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How Do I Fast and Pray?

  • Britnee Bradshaw
How Do I Fast and Pray?

Fasting and praying are such foundational parts of the Christian life that sometimes it can be assumed that we know what to do and how to do it. While I agree that fasting and praying are essential subjects, it’s easy to go about these practices incorrectly.

These two subjects are all about consecrating (setting apart) ourselves before God so that we become more available to be used by him. Both fasting and prayer are personal between us and the Father. There are no hard and fast rules about how often we should pray and fast within the New Covenant, but it cannot be ignored that God wants us to devote ourselves to these things, he makes that very clear throughout Scripture.

I hope this article helps to strengthen your prayer life and enlightens how you view and approach fasting. We are so fortunate that we have a loving Father who has given us ways to communicate with him and to expand our capacities as believers. It’s by the grace of God that we are able to come before his throne in these wonderful ways.

What Is Prayer?

Prayer can be either public or private, and there are different types of prayers that can be prayed, according to Ephesians 6:18. For the sake of this article, though, we’ll look at Matthew 6:5-15. I've come to find that this portion of the Word is the bedrock for prayer:

“And 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. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

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Where Should I Pray?

The first thing that this section of Scripture addresses is where to pray. Verse six says, “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” So the first thing we learn is that prayer should usually be private. Jesus isn't saying that public prayer is bad. He’s saying that our motivation for praying publicly can be distorted. Jesus warns us that praying publicly for human attention is wrong and that if we pray for that reason, the attention of man is the only reward that we’ll receive!

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Why Should I Pray?

This is good to know because right from the beginning, we understand that prayer to God is not to wow man. We pray in order to enter into communion with the Father to speak to him, and to hear from him. What are some of the other benefits of prayer? According to this Christianity.com devotional, here are just a few:

1. A habit of prayer brings great encouragement to the one who prays. In the Bible, we see that prayer moved God to raise the dead, heal the sick, save souls, draw water from a rock and send bread from heaven. Prayer even made the sun stand still!

2.A habit of prayer creates holy men and women. The more we seek God out in prayer, the more our hearts are aligned with what God desires for us and we become holier men and women in the process.

3. If we do not pray, we run the risk of backsliding in our faith. To be clear, Ryle doesn't mean we should fear losing our salvation. However, without prayer you run the risk of becoming stagnant in your faith, of falling back into sinful habits and temptations that you had once overcome through prayer. Relationships turn sour, often because of poor communication. So too with us and God.

4. A habit of prayer brings peace and contentment. We live in a sin-filled world. Sorrows and troubles abound.   So how do we combat sadness, disappointments, fears, slanders, and hurt? When we cry out to our Father, He offers us peace that transcends our understanding. This is one of the richest blessings of our faith. 

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How Should I Pray?

After Jesus addresses the ‘where’ of prayer, in Matthew 6:9-13, he tells us how we should pray by modeling a holy prayer for us:

Here is the prayer, which is fittingly called “The Lord’s Prayer”, out of the King James Version,

“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.”

In my opinion, this is the best prayer we can ever pray, and we should find a way to work it into our lives on a daily basis! By praying this way, Jesus shows us the priority of God’s position above all things, his holiness, and his will. This is before we even get to talking about ourselves, and what we need or want!

I believe that the Lord is pleased when we acknowledge him above our problems and circumstances. I believe he is moved with love to respond to those who honor him and exalt him first!

As the prayer continues, it shifts to us asking God to supply us with our daily needs, and to deliver us from the enemy of our souls. This prayer is a strong and practical weapon to arm ourselves with and it gives attention to each area of our lives. Since there are other kinds of prayers, I believe. That we certainly should be praying in those ways too. But, we should do so in addition to the framework that Jesus sets in place here.

Finally, Jesus tells us in 12 and 13 that we should forgive those who have sinned against us if we want the Lord to forgive us. To be honest, this part is very sobering and brings us face to face with the grace and mercy and loving kindness that God has extended to us. If God has forgiven me of my sins against him, who do I think I am to hold anything against anyone else? This is a hard truth to accept, but it's important because we don't want the Lord to hold forgiveness from us because of unforgiveness that we have hidden in our own hearts. 

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What Is Fasting?

I love studying and talking about the topic of fasting because when I finally started to really understand and implement the power of fasting in my life, I saw the major difference it made! Fasting makes a difference in your life! I'm currently pregnant with my second daughter, so I can't fast the way I'd like, but I can certainly keep studying so that I'm ready to fast once I'm able to.

The word “fast” according to Strong’s Concordance is “tsum”, which means to abstain from food. Essentially, we deny our flesh and abstain from eating food or a type of food (fast as you are led by the Holy Spirit) in order to feed and strengthen our spirit man. Paul tells us in the book of Galatians that the desires of our spirits are at war with the desires of our flesh (Galatians 5:16-17). So, if we want to walk by the Spirit, which is our mandate as believers, then we have to strengthen our spirits to the point that they are stronger than our flesh!

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What are the Spiritual Benefits of Fasting?

Like prayer, there are benefits that we receive and a deeper depth of the Lord’s power and authority in our lives when we fast with a pure heart and intention. When we set aside time to fast and pray according to the Word of God, there are tremendous benefits that we see in our lives. Our intimacy with God deepens, we are able to grow in our understanding and revelation about the Lord and how he wants to move in our lives, and we strength in the power and authority that we walk in as believers!

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What Jesus Taught about Fasting

Jesus taught about fasting in Matthew 6:16-18, right after he taught on prayer:

“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.

What he had to say about fasting was very similar to prayer. The difference is that he spoke on our appearance when we fast. He tells us to not walk around like we are fasting, but to wash our faces and anoint our heads.

When we fast, others should not know that we are fasting unless we are doing so with corporate body. Whether we are fasting corporately or individually, we shouldn't look like what we are going through! In the same way God rewards those who prays in secret, God will also reward those who fast in secret.

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What Isaiah 58 Says about Fasting

In addition to the scripture in Matthew, I want to talk about Isaiah 58 because the entire chapter is chalk full of wisdom about true and false fasting. If you ever have a question about what God sees as fasting that is pleasing to him, I encourage you to study Isaiah 58 in depth!

To summarize, God tells us that true fasting, to him, is fasting that looses the bonds of wickedness, that lets the oppressed go free, and that breaks every yoke (Isaiah 58:6). We should also be sharing our food with those who are hungry, bringing the poor into our homes, giving clothing to those who need it, and exposing our true selves before the Lord (Isaiah 58:7).

Basically, Isaiah prophecies the things that God asks of us when we fast. When we do these things, God responds to our fasting. If it's a breakthrough that we need, then God will answer us! If we are seeking wisdom or clarity in an area, then we will receive it (Isaiah 58:8-11)!

I am convinced that when we fast according to biblical principles (not for weight loss or other carnal reasons) our spiritual eyes and ears will be opened wider and we will be able to hear God clearer in our lives.

The degree to which we can be close to God is never-ending. We just go deeper and deeper into relationship with him! I pray that this has helped you in understanding how to fast and pray, and that you continue to study and practice these key principles in your own walk. Blessings in abundance!

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A Prayer for Fasting

Lord,

As I enter into this time of fasting, I invite you in. Come into my heart, come into my mind, renew me in new ways. You are my Lord, King and Savior. You are perfect, you are beautiful and good. Lord, I am not those things. I confess that I am sinful, that I am ugly in my sin and without you, I am lost. Forgive me Lord for the ways I have not put you first, forgive me for not letting you reign over me.

Lord, this is what this time of fasting is all about – to take me off of the throne of my own life and to put you on the throne instead. I know I will be hungry for food – I pray as I am hungry that you would satisfy me with your Word. I know I will be tired – I pray as I am tired that you would strengthen me. Sustain me in your grace, Father. For every hunger pang I experience, direct my gaze not down to my belly but up to you. For I know that I cannot live on bread alone, but every Word from you.

Help me enter this time of fasting and prayer with a heart of joy and a mouth that praises your goodness. Give me all the benefits of this spiritual discipline and keep me humble. Thank you Lord for your great, unending, all consuming love for me. I love you, Father. Amen.

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Britnee is a free-spirited, Old Navy-wearin', coffee-shop lovin', wife and momma. She serves in the worship ministry with her husband at their home church in Glendale, AZ and writes with the sole purpose of pointing others to Christ. You can catch up with her on her blog or via social media @b_brdshw!

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Related Video: Is Fasting Appropriate for Christians Today?

Christianity.com: Is fasting appropriate for Christians today?-David Murray from christianitydotcom2 on GodTube.