Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. -Acts 14:23 NLT
Paul and Barnabas handpicked leaders in each church. After praying — their prayers intensified by
fasting– they presented these new leaders to the Master, to whom they had entrusted their lives. For Paul, prayer and fasting was a joint venture of faith. Prayer and fasting were critical to the
development of the early church and its effective mission.
What about today? Are prayer and fasting still relevant? I came across a statement not long
ago concerning prayer and fasting that really challenged my life. Let me share it with you. “You will
be the poorer spiritually and your prayer life will never be what God wants it to be until you practice
the privilege of fasting.¨ This is a strong statement; is there truth in it?
One of my favorite writers concerning the many facets of prayer is Wesley L. Duewel. In his
book Touch the World through Prayer, he scans history and shares an assortment of statements by a few
noted thinkers and scholars. Fourth century Bishop of Salamis, Epiphanius wrote: “Who does not know that the fast of
the fourth and sixth days of the week are observed by the Christians throughout the world?¨ Francis
of Assisi danced, preached, sang, testified, and fasted through the streets of Italy until thousands of
the youth were saved. Martin Luther was criticized for too much fasting. John Calvin fasted until
Geneva was converted and there was not a house without at least one praying person. The reason
Queen Mary feared the prayers of John Knox “more than all the armies of Scotland¨ was because of
his constant prayer and fasting.
John Wesley fasted twice weekly. He said he would as soon curse and swear as not fast, for
“the man that never fasts is no more in the way to heaven than the man who never prays.¨ Jonathan
Edwards fasted so much he was often weak in the pulpit, but he was instrumental in moving New
England for God. Charles G. Finney, the revivalist of the 1800s, fasted each week. In fact, whenever
he felt the power of the Spirit fading from his meetings, he would fast and pray for three days and
nights. He reported that after such times, the Spirit’s power invariably returned.
These movers and shakers of the world for God were convinced that fasting is God’s
chosen way to deepen and strengthen prayer.
Are prayer and fasting relevant today? To answer this question, one need only to survey the
landscape of the church and look for kingdom results: lost people coming to Christ, communities
experiencing radical transformation, churches coming alive and thriving, people experiencing
deliverance and restoration.
I urge you to set aside some time to pray – one to three days. And incorporate fasting into
your prayer plan. I would also encourage pastors and other church leaders to consider calling a fast
for a specific time and for a specific purpose.
Lord, empower us to accept your challenge to prayer and fasting and show us what you want to do in response to your
passionate praying people. Amen.
-Pastor Mitch Burch, Towne Boulevard Church of God; Middletown, Ohio