Prayer and Fasting
The articles that I have written that have left me the most fulfilled have been my Christian articles. Whether politics, the church, or biblical truths, all have tapped into topics I felt called to talk about on my platform. When I was challenged to write a column, one on Christians was the right choice.
Some of you want to explore religion but don’t feel welcome at church. Some people have had super negative experiences with Christians. Some were told that you have to be a perfect Christian to even attend church.
I am here to tell you that no matter your past, your present, or how you feel about Christians, you are welcome here.
That being said, this will be a recurring staple of my tenure as an opinion editor. Bi-weekly I will be publishing this column talking about biblical truths, and Christian politics, and commenting on culture through a biblical worldview.
If you have any issues, questions, or anything else under that umbrella that you would like me to address, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please enjoy.
Let me say it first, I know I have said that I would write this column bi-weekly, but I have fallen short of the goal a lot. That said, I feel like these types of articles are ones worth taking my time on. For all that it’s worth, writing an article for this column has been on my mind since the beginning of the year.
I have been blessed to see some of the prayers I have been praying for years now answered by God at the beginning of the year. I am by no means the authority on prayer and fasting, but I have started to see both in a whole new light in the last few months. Since I feel like I know so little, I asked Pastor Whitney Leedahl from Northview church and one of the pastors of Chi Alpha to talk with me more about this topic.
My prayer for you all as you read this article is that maybe a little of my personal experience will give some encouragement to knowing that A) God is always listening to your prayers even if he doesn’t respond to them right away. B) Fasting gets a bad wrap, but can completely change the way you approach your prayer life.
My parent’s have been intermittent fasting and long-term fasting for years now. I have had quite a sordid relationship with fasting in part because it’s not easy to do. To quote my dad, “there is no worse feeling than being hungry” and he’s right.
I want to address the elephant in the room right away, diet culture. If you’re dieting to be thinner, please don’t. Please don’t take this away from my article because I don’t want that for you. I am here to talk about the spiritual benefits, not the health ones (if there are any). To be completely honest, I have fasted for diet reasons, and I have fasted for spiritual reasons.
I have found that fasting religiously is completely different from denying myself food. It has been a completely different experience. Leedahl also resonated with this saying, “I struggled because I couldn’t get my heart in the right place” She struggled because she couldn’t focus on the fast while she was fasting, but because she desired to be thinner. If you struggle with that, I would encourage you to hold off on participating in any fasts and just focus on prayer.
I find fasting for Jesus almost easier because I am doing it intending to grow closer to God. I am not denying myself food for the sake of it, I have a goal I am working towards that I know is going to pay off. Also, as a tip if you’re going to try fasting, intentionally schedule time with the Lord and do it on days you know you will be participating in church activities. You will glean far more spiritually if you’re intentional about your prayer than just fasting and hoping for the best.
Additionally, something that is often lost due to diet culture is that fasts are not always broken from eating. I am fasting from social media. I have found that it’s a huge time thief, that it rarely brings joy to my life, it just makes me want to compare my life to others, and in the time I am doom scrolling on social media, that time would be better spent in prayer, reading my bible, or on anything else for that matter.
Most commonly people fast when there is something in their lives that is important to them and they might want direction. Leedahl defined fasting as “setting aside my need and comfort to come before [and]… ask or plead something before him [God].”
You could do a day of fasting if you want direction over a career choice, college choice, romantic relationship, choosing church, and virtually anything else. Sometimes, you may be praying over really specific things like the salvation of a friend or a family member’s health. Sometimes I am fasting because I want to have a deeper, more personal relationship with the Lord.
Some of the reasons that Leedahl listed were making a big decision, hearing God’s voice, seeing him clearly, a breakthrough in a situation or for a person, or a season of desperation and brokenness.
Fasting and petition are closely linked. In Second Samuel 12, King David fasted and prayed over his sick child and these were prayers of intercession, Esther and the Jewish people fasted when she was preparing to go before the king of Persia in Esther 4. Jesus fasted when preparing for his ministry in Matthew 4.
I have found one of the benefits of fasting is the humility of the heart. In biblical times, and even now, when you’re poor you don’t always have access to food. Hunger is a very humbling feeling and when fasting religiously, it’s a good reminder that everything you have is from God, including your food.
The other lesson I took away from fasting is that there is a direct relationship between fasting and prayer.
To quote a wise friend, fasting without prayer is just going hungry, and being hungry is not the goal. The goal is to deepen your relationship with the Lord and spiritually mature. Being intentional in setting aside time for the Lord and prayer is super important. I have done fasts relatively recently. One, where I found that having church events lined up for prayer, and the other, where I had none of that. I have had so much peace in my heart when I am fasting, and have even seen prayers answered while fasting. Sometimes I have none of that. Those are the times when I haven’t focused on my prayer life during the fast.
Leedahl said, “Fasting brings prayer to the front of our minds.., this highest priority.” Indeed, there is a very interconnected relationship between fasting and prayer. The goal and most fasts intend to take the time you would be indulging in something for yourself and give that time to God.
As I touched on earlier, Fasting teaches humility of the heart but not just because of hunger. You have to humble yourself before God to ask for help and admit that you don’t have control over your life and you need him to be a part of that. The action is fast, and your prayers during your fast reflect the condition of your heart and your needs.
What God cares about most is our hearts. In Joel 2 it says “‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’”
Another aspect of prayers that was pointed out recently is they don’t have to be long or fancy. God cares most about the condition and the state of your heart, and he cares about us having relationships with him. So, prayers can be as short as “God, I don’t know what to do and I need your help.” or they can be 45 minutes long.
The point of prayer isn’t the length or the flowery language. So, don’t let that stop you from talking to God.
How to Fast
During my meeting with Whitney, she gave this excellent advice, “Look to Jesus’ example”. In Matthew 4 Jesus fasted and prayed for forty days and forty nights. I am not telling you to starve yourself for forty days. What I am saying is that Jesus brought his ministry before God. Additionally, what’s so powerful about fasting is it helps us deal with temptation. Jesus was tempted when he fasted.
I don’t know what temptation looks like for you when you’re fasting. It can be as simple as being tempted to eat before you want to break your fast, or you could be fasting over dealing with temptation in your life. Regardless, Jesus sets an example for us by always combatting the enemy’s temptations with God’s truth.
If you’re interested in the very practical side of how to get started with fasting, I would encourage you to start small by fasting for only half a day and then breaking your fast with dinner. Have a good support system, talk to a mentor if you can about fasting, and if you can do it with a friend. Most importantly, be praying over your fast before, during, and after your fast.
Keep your mind focused on the Lord and do not lose hope. Talk with your support about what is happening in your life. I cannot say what will happen in your life if you decide to take on this spiritual challenge. What I will say is, if you feel the Lord calling you to try fasting, then do it because the Lord has called you to do it.
Jesus says in Matthew Chapter six “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward”
The point is not to boast to others about how good you are at fasting or bragging about what a good Christian you are. The point is to be humble, and it should be a personal growth experience for you,
Total transparency, I have had some fasts that have been total failures, and I have had some success too. All of my success is due to a gracious God who is faithful to me and gives me the strength to make it through the day. If I am to boast, let me boast in the Lord’s goodness. I wouldn’t have failed at fasting a hundred times over if it wasn’t for the God Christians in my life who challenged me and stood by me. So, if you’re going to be telling others about this spiritual experience, let it be to continue building up his [God’s] kingdom and not to bolster our pride. God knows my pride could stand to shrink a little.
If you read this article and feel like you should try it, then do it. If you don’t feel called to it, then don’t. It is that simple y’all. Regardless, I am praying for you and your faith to succeed and continue to grow.