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Prayer and Fasting

“…do not eat for three days…”

Reasons for Fasting

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1. Deliverance From Enemies

Esther 4:3 “And in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping and wailing. And many lay in sackcloth and ashes.”

2 Chronicles 20:3 “And Jehoshaphat feared and set himself to seek the LORD, and called for a fast throughout all Judah.”

Esther 4:16 “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me, and do not eat nor drink three days, night or day. My maidservants and I will also fast in the same way. And so I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law. And if I perish, I perish.”

Jeremiah 36:9 “And it happened in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth month, they called a fast before the LORD to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem.”

“When Peter also was imprisoned, the entire church engaged in fasting and prayer.” Acts of the Apostles, p. 144.

2. Deliverance From Spiritual Enemies

Mark 9:29 “And He said to them, This kind can come out by nothing except by prayer and fasting.”

“Jesus answered that it was because of their unbelief, and the carelessness with which they regarded the sacred work that had been committed to them. They had not fitted themselves for their holy office by fasting and prayer. It was impossible for them to vanquish Satan except as they received power from God; they should go to him in humiliation and self-sacrifice and plead for strength to conquer the enemy of souls. Nothing but entire dependence upon God, and perfect consecration to the work, would insure their success. Jesus encouraged his disappointed followers in these words: "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you." Spirit of Prophecy Vol. 2, p. 335

“Prayer is the reaching out after God and the unseen; fasting, the letting go of all that is of the seen and temporal.  While ordinary Christians imagine that all that is not positively forbidden and sinful is lawful to them, and seek to retain as much as possible of this world, with its property, its literature, its enjoyments, the truly consecrated soul is as the soldier who carries only what he needs for the warfare.  Laying aside every weight, as well as the easily besetting sin, afraid of entangling himself with the affairs of this life, he seeks to lead a Nazarite life, as one specially set apart for the Lord and His service.  Without such voluntary separation, even from what is lawful, no one will attain power in prayer:  this kind goeth not out but by fasting and prayer.” Andrew Murray

“When Christ was the most fiercely beset by temptation, He ate nothing. He committed Himself to God, and through earnest prayer, and perfect submission to the will of His Father, came off conqueror. Those who profess the truth for these last days, above every other class of professed Christians, should imitate the great Exemplar in prayer.” Counsel on Diet & Foods, p. 186.

“Whenever it is necessary for the advancement of the cause of truth and the glory of God, that an opponent be met, how carefully, and with what humility, should they [The advocates of truth] go into the conflict. With heart searching, confession of sin, and earnest prayer, and often fasting for a time, they should entreat that God would especially help them, and give His saving, precious truth a glorious victory, that error might appear in its true deformity, and its advocates be completely discomfited.” Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 624.

3. Seeking After God

Psalms 69:10 “When I humbled my soul with fasting, it turned to my reproach”

Daniel 6:18 “Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting. And diversions were not brought before him; and his sleep fled from him.”

Daniel 9:3 “And I set my face toward the Lord God, to seek by prayer and holy desires, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.”

Ezra 8:21 “Then I called a fast there at the river Ahava, so that we might humble ourselves before our God, in order to seek from Him a right way for us and for our little ones, and for all our goods.”

Joel 1:14 “Set apart a fast; call a solemn gathering; gather the elders and all the people of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry to the Lord….”

Joel 2:12 “Yet even now, says the LORD, turn to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.”

Joel 2:15 “Blow a trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn gathering.”

Jonah 3:5 “And the people of Nineveh believed God. And they called a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.”

“For certain things fasting and prayer are recommended and appropriate. In the hand of God they are a means of cleansing the heart and promoting a receptive frame of mind. We obtain answers to our prayers because we humble our souls before God.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 20, p. 105.

4. Seeking Wisdom

Daniel 9:3 “And I set my face toward the Lord God, to seek by prayer and holy desires, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes.”

Acts 10:30 “And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour. And at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing.”

“Spread every plan before God with fasting, {and} with the humbling of the soul before the Lord Jesus, and commit thy ways unto the Lord. The sure promise is, He will direct thy paths. He is infinite in resources. The Holy One of Israel, who calls the host of heaven by name, and holds the stars of heaven in position, has you individually in His keeping. . . .” Selected Messages, Vol. 2, p. 364

“God would have all the bearings and positions of truth thoroughly and perseveringly searched, with prayer and fasting. Believers are not to rest in suppositions and ill-defined ideas of what constitutes truth. Their faith must be firmly founded upon the word of God, so that when the testing time shall come, and they are brought before councils to answer for their faith, they may be able to give a reason for the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear.” Colporteur Workers, p. 40

“If you cannot all see alike on every subject, do not allow hard feelings to arise. When the cause was young, if there was one who did not view some point of truth as the body viewed it, a day of fasting and prayer was observed. We did not then try to see how far apart we could get; but we prayed, and searched the Scriptures until the light of truth illuminated the darkened mind, and all could see eye to eye.” Historical Sketches of Foreign Missions, p. 125

“The Scriptures were opened with a sense of awe. Often we fasted, that we might be better fitted to understand the truth.” Counsels on Diet & Foods, p. 187.

“The spirit of true fasting and prayer is the spirit which yields mind, heart, and will to God.” Counsels on Diet & Foods, p. 189.

5. Seeking God’s Power for Ministry

“Before being sent forth as missionaries to the heathen world, these apostles were solemnly dedicated to God by fasting and prayer and the laying on of hands.” Acts of the Apostles, p. 160.

“Before the power of the Holy Ghost rested upon the disciples, they spent ten days before God in prayer and fasting and confession of sin. After they had come into unity, the heavens were opened, the glory of God was revealed, and the Holy Spirit came upon them. Then they went forth to proclaim the gospel with power, and under the influence of the Spirit five thousand were converted in one day.” Peter’s Counsel to Parents, p. 33

“A wonderful blessing was represented to me as falling upon a congregation who were seeking the Lord with fasting and prayer. Their countenances were lighted up with the glory of God, and angels were passing from one to another, ministering to them. That is what we wish to see here in Mountain View. We wish to see it in the meetings that shall be held in Oakland and San Francisco. These cities are just as needy as are other mission fields. Many in them are as great sinners as can be found in any part of the world. If they are properly approached, many of them will be saved. They do not know what the Bible says, nor what it means.” Manuscript Releases, p. 75

6. Following God’s Work in Heavenly Sanctuary

Leviticus 23:27 “Also, on the tenth of this seventh month, this is a day of atonement. It shall be a holy convocation to you. And you shall afflict your souls and offer a fire offering to the LORD.”

“The whole ceremony was designed to impress the Israelites with the holiness of God and his abhorrence of sin; and, further, to show them that they could not come in contact with sin without becoming polluted. Every man was required to afflict his soul while this work of atonement was going forward. All business was to be laid aside, and the whole congregation of Israel were to spend the day in solemn humiliation before God, with prayer, fasting, and deep searching of heart.” Great Controversy, p. 419

“Every follower of Christ should earnestly inquire, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" We need to humble ourselves before the Lord, with fasting and prayer, and to meditate much upon his Word, especially upon the scenes of the Judgment. We should now seek a deep and living experience in the things of God. We have not a moment to lose. Events of vital importance are taking place around us; we are on Satan's enchanted ground. Sleep not, sentinels of God; the foe is lurking near, ready at any moment, should you become lax and drowsy, to spring upon you and make you his prey.” Great Controversy, p. 601

Various Acceptable Fasts

Isaiah 58:6 “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed ones go free, and that you break every yoke?”

Matthew 6:16-18 “And when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, of a sad face. For they disfigure their faces so that they may appear to men to fast. Truly I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to fast, but to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly.”

“The true fasting which should be recommended to all, is abstinence from every stimulating kind of food, and the proper use of wholesome, simple food, which God has provided in abundance.” Counsels on Diet & Foods, p. 90.

“Our brethren would receive a blessing in dispensing with or deferring one meal of the day, if necessary, in order that an hour or more might be devoted to testimony meeting. We used often to make the Sabbath a day of fasting and prayer, and we were greatly blessed in our worship.” Manuscript Releases, p. 96

Unacceptable Fasts

Isaiah 58:5,6 “Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast and a day pleasing to the LORD?”

Zechariah 7:5-7 “Speak to all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months, even those seventy years, did you truly fast to Me, even to Me? And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves? Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?”

“This man had gone so far he seemed to be left of God. He would go into the woods and spend days and nights in fasting and prayer that he might overcome this great sin, and then would return to his old habits. God did not hear his prayers. He asked God to do for him what had been in his power to do for himself.” P. 28

“All the fasting in the world will not take the place of simple trust in the word of God. "Ask," He says, "and ye shall receive." ... You are not called upon to fast forty days. The Lord bore that fast for you in the wilderness of temptation. There would be no virtue in such a fast; but there is virtue in the blood of Christ.” Counsels on Diet & Foods, p. 189.

“Fasting and prayer will accomplish nothing while the heart is estranged from God by a wrong course of action. Read Isaiah 58:6, 7, 9-11.” Counsels on Diet & Foods, p. 377.

“Fasting or prayer that is actuated by a self-justifying spirit is an abomination in the sight of God. The solemn assembly for worship, the round of religious ceremonies, the external humiliation, the imposing sacrifice, proclaim that the doer of these things regards himself as righteous, and as entitled to heaven; but it is all a deception. Our own works can never purchase salvation.” Desire of Ages, p. 280

Unhealthy Fasts

“I have been informed that you have taken but one meal a day for a period of time; but I know it to be wrong in your case, for I have been shown that you needed a nutritious diet, and that you were in danger of being too abstemious. Your strength would not admit of your severe discipline. . . . I think that you have erred in fasting two days. God did not require it of you. I beg of you to be cautious and eat freely good, wholesome food twice a day. You will surely decrease in strength and your mind become unbalanced unless you change your course of abstemious diet.” Counsels on Diet & Foods, p. 191.

“It is true that there are unbalanced minds that impose upon themselves fasting which the Scriptures do not teach, and prayers and privation of rest and sleep which God has never required. Such are not prospered and sustained in their voluntary acts of righteousness. They have a pharisaical religion which is not of Christ, but of themselves. They trust in their good works for salvation, vainly hoping to earn heaven by their meritorious works instead of relying, as every sinner should, upon the merits of a crucified, risen, and exalted Saviour. These are almost sure to become sickly. But Christ and true godliness are health to the body and strength to the soul.”  Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 556

“Moses' Fasting Not Like Christ's.--In the wilderness of temptation Christ was without food forty days. Moses had, on especial occasions, been thus long without food. But he felt not the pangs of hunger. He was not tempted and harassed by a vile and powerful foe, as was the Son of God. He was elevated above the human. He was especially sustained by the glory of God which enshrouded him.” Signs of the Times, June 11, 1874

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All quotations are taken from books in the public domain, or used with permission. All rights reserved. Many of these books are available at your local Christian bookstore, or online at www.ccel.org. Compiled by Dan Augsburger (path2prayer@yahoo.com) Commercial use is prohibited. 5/17/02;1/12/04