How to Implement Prayer & Fasting in Our Lives
In a world where it feels like activism rules the day, why should the believer spend any significant amount of time praying or fasting? Now, when I refer to the word activism, it has much less to do with political or social involvement as it does the root of the word would imply “activity.” Lately, we’ve seen a significant amount publicly about the activity or inactivity of people in the world around them and presumably their hearts. It is essential to address the genuine activities of prayer and fasting, what Scripture tells us about them, and what they will produce not only in our hearts but in the world around us. Ultimately, we will see that the believer should spend significant time praying and fasting because those are activities that reveal what controls us.
Let us first address prayer. Biblical prayer is about so much more than treating God like a “genie in a bottle” or a means to achieve behavior modification (though sincere Biblical prayer will undoubtedly modify the believer’s behavior). Biblical prayer is a dialogue with our Father in Heaven. It is an incredible gift that we can speak directly to the King of the Universe. It is not merely a means to an end. It is the means to THE beginning and THE end, direct contact with the Creator.
Biblical prayer is a dialogue with our Father in Heaven.
For believers, Jesus is our beginning and our end, and we are seeking more of His will, His word, His ways, and His works. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, for instance, we see how we can partner with God for His will to be done in our lives, not just our to-do list being complete. Prayer reveals who you belong to. If your prayers are primarily about getting things for yourself, then your heart is not mainly focused on the Father’s will, which is inherently and ultimately for our good. A brief examination of the word of God, and Jesus’ prayer life, should indicate a bit more about the purpose of prayer. James 4:2 says, “you do not have because you do not ask.” Again, this is not about getting everything on your Christmas list, but James is explicitly speaking about the believer’s walk.
Philippians 4:6 says that we should not “be anxious about anything, but in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
This verse reveals how and where we are to take our requests and needs. A model of prayer in Jesus’ life that is evidenced multiple times in Scripture shows Him retreating in weakness to pray and returning in power. Jesus knew where His sustenance came from, the Father.
Jesus knew where His sustenance came from, the Father.
If you have ever heard or said, “the least I can do is pray,” or “can’t I do something more than pray” then, as believers, perhaps we don’t fully understand the power of prayer. If this model worked for Jesus, why shouldn’t it work for you? Prayer ought not to be done out of duty, but instead out of delight. We should not have to endure prayer. Instead, we should enjoy prayer. Closing our brief thoughts on prayer, look to this Martin Luther quote, “I have so much to do that I spend several hours in prayer before I can do it.” This posture should rightly position society’s demand and our desire for activism.
Fasting is yet another extremely powerful spiritual expectation from our Lord. There are many conceptions about the “right” way(s) to fast or what is “allowed” to fast for/from. However, the Bible does not give one prescriptive idea of exactly how this is supposed to happen. What we do see in Scripture is numerous descriptive ways of fasting with a very clear imperative “why” behind it. At its root, fasting is abstaining from physical things for a spiritual increase. Whether that is food, social media, shopping, video games, or Netflix, the Bible does not prescribe. Fasting from food is undoubtedly the most popular version of fasting we see in Scripture, and that is largely because of its immediate spiritual impact on our fleshly lives. When we limit the intake of things that we are used to and reliant upon, the Lord will reveal what controls us if we are open to His words. Now, you might say, “I have to eat!” You are right, you do! What fasting from food will reveal is that “man shall not live by bread alone” (Lk. 4:4b). In John 4:31–34, there is an incredible discourse between Jesus and His disciples regarding a principle of fasting;
“Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So, the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought Him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.”
At its root, fasting is abstaining from physical things for a spiritual increase.
As we seek to be a true disciple, more deeply transformed into the heart of Christ, we will see that when we replace something physical with something spiritual that while we are fasting, we are feasting simultaneously. Being fed spiritually is far more sustaining and satisfying than being fed physically. Again, looking at activism, when we fast, we can more readily balance the essential with the non-essential. Our hearts will illuminate to see what the Lord requires of us when we rely upon His sustenance.
As we seek to be a true disciple, more deeply transformed into the heart of Christ, we will see that when we replace something physical with something spiritual that while we are fasting, we are feasting simultaneously.
So, why should the believer pray and fast? Especially in difficult times or times when we are not sure what to do, our hearts, minds, and souls may be better aligned with our Lord when we take the time to speak with Him and rely upon Him.
“God always has an open ear and a ready hand if you have an open and ready heart. Take your groanings and your sighs to God, and he will answer you.” — Charles H. Spurgeon
Written by: Ryan Russell, Woodside Pontiac Campus Pastor
Published by Woodside Bible Church, www.woodsidebible.org