Fasting and prayer
Ok, this isn’t about marriage, but I would love some Godly perspective about fasting. I am thinking of fasting and praying for our wayward teen. DH said he would maybe join me. My questions are:
1. How long does one fast? For a set time or until you feel God has answered?
2. What should one fast for, that our teen would make some right choices and that they could be saved? How specific?
3. If its a longer fast, is it ok to eat one meal a day, in the evening, with the family?
4. How much faith does one need, if they are considering doing a fast?
Those are good questions. I’m sure there are others who can provide you with great answers. I’ll offer a few thoughts, just to get things going.
- How long? Many people will set the time by number of meals or days. The other option is to pray until you get an answer. But, that doesn’t work so well when an answer (seemingly) doesn’t come. But, often God guides one in how long one should fast.
- Yes, it is good to fast for specific things. In fasting we are saying to ourselves, our bodies, and to God that there is something of such importance that needs to be brought before the Lord that we are willing to fast (from food or other things) for a particular period of time so we can pray more. Other times, people fast as a spiritual discipline – either periodically or regularly.
- Regarding longer fasts. You should consult with your doctor about fasting. Of course drinking plenty of fluids is important – no matter the length of your fast. Sure, eating with your family is fine too. For instance, you could fast 1 or 2 meals a day. Doesn’t necessarily need to be three.
- The amount of faith is not the critical factor. The power of God is. Through prayer and fasting we can tap into the power and wisdom of God in ways that we often miss out on.
Hi Brynna, these are my convictions. I like to believe that they are guided by Scripture but perhaps not as perfectly as I think. Following your questions:
1. As long or as short as you want. It is voluntary. When we fast from the nourishment our bodies need we are in a sense saying that God who is Spirit can do what my weak flesh cannot. He is my sustainer, my strength, and my life is in Him. Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Your fasting for your children displays your belief that God can do what you could never do. When Jehoshaphat was faced with a large army, in the little time he had to prepare to fight, instead he called for a fast throughout Jerusalem and Judah. He had no confidence in the strength of men but knew victory was only possible with God. All your lecturing won’t be what saves your children from a destructive path. Thanks to God that He does change hearts, and your roll is a part of it both in prayer, fasting and your leadership.
2. Fast and pray bearing your heart for your children before God. Tell Him that you don’t know what to do but your eyes are fixed on Him. Pray for their salvation and share your heart’s burden. Remember that God is sovereign and patient. Much more patient than what is possible for us. He may remember your prayer and act many years from now. Fasting, prayer and faith doesn’t guarantee the result we want. God has a purpose for everything. Fasting is being faithful and trusting Him no matter what it looks like from our perspective. He sees the beginning from the end, we cannot.
3. You can fast every day and eat for a specific window of time if you wish. You can fast mornings and reserve that time alone, you could just skip breakfast so you have more time to pray, fast and read the Bible. I recommend reading the Psalms while fasting. There are more lament Psalms than praise Psalms.
4. How much faith? A minuscule speck. Remember that fasting isn’t a method to manipulate God to do what we want. Trust Him with your children. I encourage you to fast, but it’s not a matter of faith to achieve the result you wish. Faith is believing in Jesus that He atones for our sin by His shed blood on the cross. Faith is trusting Him in hard times, knowing that our present sufferings do not compare to future glory and joy in His presence. It’s not name and claim, if it doesn’t happen you didn’t have enough faith.
It’s so good that you are thinking of fasting. My God hear and answer your prayer!
Over the years I have been a Christian, I have seen fasting be a powerful spiritual weapon. I think it’s because of the way it humbles us physically, emotionally, etc. And when we humble ourselves, God draws near to us. And incredible things happen. Personally, I have seen breakthroughs in prayer for ministry, family, etc. I would recommend reading the book God’s Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis as an introduction and overview to this traditional Christian practice.
To answer your specific questions:
- How long? Pray about that ahead of time and decide. I recommend deciding BEFORE you start and then sticking with it. Deciding before you start and letting someone know helps with staying the course and being accountable. Don’t be a martyr or a hero–ask God what He wants and consider running it by a trusted Christian mentor, too.
- Special fasts for specific things are seen throughout the Bible and Christian history, as well as the other practice of regular fasting. Both are effective for different things.
- For a longer fast, I personally don’t recommend breaking it to take meals with the family. But that’s my personal conviction. I would decide you’re fasting two meals and then do that and break the fast for the third. But if you’re doing a longer fast, then make it a longer fast (3 days, a week, 21 days, etc.) 40 days seems to be the maximum seen in scripture (with Moses perhaps the only exception) and in what science tells us is good for the body. After 40 days, the body starts to break down and actually starve. Always drink water. I don’t generally recommend juice fasting, simply because of all the sugars in juices messing with your blood sugar, but that’s just a personal choice. Breaking for meals reminds me of intermittent fasting (which I practice for health reasons) but I don’t know if I can support it scripturally.
- Faith is good. You need faith to step out into fasting and believe God will honor it. Yet in the end, it is God’s power that shows us. I don’t think you’re suggesting this, but I know I’ve needed to hear at times that fasting doesn’t “make” God do anything or coerce Him. Yet it does draw us closer to Him and to knowledge of His will. It lends power to our prayers because we don’t have our flesh in the way and can pray in better accordance with His will. And Scripture says when we do that, great power is unleashed in Heaven to accomplish much on Earth.
Praying for you as you go through this time.
(3) Several of my longer fasts have been like the Daniel Fast. It’s not that I don’t eat but am very limited on what I eat, and I eat very clean. I have actually had my family participate in the diet part at the same time.
(2) As you fast and pray, the Spirit will guide you in your prayers. My last fasting was for a month (an August). There was a lot of specific prayers for a child, but much of it ended up being about my surrender and learning to trust God with my child. It ended up being a game changer and set me up for how I would forever relate to him and the major “problem” and “fear” I saw in his life…his now wife. Without that prayer and fasting preparation, I would not have been set up at the place to do my own 180 heart change and to be able to love her well.
(4) This is a quote I have written in the front on my Bible because I need this reminder, “Trust in His Word, not in your faith. When you trust in His Word, He will honor your faith.” – Kay Arthur.
DH and I spent the day fasting, breaking it a bit ago with a beautiful prayer by DH. We may do it again if we feel that way. I don’t feel anything different, except maybe now we have actually done all we could. I don’t feel humbled, closer to God, etc. So is that normal or am I expecting too much or now just leave it and have faith?
I just want to encourage you as you’re praying for your teen. I’ve never been on a prolonged fast, but one day years ago I spent part of a day fasting and praying for my dad’s salvation. Right around the time I was praying, he had an experience that made him want to surrender his life to Jesus! It’s also encouraging to hear other people’s stories like this: https://youtu.be/6qI8tDhByYo
About faith–I think it’s more about acting in obedience than absence of doubt (Luke 17:5-10, James 2:18, Hebrews 11). God loves your children even more than you do, and wants you to pray for them!
And I do think it’s fine to eat, but I would try to deny myself the kinds of foods I usually eat. That’s what Daniel did during a 3-week fast (not to be confused with the Daniel diet in chapter 1). Daniel 10:2-3 “I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” (He doesn’t say he ate no food, it sounds like only plain food.)
God bless you & your family!