Fasting in the Early Church

Our fasting quote of encouragement today is from Thomas a` Kempis. He said: “Jesus has many lovers of His kingdom of heaven, but he has few bearers of His Cross. Many desire His consolation, but few desire His tribulation. He finds many comrades in eating and drinking, but He finds few hands who will be with Him in His abstinence and fasting…But those who love Jesus purely for Himself, and not for their own profit or convenience, bless Him as heartily in temptation and tribulation and in all other adversities as they do in time of consolation. And if He never sent them consolation, they would still bless and praise Him.”

Our fasting devotional today is titled “FASTING IN THE EARLY CHURCH” from Elmer L. Towns in his book “Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough”.

Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis, born in A.D. 315, asked, “Who does not know that the fast of the fourth and sixth days of the week are observed by the Christians throughout the world?” Early in the history of the Church, Christians began fasting twice weekly, choosing Wednesdays and Fridays to prevent being confused with the Pharisees, who fasted Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The practice of fasting for several days before Easter to prepare spiritually for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection was also commonly practiced. Later, this fast took the form of a series of 1-day fasts each week for several weeks prior to Easter. Remnants of these Early Church fasts are seen in the Catholic traditions of shunning meats other than fish on Fridays, and the observation of Lent during the 40-day period prior to Easter. It was also customary for Christians in the post-apostolic period to fast in preparation for their baptisms.


E.M. Bounds said, “Prayer is not learned in the classroom but in the closet.” (The Prayer Motivator Minute #279)

Our prayer motivator verse for today is Zechariah 4:6, which reads: “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.”

Our prayer motivator quote for today is from Thomas Brooks. He said, “God sees us in secret; therefore, let us seek His face in secret. Though heaven be God’s palace, yet it is not his prison.”

Why Fasting and Prayer is Important, Part 18 (The Prayer Motivator Devotional #338)

Our prayer motivator verse from the Word of God today is Psalm 6:9 which reads: “The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer.”

Allow me to share with you some important points regarding this verse from Matthew Henry’s Commentary:

David assures himself that God was, and would be, propitious to him, notwithstanding the present intimations of wrath which he was under. He is confident of a gracious answer to this prayer which he is now making. While he is yet speaking, he is aware that God hears, and therefore speaks of it as a thing done, and repeats it with an air of triumph, “The Lord hath heard”, and again, “The Lord hath heard.” By the workings of God’s grace upon his heart he knew his prayer was graciously accepted, and therefore did not doubt but it would in due time be effectually answered. His tears had a voice, a loud voice, in the ears of the God of mercy: The Lord has heard the voice of my weeping. Silent tears are not speechless ones. His prayers were cries to God: “The Lord has heard the voice of my supplication, has put his Fiat—Let it be done, to my petitions, and so it will appear shortly.” Thence he infers the like favourable audience of all his other prayers: “He has heard the voice of my supplication, and therefore he will receive my prayer; for he gives, and does not upbraid with former grants.”

My personal encouragement today is the final 4 ways in which you can pray for other people: 1. Ask that the person become an effective prayer warrior in their own right. 2. Ask that God’s hand be upon him in physical and material things. 3. Ask that the person learn to praise the Lord. 4. Ask that the person begin to reach out to the unsaved.

Our prayer motivator quote today is from John MacDuff. He said: “It is not merely the pleadings of patriarchs and prophets, apostles and martyrs, men strong in faith giving glory to God. Neither is it the prayers enshrined and intoned in imposing ritual, rising from the great congregation amid ornate temples, and borne on the wings of enchanting music – but the groan, the glance, the tear, the tremulous aspiration of smitten penitents, the veriest lisping of infant tongues; the unlettered petitions morning and evening of the cottage home, where the earthen floor is knelt upon, where the only altar is the altar of the lowly heart, and the sacrifice that of a broken and contrite spirit.”

Our prayer motivator devotional today is part 18 of our series titled “WHY FASTING AND PRAYER IS IMPORTANT” from Dr. John R. Rice.

Intercession for others is answered when we fast and pray. Most of our praying is for ourselves. Yet every Christian, surely, admits his responsibility to pray for others. Do you pray for your pastor or for foreign missionaries? Do you pray regularly for some unsaved loved one? Do you pray for someone who has asked you to help bear the burden of his load day by day, whatever it is? Well, our own needs take up most of the time in our little, puny, short praying. If you would pray for others, pray happily, pray with assurance that you are heard, then take time to pray through. And any long extended time of fervent prayer may involve fasting as well as prayer. It takes more than a little short prayer to get away from our own selfishness. We have, each one of us, so many needs that we will not do our duty in praying for others unless we take an extended time for it, unless we really wait before God long enough to get out of our selfishness and get victory over our own immediate needs.

Would you be an intercessor? Do you want to learn to pray for others? Then set aside long periods of time in which to pray, with sufficient time to search your heart and to know the mind of Christ. Take time without distraction for eating and drinking or sleeping, perhaps, and God will surely give you part of the blessed burden that is on Jesus Christ, the burden for others.

+ Plus, listen to Tobymac singing “City On Our Knees”

Fasting in the New Testament

Our fasting quote of encouragement today is from Sam Storms. He said: “The ironic thing about fasting is that it really isn’t about not eating food. It’s about feeding on the fullness of every divine blessing secured for us in Christ. Fasting tenderizes our hearts to experience the presence of God. It expands the capacity of our souls to hear His voice and be assured of His love and be filled with the fullness of His joy… The point is that fasting is a feast. Fasting is all about eating! It is all about ingesting the Word of God, the beauty of God, the presence of God, the blessings of God. Fasting is all about spiritual gluttony! It is not a giving up of food for its own sake. It is about a giving up of food for Christ’s sake.”

Our fasting devotional today is titled “FASTING IN THE NEW TESTAMENT” from Elmer L. Towns in his book “Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough”.

In the New Testament, fasting was a widely practiced discipline, especially among the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist. Jesus began His public ministry with an extended fast of 40 days. As we have noted, when the apostles of Jesus were criticized by both the Pharisees and John the Baptist’s disciples for not fasting, Jesus defended their not fasting while He was present, but implied that they would fast after He was taken from them.

Jesus gave His disciples no specific guidelines concerning the frequency of fasting. He taught that their fasting should differ from that of the Pharisees in that they should fast to God rather than to impress others with their supposed spirituality.

Fasting was later practiced in the New Testament Church, especially when ordaining elders and/or designating people for special ministry projects. Fasting was apparently practiced by Paul and other Christian leaders fairly regularly.

Henry Martyn said, “Let me burn out for God. After all, whatever God may appoint, prayer is the great thing. Oh, that I might be a man of prayer!” (The Prayer Motivator Minute #278)

Our prayer motivator verse from the Word of God today is Proverbs 28:9 which reads: “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.”

Our prayer motivator quote for today is from J.I. Packer. He said, “We must learn to measure ourselves, not by our knowledge about God, not by our gifts and responsibilities in the church, but by how we pray and what goes on in our hearts. Many of us, I suspect, have no idea how impoverished we are at this level. Let us ask the Lord to show us.”

Why Fasting and Prayer is Important, Part 17 (The Prayer Motivator Devotional #337)

Our prayer motivator verse from the Word of God today is Psalm 5:2-3 which reads: “Hearken unto the voice of my cry, my King, and my God: for unto thee will I pray. My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.”

Allow me to share with you some important points regarding this verse from Matthew Henry’s Commentary:

God is a prayer-hearing God. Such he has always been, and he is still as ready to hear prayer as ever. The most encouraging principle of prayer, and the most powerful plea in prayer, is, to look upon him as our King and our God. David also prays to a sin-hating God. sin is folly, and sinners are the greatest of all fools; fools of their own making. Wicked people hate God; justly are they hated of him, and this will be their endless misery and ruin. Let us learn the importance of truth and sincerity, in all the affairs of life. Liars and murderers resemble the devil, and are his children, therefore it may well be expected that God should abhor them. These were the characters of David’s enemies; and such as these are still the enemies of Christ and his people.

My personal encouragement today is 4 more ways in which you can pray for other people: 1. Ask that God will cause the believer to not love the world system. 2. Ask that the person have a spirit of brokenness and humility. 3. Ask that the person have a servant’s heart. 4. Ask that the person be able to build a Scriptural family.

Our prayer motivator quote today is from Nancy Leigh DeMoss. She said: “For Jesus, time alone with God was not an option…The gospel of Luke tells us that “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed”… This is precisely where you and I so often miss out on all that God has for us. Unlike Jesus, we attempt to live life in our own energy. We think we can keep giving out without getting replenished. Then, wearied and weakened by the demands of life and ministry, we become impatient and annoyed with the very ones God has sent us to serve. Rather than exhibiting a gracious, calm, joyous spirit, we become uptight, frazzled, and frenzied (people), resenting, rather than welcoming, the people and opportunities God brings into our lives.”

Our prayer motivator devotional today is part 17 of our series titled “WHY FASTING AND PRAYER IS IMPORTANT” from Dr. John R. Rice.

Heavenly wisdom can be received in prayer and fasting. In Acts 13:1-3 we have a remarkable incident of how men who fasted and prayed got direct leadership of the Holy Spirit. “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”

Notice that “as they ministered to the Lord, and fasted” the Holy Ghost told them whom to send, that is, Barnabas and Saul. Notice again, “When they fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” Twice in that short passage we are told that these prophets and teachers fasted. They first fasted as they prayed for wisdom. Then they fasted as they prayed for power upon these men they were sending forth as the first foreign missionaries in New Testament times. And when these men laid their hands upon the heads of Paul and Barnabas and sent them away, they were “sent forth by the Holy Ghost.” And marvelous wonders attended their ministry!

We, too, can have plain leading, we can know the will of God, we can have a plain path for our feet, if we are willing to wait before the Lord, ministering unto Him, fasting and praying! You have a problem about raising your family, about making a living, about where you should serve Christ, about what course you should take in some particular matter. Does God not hear your prayer for wisdom? Do you have doubts and troubles and no assurance of mind? Then why not set a time when you wait before God until you get the answer? If it takes fasting as well as praying, if it takes giving up other matters, then do it and get the blessing that God has for you. You can find the will of God if you seek it sincerely, unstintedly and without limit in fasting and prayer.

Fasting in the Old Testament (Part 2)

Our fasting quote of encouragement today is from Donald Whitney. He said: “Fasting does not ensure the certainty of receiving clear guidance from God. Rightly practiced, however, it does make us more receptive to the One who loves to guide us.”

Our fasting devotional today is part 2 of our series titled “FASTING IN THE OLD TESTAMENT” from Elmer L. Towns in his book “Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough”.

Fasting apparently began as a natural expression of grief; however, after time it became customary to reflect or prove one’s grief to others by abstaining from food and/or showing sorrow. David fasted to demonstrate his grief at Abner’s death in 2 Samuel 3:35. Many references in Scripture describe fasting as “afflicting” one’s soul or body according to Isaiah 58:3,5. Fasting came to be practiced as an external means of demonstrating and later encouraging an internal feelng of remorse for sin.

Fasting was a perfectly natural human expression of human grief; therefore, it became a religious custom to placate the anger of God. People began fasting to turn away God’s anger from destroying them. Eventually, fasting became a basis for making one’s petition effective to God. David defended his fasting before the death of his son by Bathsheba, indicating his hope that while the child lived David’s prayer might be answered. When the child died, David promptly ended his fast, denoting that he knew then that neither fasting nor praying could any longer avail.

When God vented His wrath against a nation for its wickedness, fasting became a national mode of seeking divine favor and protection. Therefore, it was only natural that a group of people should associate themselves in confession, fasting, sorrow for sin and intercession to God.