Prayer & Fasting – A Spiritual Guide to Transformation
Duane Vander Klok
All Christians pray, but not many fast. In fact, fasting is possibly one of the least popular topics in the Bible. However, Jesus said, “When you pray…” (Matthew 6:5) and “When you fast…” (Matthew 6:17), making it clear that both prayer and fasting should be a normal part of our life as believers.
In fasting, we abstain from food and say “no” to our bodies. Instead of giving our body what it wants, we take dominion over it and allow our spirit to rise up. As we fast, we disconnect from the distractions of life and connect with God. We align with Him and allow Him to work in our hearts, making them tender and soft toward Him and the things He wants to do in and through us.
Fasting is much more than simply not eating. The Bible tells us in Isaiah 58 that fasting is “afflicting your soul.” In other words, it is saying “no” to the things your mind and body want. It is denying the things you crave that draw your attention away from God. It is like turning down the volume of the world around you and turning up the volume of God’s voice!
Fasting and Faith
Did you know that there are answers to prayer, healings, and places in God that you will never arrive at without prayer and fasting? The Bible tells us about a man who brought his demonized son to Jesus’ disciples, but they were unsuccessful in curing him. When Jesus heard about it, He said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour” (Matthew 17:17-18).
Later, when the disciples asked why they had been unable to cast out the demon, Jesus said, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:20-21).
According to Jesus, the reason the disciples couldn’t heal the boy was because of unbelief related to the “faithless and perverse generation” they lived in. Jesus was not condemning them, but He was showing them that there was something they missed.
Being faithless has to do with a disconnection from God, and being perverse has to do with a connection to the world. The remedy Jesus gave for this is prayer and fasting. You see, prayer connects you with God, and fasting disconnects you from the world. Together, they help you “become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…” (Philippians 2:15-16).
Fasts in the Bible
There are several kinds of fasts in the Bible, and as you recall, even Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:1). If He needed to, we certainly do! Here are some more Bible examples of fasts and their results:
- Disciples’ fast – For spiritual breakthrough (Matthew 17:18-21, Isaiah 58:6-8)
- Ezra’s fast – To bring a solution to a difficult problem or situation (Ezra 8)
- Samuel’s Fast – For national revival (1 Samuel 7)
- Elijah’s fast – For freedom from depression, anxiety, hopelessness, insecurity, etc. (1 Kings 19)
- Widow’s fast – To meet the needs of others (Isaiah 58:7)
- Paul’s fast – To receive divine guidance for a major decision (Acts 9:9)
- Daniel’s fast – For revelation, favor and health (Daniel 10)
- John the Baptist’s fast – For favor and increasing influence (Matthew 9:14-15; John 1:6-7)
- Esther’s fast – For protection and favor (Esther 4:15-16)
As you read the scripture accounts about these fasts, you’ll be encouraged by the many outcomes and rewards of fasting. These same benefits are available to you today! As you fast and pray, you can expect to hear God’s voice more clearly and receive the revelation, breakthrough and deliverance you need.
Two Fasts to Consider
When you fast, you are denying yourself and subduing your flesh. The Apostle Paul said: “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). Paul recognized that he needed to be in a position of authority over his body. Likewise, it is good for you to let your body know who is boss.
A “normal” fast lasts one day (Isaiah 58:5). It is a 24-hour period where you do not eat anything and drink only water with the purpose of putting God and spiritual things first. Doing this on a weekly or even monthly basis brings great results!
Another common fast, known as the Daniel Fast (mentioned above) lasts 21 days. During the time that Daniel fasted, we’re told that he drank only water, ate no meat, no sweets whatsoever, and no bread (Daniel 10:2-3). This is sometimes referred to as a partial fast.
Whatever type of fast you choose, keep in mind that the focus is on connecting with God and disconnecting from the things that distract you from Him. In fact, if you only abstain from food without spending time in prayer, you may as well call it a diet!
Fasting and Restoration
The book of Joel gives an example of how genuine repentance and fasting are related to deliverance and restoration from God. The account begins with an invasion of four types of locust that devastated the land and led to a time of great calamity. We are told, “What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten; what the swarming locust left, the crawling locust has eaten; and what the crawling locust left, the consuming locust has eaten” (Joel 1:4).
The chewing locust mentioned here could be compared to a sin or habit that you can live with, but it keeps you from a close relationship with God. You’ve tried, but can’t get it under control. Next, the swarming locusts came in like waves; attack after attack after attack. This would be like you having trouble at work, difficulties with your spouse or family members, financial problems – things that keep hitting you over and over again.
Then the crawling locusts showed up little by little over time. These could be compared to the type of devastation that comes into your life due to bad choices, bad associations, or bad seeds you once planted. Finally, Joel mentions the consuming locusts that came in and devoured whatever was left. This would be like the barrenness and emptiness you experience when something precious to you has been stripped away.
In the wake of all the devastation, God told them, “Return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (Joel 2:12). He promised, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust…” (Joel 2:25). Perhaps God is saying to you today, “Return to Me with all your heart”.
That is what fasting is: turning to God with your whole heart. It is about relationship, not religion. It is not some sort of penance or paying for your sin, and it is certainly not twisting God’s arm to get Him to give you something. However, as you disconnect from the world (the distractions and the things that have allowed the enemy to come in) and turn to the Lord, His promise of restoration is for you.
Put God First
In Matthew 6:33-34, Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” When you humble yourself and draw close to God in fasting and prayer, He promises to draw close to you (James 4:7-10). As you set aside time to seek Him, you will hear His voice more clearly, and as you align your will more closely with His, He will add to you what you truly need most!
Pray and ask God how He would have you fast. However He leads you, don’t miss the main point. Purpose in your heart to seek Him. Turn down the volume and noise of the world around you and turn up the volume of God’s voice. You’ll be glad you did!
(All scriptures are from the New King James Version of the Bible.)