The start of a New Year is usually a time of reflection for many. It is a time when many take stock of their spiritual and physical lives. For many believers around the world, the start of a new year denotes a time of rededication, of prayer and of fasting. As a matter of fact, many congregations of believers engage in a period of prayer and fasting as a way to start the New Year. But why should we fast? Is it not enough to just pray? What are the benefits of adding fast to prayers? And is fasting optional?
Many of us know that there is power in prayer, yet some wonder why we need to fast at all. Among the many reasons fasting is essential is that it is commanded as we read in Matthew 6:16, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites…” The use of the word “when” here indicates that it is not an option to fast. We as believers are called to not only pray, but to fast as well. However, anything done without understanding will most likely be ineffective. This is why it is important to understand prayer and fasting.
Every spiritual exercise will always meet with opposition from the devil. Fasting and prayer is no exception. However, when we understand the significance of prayer and fasting, and that we have God’s grace available to us for this, we will be more equipped and excited to set aside time to engage in this spiritual exercise.
Prayer, without doubt is a necessity for every believer. When we pray aright, having faith in the power of God, we are changed, unpleasant situations around us changes too. In essence, prayer is the way we invite God into our situations and permit Him to interfere in our affairs. “Ask, and it shall be given you…” –John 7:7
Fasting empowers us renew our spiritual strength. However, when we fast but don’t pray, we have only subjected ourselves to “hunger strike”. If prayer is not added to fast, it is ineffective in spiritual matters. Prayer must be added to our fast for it to be effective. Some of the reasons we need to fast are explained below.
Spiritual Sensitivity: When we add fasting to our prayers, we are more sensitive in our spirit to receive divine instructions God may be giving to us. It enables our spirit to receive corrections from the Holy Spirit as well, thereby enabling us to make amends where necessary. It other words, it brings revival to our prayer lives, and transforms us.
Spiritual Empowerment: When we fast, our spirit man is strengthened. We are strengthened to pray beyond our usual capacities, and with great spiritual depth too. It empowers us to reach spiritual heights that may otherwise be impossible, and to have strength to keep on in the things of the spirit (“mount up with wings as eagles, run and not be weary…” –Isaiah 40:31)
Supernatural Breakthrough: There are some “kinds” that need fasting. If you’re dealing with a situation that have refused to bulge after several hours, days, or even months of prayers; it may be one of those described by Jesus in Matthew 17:21 “But this kind goes not out but by prayer and fasting” Fasting in this case is an additional spiritual exercise required to enforce your victory. So fasting, added to your prayer of faith, will deal with those “kinds” that will not go out “but by prayer and fasting”. As you fast and pray, your spirit man is energized and empowered for you to be able to command your breakthroughs, and overcome.
Making Your Prayer and Fasting Time Productive
As we begin our fast, we must be careful to make it a time that is not wasted. Here are some of the things to keep in mind, so we can maximize our time spent praying and fasting.
Consecrate yourself: As you begin your time of prayer and fasting, examine yourself. Repent of any sins or shortcomings. Confess any sins and rededicate yourself to the Lord. Invite the Holy Spirit to show you where you need repentance, and ask that the blood of Jesus cleanse you from all sins. “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.” -2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT)
Identify the Purpose of Your Fast: Don’t just fast to appear religious. Remember Jesus said in Matthew 6:16, “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.” Your fast is between you and God. Before you commence your fast, know why you are fasting, and what you are waiting on the Lord for. Ask your self these questions:
- What are you believing God for as a result of this time of prayer and fasting?
- What particular issues are you addressing during this fast?
- What is the duration of your fast? – How many days, and how long each day?
- What type of fast are you observing? – Is it a dry fast, going without food and water? Or are you taking water during your fast? Is it a Daniel fast as seen in Daniel 1:8-14?
As you answer these questions, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. It may even be that your fast is part of a corporate one in your church, just be sure why you are fasting. That is the only way you can recognize the results when they begin to pour in.
Schedule Prayer Time: Without a schedule, things may sometimes be taken less seriously, or with lesser commitment. Like already mentioned earlier, fasting without prayer is mere religious exercise with no spiritual value. Scheduling particular prayer times during your fast, and sticking to them help you to be deliberate and purposeful in your prayer and fasting time. Often, without a schedule, the tendency is to postpone prayer time, and end up doing little or no praying at the end of it all. But prayer is where the power is; it is what makes fasting meaningful, so schedule that time to pray.
Back Your Prayers With the Word of God: Using the word of God in prayers empowers your prayers. As you identify why you are praying and fasting, search the scriptures to find out the mind of God concerning the issue(s) at hand. Use these scriptures in your prayers, in faith, believing and knowing that His word will not return void (Isaiah 55:11)
Listen for Instructions from God: Go into your prayer time with pen and paper, or any medium you prefer. This is to capture whatever you feel God is dropping into your heart as you pray and seek His face. Expect to hear Him speak to you. Pause, if you must, and just listen for His voice in your heart. Be sensitive and submissive to the Holy Spirit. Flow with the move of the Spirit. If He leads you to sing, do so. If you’re led to kneel, by all means kneel. If you have a strong urge to pick up your Bible to read right then, do so. He may drop a scripture in your heart, or a thought or idea, write them down. Whatever you do, make you time with the lord productive.
May this year be a most spiritually productive one for you.
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