All through the Bible there are examples of the importance of fasting and praying.
When the Children of Israel were taken captive in Egypt, they set up four fast days. Instead of having any of their regular celebrations, they fasted.
In the book of Esther, when Haman set in motion to have all the Jews destroyed out of the land, Esther’s Uncle Mordecai sat in ashes, praying. When Esther realized the seriousness of the situation and that she was in a position to possibly undo the decree, she asked that all the Jews fast for three days before she went in to petition the King. As a result, she found favor with the King and the Jews were saved.
Ahab was one of the most wicked kings in the Bible. When God made a decree against him to destroy him, Ahab humbled himself with fasting and repenting. God’s wrath was turned away. 1 Kings 21
“Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.” Joel 2:12-13
God says to turn with fasting and weeping and mourning. There has to be a sincerity and soberness when we repent.
Jonah went to Nineveh to tell the people they were going to be destroyed for their sinfulness. The King commanded that all men, women, children, and animals fast. Because God saw their seriousness, he changed his mind about destroying them. God said that there were 120,000 people in the city who could not tell their right hand from their left, but they believed him. If they had not fasted, would God have changed his mind?
In the New Testament, when Jesus apprehended Saul on the road to Damascus, Saul was humbled. He said, “What would you have me do?” When he went into Damascus, he was fasting for three days. Saul thought that he was doing God a favor by putting the Christians in jail. God was telling him that he was wrong. He was mournful and sad and grieved when he realized how God felt. Do you feel good when you find out you were wrong? Saul felt like the worst sinner. Acts 9:8-9
Often times we have an importation decision to make such as getting married, making a large purchase or moving to a new location. Some things just need to be fasted and prayed about.
Our Lord Jesus Christ fasted for forty days and nights and afterward he was very hungry. Satan tempted him to turn the stones into bread. His answer was that “man doesn’t live by bread alone.” Jesus was totally dependent on the Lord. He was just entering into his ministry at that time. He needed to make sure that his will was submitted to God. He wanted to be one with God. When you fast and pray, you don’t pray for God to give you what you want. It is a time to humble yourself and be totally dependent on God.
We all say that we want revival but we ourselves must first be revived. If we are not revived, we need to fast and pray. We will never be able to revive someone else if we are not revived. Every time there has been a revival in the world, it has been because people fasted and prayed.
“And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly…Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” Matthew 6:5-6, 16-18
Jesus taught us the right way to fast and pray. He called the Pharisees hypocrites in their fasting and praying. They had made fasting and praying a form of religion to be seen of men. They were not concerned about humbling themselves before God. Therefore, God did not acknowledge their fast or prayer.
People fast all the time for their own selfish agendas. People fast for political reasons. They go on hunger strikes. God is not paying attention to them.
“Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.” Isaiah 58:2-4
God pays attention to the one who is humbling himself and seeking God’s mind, purpose and way.
“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 go free, and that ye break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6
God wants us to have a soul burden so that we can tell people how to be freed from the bondage of sin. We should be fasting for those that are in sin. We should ask God to deal with everyone that is honest. That is the fast that Jesus chose.