: This is the exact accusation laid against Jesus. I ask, when has a demon ever healed in the name of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior of men (Luke 9:11; 11:9-13)?
Prayer with Fasting is More than Prayer with Fasting
Earnestly seeking God in prayer with fasting involves more than simply asking and abstaining from food in order to take time to pray. It involves:
A. Wrestling. It is not enough that God wants to answer. The opposition must first be overcome (Ephesians 6:12; 1 Timothy 1:18-21; 2 Timothy 4:7 - "Fight the good fight").
Satan is stubborn foe and he will not relinquish his grasp on the spirits and souls, minds and bodies of men unless compelled to do so. [Prayer and fasting] seems to provide that compelling, which is necessary to let the oppressed go free.
B. Desperation. It is letting God know that you refuse to take "no" for an answer (Ezra 8:21-23; Esther 4:3,16: Jeremiah 29:13-14; Genesis 32:24-26).
When a man is willing to set aside the legitimate appetites of the body to concentrate on the work of praying, he is demonstrating that he means business, that he is seeking with all his heart, and will not let God go unless He answers.
C. Protest. Prayer is protest against the way things are and against demonic powers. The Christian, through prayer with fasting, puts the demonic powers to shame by demonstrating his loyalty to God's will and confidence in God's ability to overcome evil (Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-6). To bow the knee in prayer is spiritual disobedience to the evil powers that being in this world today (1 John 5:19; Galatians 1:4).
D. Repentance. The man who prays with fasting knows by experience that he cannot approach God with unconfessed sin and will, therefore, confess in order to seek the cleansing that comes with the atonement in order that he may not only approach the throne but, approach it boldly. God marks the man whose sin is so grievous that he mourns with faith-filled determination to cut it off immediately like arm poisoned with gangrene (Psalms 15; 32:5; 66:18; 1 John 1:9; Daniel 9:2-8; Ezekiel 9:4).
E. Consecration. Prayer with fasting is the ultimate expression of entire devotion to God and His purposes. One cannot be a man genuinely concerned for God's happiness and working to forward His will - and His will alone - who is not a man of prayer with fasting (2 Chronicles 16:9; Luke 9:62; Philippians 2:25-30; 3:7-14).
F. Expectation. The person who prays with fasting is sick for the return of the Bridegroom and impatiently looks for His return. In consequence, he disposes of every self-interest in order to prepare himself and the believing community for His coming falling down on his face in prayer (Philippians 2:25-30; Psalm 27:4,8).
Prayer with Fasting: the Expression of Hope
The supreme hope of the Church lies in the promise of the reappearance of the Lord from Heaven. Prayer with fasting opens the way for the outpouring for the restoration of holiness in our lives, making His Church fit for the Lord's return. Prayer with fasting in this age of the Bridegroom's absence is in longing expectation, like the sick feeling of a lost love, for His return. Soon we will hear the midnight cry, "Behold! The Bridegroom! Come meet Him!
Once the "lightning flashes across the sky from east to west," it will be too late; the time for prayer with fasting will be over and so will the time to be saved.
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
If you find my beloved,
As to what will you tell him:
Tell him I am lovesick.
The Spirit and the bride say, Come! Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!
What does your present life in prayer with fasting tell you about your relationship with and experience of God?
Do you even have a life of prayer?
Is your life devoted to prayer?
Is there the desire for God that compels you to fast?
Are you truly concerned for the way things are at present in the world?
Do you want to see such a move of God as we read in the Bible?
Are you looking and praying with fasting for Jesus' return?
Will you begin now to seek the Lord's return in prayer with fasting?
Listed below are books that influenced these notes and italicized sections are some quotes taken from all of these books:
- Adam Clarke, Commentary, 3 vols.
- Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament, 1 vol.
- William L. Lane. NICNT, "Mark."
- Beacon Bible Dictionary of Theology, "Prayer," "Fast."
- Steve Thompson, You May All Prophesy."
- Arthur Wallis, God's Chosen Fast.