Summary: Prayer and fasting are two of the most important actions of a disciple of Jesus. They are essential for you to grow closer to Jesus and experience His presence in your life.
In my last post, I talked about how the spiritual disciplines can help you grow as a disciple. In this post, I talk about prayer and fasting, two of the most important disciplines of a disciple’s life.
Prayer and fasting are powerful ways to encounter Jesus regularly in your life. I know when I pray, Jesus hears my prayers and answers them. I will talk about answered prayer in a later post. Through the Holy Spirit, I love to spend time in Jesus’ presence.
When I fast, I know I touch Jesus’ heart with my heartfelt and more intense approach of His throne. Fasting is one way we disciples of Jesus show how intensely we feel about growing closer to Him and showing our deep need for Him.
Prayer and fasting grab Jesus’ heart as He sees our need for Him to intervene in our lives. They are the most intense ways we enter into Jesus’ throne room and presence. Let’s dive deeper into prayer and fasting to see their importance in the disciple’s life.
What Is Prayer?
Sometimes when you hear people pray, they use King James words like thee and thou and fill their prayers with flowery and elevated language. This would make anyone not want to pray in public. It makes you think your prayers have to be immaculate.
Prayers don’t have to sound like that. Even in public, I use normal, everyday language. Prayers don’t have to be immaculate or flowery. In fact, Jesus appreciates when we come to him personally and genuinely.
You should read some of David’s prayers in the Psalms. He knows God can handle even the most volatile and vulnerable of emotions like anger, distress, sadness, and fear. Through prayer, we bring our praise, requests, thanksgiving, and emotional appeals to Jesus.
Many books have been written on prayer, and they give you much more depth than I can provide in a couple of blog posts. There are many examples of prayer in the Bible, and I will go more in depth on how to pray the Scriptures in my next post.
We can define prayer matters simply as talking to God. Prayer is a two-way conversation between you and God. It is deeply personal, and we bring to Him our trials, desire for His help, requests for Him to intervene in our lives, pray for others, and thank and praise Him for what He’s doing in our lives.
Prayer is a discipline you grow more able in the more you do it. Jesus hears every prayer, and I believe He answers every prayer. These are special times to enter Jesus’ presence and sit at His feet. We touch His heart as we cry out to Him.
We can pray for others’ needs and our own in prayer. We lift others before Jesus and intercede on their behalf. Prayer should start with thanksgiving and praise. We begin by recognizing Jesus’ power and who He is to us.
Then we move into our requests for His intervention in our lives. We have many needs throughout the day. And those who pray know that Jesus intervenes in their lives and ministers to them.
Prayer is the quickest way to reach Jesus. We can also pray to the Father and the Holy Spirit. It is a time of intimacy with Jesus unlike any other time as His disciple. We spend our most precious moments with Him.
Pray Every Day
It should be your goal to pray at least once a day. Paul encourages us to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:?). Who doesn’t have the desire to praise and thank Jesus every day, and bring needs to Him?
The amount of time you pray can range from five minutes to an hour or even longer. The time you spend with Him in prayer is not a measurement of your spirituality. It’s not about the quantity of time but the quality of time you spend with Him.
Prayer enters into the presence of God. Here is a time to spend praising Jesus for who He is and what He has done and will do for you. I enter into prayer beginning with praise and recognition of who Jesus is. I will talk about the Lord’s Prayer in a future post, which I consider to be the model prayer for disciples.
In it, I begin by recognizing who God is. Knowing who He is helps us realize He can answer every prayer request we have. After praising the Lord, I bring my prayer requests to Him. Then I devote some time to thanking Him for what He will do in my life.
Many people pray with only their requests to the Lord. But they make it sound like prayer is just a bucket list of things we want Jesus to do for us. This must not be the case. How would you like it if every time your best friend talked to you, they asked you to do things for them?
Jesus wants us to spend time with Him, to enjoy His presence in our lives. Prayer must be about spending time with Jesus. It cannot be just about our requests. We must recognize Him for who He is, thank Him for what He does for us, confess our sins, and need for Him daily.
Prayer can become the most intimate moments you spend with Jesus every day. And you don’t have to pray just once a day. If you are in a state of continuous prayer, you can spend your whole day with Jesus.
Many people pray only when they feel in imminent danger. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you should come to Jesus even when you recognize His blessings in your life. If for nothing else, come to Him to think Him for those blessings.
In times of trials, we come to Jesus to ask His help and guidance. We ask Jesus to be with us through the trial, and even ask Him to take us out of the trial. When you seek Jesus in prayer, don’t be the only one talking. Prayer is a dialogue, not a monologue.
How will you learn to hear Jesus’ voice if you talk the whole time? Each of us has been in conversations that seem like monologues. People even ask us our opinion about something, but don’t wait long enough for us to answer. Your time with Jesus should be give and take in conversation with Him.
Learn to hear Jesus’ voice. Leave times of silence to listen for His answers and responses. This takes time in prayer. Pray regularly and often. Seek Jesus’ answers to your requests, to praise Him for blessings and who He is, and thank Him for His presence and intervention in your life.
Purpose of Fasting
While you pray every day, fasting happens less often. But it is just as important. Purpose is for fasting range from desperation for Jesus to fulfill a need to paying particular attention to intervention for someone else.
It tends to be a more intimate time with Jesus as you devote time you usually spend doing something else to time with Him. Fasting requires suspending your times of eating and food preparation in favor of devoting time to Him.
Many Christians spend time at the beginning of the year in extended fasts. The Bible defines fasting as suspending times of eating to pray and go deeper in your relationship with Jesus. Recent trends use fasting for stopping other exercises, such as social media, internet and technology usage, or entertainment. Usually fasting refers to food. But with his much time as people spend on the internet or in entertainment, it’s beneficial to take breaks from them.
You can fast for three days to a week, and even longer. A couple of times in the Bible, you see people like Moses and Jesus fasting for 40 days. Depending on the type of fast, I don’t recommend you fasting for that long.
There are different types of fasts. You can fast between certain hours of the day. You can fast everything but water. An absolute fast means you don’t have food or drink. These must not last more than a day to three days. People require water to survive.
Most fasts are from food only. But even juices and other types of drinks are part of his fasts. Some consider juices to contain enough fruits and vegetables to not be part of a fast. If you have health issues like I do with my paralysis, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor about a fast me for you go on one.
Fasts deepen our relationship with Jesus. In a fast, you spend more time in prayer, Bible reading and study, and seeking Jesus’ presence and communication. Some people fast to show their commitment and desperation for Jesus to move in a situation.
Others fast just to spend more time with Jesus. Several books have been written on fasting, and they go into much more detail than I can in a blog post. Although this discipline above many others is not done by many Christians often, it should become a regular part of your practice.
You should fast regularly. I recommend once a month. You don’t fast to lose weight, although that may be a byproduct. People spiritually fast to connect with Jesus. If your medical needs require you to maintain eating regularly, consider spending in depth, longer periods of prayer time and Bible study as a substitute.
Unfortunately, details about fasting have been lost on recent generations of Christians. Many people don’t know the basics of fasting. Many great resources on fasting contain helpful, practical advice on how to fast.
For instance, before you go into a fast, lessen your food intake so you are not caught off guard when you fast. Going from full meals to no meals shocks your system. Prepare yourself with lighter meals before you enter a fast.
Prepare for your fast by laying out how you will spend your time with the Lord. Focus on the Bible passages dealing with the issue you are fasting for. Decide how long to fast, and what kind of fast you will be doing. Write a list of Bible passages and things to talk about with Jesus.
Start with a smaller fast to get acclimated to fasting practices. Try doing three days to a week of fast and food during certain times of the day. Some Christians recommend a fast from 6 AM to 6 PM. But you must spend more than just your lunch time in prayer. Try to spend more time than that in your devotion to Jesus.
Have you ever tried to fast before? Set aside time to fast within this month. Try praying continually throughout the day. Stretch your prayer time an extra 5-10 minutes. Spend more time praising and thanking Jesus during prayer.
We have talked about prayer and fasting in general terms. But now I want to spend a couple of posts talking about praying the Scriptures and the prayer of faith.