Prayer and Fasting
Fasting and prayers have a mysterious connection that is understood by those who practice the discipline of a fast. The Bible is clear that Christians are to incorporate these practices into a life's routine, and when the two are practiced in unison and for a spiritual purpose, God promises a special reward. Participating in a fast, whether corporate or private, will sharpen the focus of prayers and create a more intense passion to intercession. There are several types of fast documented in the Bible and it is apparent that God calls His people to fast and pray for different reasons, but all of which are for a spiritual nature. Learn more by taking our Prayer and Fasting Quiz.
Christ told the disciples in the book of Matthew: "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites..." (Matthew 6:16a) Christ used the "when" and not the word "if" presenting the assumption that Christians participate in fasts. The religious leaders of that time attempted to catch Christ in heresy by questioning Him and the disciples about the practice. It seems that on a day that was set aside for a fast, Christ's disciples ate, and worse yet, Christ was eating and enjoying the company of sinners when fasting would have presented a more spiritual facade. Christ's response is again, an assumption about the practiced discipline of a fast. "And Jesus said unto them, can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But, the day shall come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast." (Matthew 9:15)
There seems to be a direct correlation between abstaining from eating and spiritual matters, according to Christ's statement. Once the bridegroom has been taken away, then we are to fast. Obviously, there would be a specific reason encrypted in this statement, and it is tied to our need for spiritual strength in the absence of our groom, Christ Jesus. We can associate the need for spiritual strength by Christ's example of a fast in the desert for forty days. Christ's sacrifice and prayers seem to equip him for the magnitude of the temptations that were hurled at him, by Satan, during the time appointed Him to dwell in the desert.
There are many other examples of physical sacrifice and prayer in the Old and New Testaments. In the book of Ester, Queen Ester called a corporate fast of the people of Israel for the purpose of intercession during a crisis. In the book of Jonah, the community of Nineveh proclaimed a fast in a repentant response to Jonah's message of God's judgments. Paul, after experiencing the supernatural event of seeing Christ on the road to Damascus fasted for three days, seeking God's revelations concerning Christ's appearance. There are many, many other examples of those who fasted throughout scripture, and a study of the different reasons for fasting and the different types of fasts can help us better grasp the spiritual reasons that Christians are called to participate in this practice. Discover what God's Word reveals through our Bible resources.
Fasts can be practiced by any Christian at any time. There are examples in the Bible of fasts that were restricted to no food or drink, as in the corporate fast called by Ester, and there are also examples of partial food intake, as Daniel and his companions practiced at the beginning of their exile. We can also assume that Christ might have had an intake of water during his time in the desert, because scripture refers to this fast as "eating nothing" in Luke 4:2. Today, the most common fasting exercise practiced by Christians includes abstaining from foods, but drinking water and fruit juices for periods of twelve to forty-eight hours.
The most important point to remember is that these practices are done for the purposes of God, and not to gain Gods favor or not for spiritual pride. As a matter of fact, scripture records an arrogant Pharisee congratulating himself on his legalistic recognition of fasts. Fasting and prayers, unless done for a communal purpose, is to be a private matter between the one abstaining from a substance and our Creator.
God promises a reward for this physical sacrifice. Christ said, "But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." (Matthew 6:17-18) Christ continues this teaching with an appeal for his followers to lay up treasures in heaven and not on earth, equating fasts and prayers to spiritual treasures; rewards of the heart and riches for an eternal future. We are not to fast for selfish reasons or personal material gain.
Christ referred to Himself as the Bread of Heaven, our complete sustenance, in the book of John. He also made references to His ability to be all that we need for life, at the table of the Lord's Supper. A call to fast is a call to live on God's spiritual food for a period of time. To pray and fast is to show God that you rely on Him for your every provision, and have complete trust in Him. A fast is the perfect time to make prayer requests to God, demonstrating your faith in Him. In a society where we are use to excess and gluttony, practicing self-denial may seem out of date or like a crazy religious activity, but in reality, to fast with prayer is timeless and the benefits are eternal.
Praise & WorshipTo praise God is to esteem and regard Him as the almighty omnipotent being that He is, bringing glory to the throne in the presence of angels and in the presence of men. From early accounts in the Bible, men and women of God praised and worshiped in a variety of ways and with all their hearts, souls, and minds. When mankind reflects upon the blessings, gifts, and judgements of God, one can not help but be ushered into a state of gratitude that evokes praising the Lord. Many denominations approach worship in different and very distinct ways, and when we take a close look at scripture and the commandments about worshiping God Almighty, we find that there is a broad range of activities that are associated with exalting our Maker. From the first time worshiping is associated with sacrifice to the grand songs sung by choirs of angels at the victory of Christ, the Bible has much to teach us about living a life that expresses the gratitude that God so richly deserves.
In the book of Genesis, one of the most well-known stories of the Old Testament is recorded. In chapter twenty-two we find that Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac. After Abraham had journeyed three days, the Lord showed Abraham the place to build an altar and offer Isaac as a burnt offering. At this point Abraham tells the servant men with him to stay put and that he and Isaac were going over yonder to worship the Lord. As this familiar story goes, God provided a ram as a substitute sacrifice and Isaac's life was spared. Christians understand that this story is a foretelling of the sacrifice of Christ, but it is also a wonderful demonstration of how sacrifice equates to worshiping. Our Lord considers it worshipful when we offer up our most prized possessions. To discover more about what the Bible has to say about praising and worshiping God, visit these Bible resources.
Throughout much of the Old Testament we find that sacrifice was a intricate part of worshiping. But, we also find that singing and dancing before the Lord were used as means of praising. The Psalms are full of examples and urgent pleas for the people of God to lift up holy hands and to sing to the Lord. We see that worshiping God is not only giving up the things that have first place in our hearts, but worshiping God is also having and demonstrating a joyous heart and attitude. "Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the trimbrel and the harp. For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation." (Psalm 149:3-4). Scripture compels us to praise God among the people and to also sing praises to him when we are alone in our beds. "Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds." (Psalm 149:5)
Moving into the New Testament, we find that exalting the name of the Lord takes on a new tone. Jesus Christ himself addressed worshiping with an adulteress woman at a well. The woman, confused by many traditions and segregation, asked Jesus about proper worship protocol, believing that he was a prophet. Jesus answers the woman with a profound truth. "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him." (John 4:23) And, in the book of Hebrews, the writer teaches that praising God is now an ongoing activity, not one reserved for Sunday mornings before an altar. "By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name." (Hebrews 13:15) Because the Spirit of God lives in believers, each is to live in a constant state of praising the Lord for all that is given, for all that is taught, and for every circumstance because we know that all things work to the good of those who are called.
Because the Spirit of God lives within us, we may partake in praising and worshiping in quiet, reflective devotions or in grand corporate praise services. "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:19) The first step to discovering the type of joyful activity that suits the unique soul is to discover an attitude of gratitude. Just as Abraham built an altar as a grateful expression after receiving the promise of God, so we should have a way of expressing our thankfulness to the Lord for the many promises that He has made to each and every one of us.