Lent is a religious custom in which some practitioners fast or abstain from eating red meat for a period of time. This practice is common among many practitioners of the Catholic Church. However, many practitioners who fast, neglect to pair it with the practice of praying; which is a dominant Biblical practice. In this part, I will address the subject of fasting and praying.
Fasting, in essence, is an abstinence from physical needs and desires in order to refine one’s focus on God and His will. A Biblical fast entails abstinence of food and water consumption. The Bible presents Jesus as fulfilling a full fast of forty days (Matthew 4:1-2, 11; Luke 4:1-2; Mark 1:13). However, the prophets Moses (Exodus 24:18; 34:18) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-8) also fulfilled a full fast of forty days. Interestingly enough they are noted as appearing to Jesus as He prayed one evening (Matthew 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30-32).
The Bible also presents people who fulfilled a partial fast. There is Queen Esther (Esther 4:15-17), the Prophet Daniel (Daniel 10:2-3), and the Prophetesses Anna (Luke 2:36); who served God in this manner. Furthermore, the Bible presents fasting by or for a group of people (1 Samuel 7:5-6; Jonah 3:3-10; Nehemiah 9:1-3) as well as by or for a nation (2 Chronicles 20:3-4; Ezra 8:21-23; Daniel 9:3-7).
It’s important to note that simply because a person fasts it does not mean that their prayers will be answered (Isaiah 58:3-12; Joel 2:12-14). Furthermore, Jesus spoke a few times about fasting, but he never stressed it or mandated it from anyone (Matthew 6:16-18).
Fasting and Praying
Regarding prayer, praying is the practice of actively communicating with God. It is a means by which a believer maintains a healthy relationship with Him. Like with many personal relationships, it important to set a time and a place where this communication can take place (Mathew 6:5-7; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; 6:12). Praying also entails that we pray in the spirit (Ephesians 6:18) as well as with the help of the Holy Spirit (Jude 1:20). Lastly, as you pray, confess your sin (Daniel 9:20). Yet, if in the process of praying you are convicted to forgive someone, do so (Mark 11:25).
If you face uncertainty about praying or both praying and fasting, then seek God about it, He won't mislead you. You must trust the Holy Spirit to help you pray (Romans 8:26-27). Then your prayers may be received by God like incense ( Psalms 141:2; Revelation 5:8) and you may receive “the peace of God” (Philippians 4:6-7).
In closing, although praying can be practiced on its own, fasting should not; it should always be paired with praying. Yet too many believers are leaving out the later and turning it into a practice of self-vanity as oppose to self-denial with humility. It is important to remember that the incorporation of fasting with prayer is to draw closer to God and be able to learn and obey His will; especially in challenging times. Amen
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R. A. Gómez