Acts 13 Lesson

Prayer And Fasting


Our focus verse for today’s study is found in Acts 13:2. Luke writes:

  • “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ This was spoken to Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul.” 

This is a clear example of the Holy Spirit giving a command, and people following it.  Barnabas and Saul would go out and preach the good news of Jesus.  Before they left though, Luke tells us that they fasted and prayed. 


God gave us the Holy Spirit to help us while we are on earth (John 14:26). But do we listen to the Holy Spirit when itspeaks to us?

What does it even look like when the Holy Spirit tells us to do something? 

Does the Spirit appear in a dream? 

Is it a feeling that we get? 

A thought in our head? 

And how do we know if it is the Holy Spirit talking to us and not just our own thoughts?  That can be a tricky thing to try and get our thoughts around.

One of the best ways to understand the Holy Spirit is to understand these three fundamental principles:

  1. The Bible tells us “what” God’s commandments are,
  2. The Holy Spirit lets us “feel it,” 
  3. The Holy Spirit is always in alignment with the Bible, God, and Jesus.  They will never contradict one another because they are one in the same.  Therefore, if you have a thought or a feeling that contradicts God, Jesus or what is in the Bible, it is safe to say that thought or feeling is not from the Holy Spirit. 


Luke tells us that Saul and Barnabas fasted and prayed about what the Holy Spirit had told them to do. 

But what about us? 

Do we pray and fast about the things that God puts in our heads and in our hearts?  We are supposed to!  Many of us incorporate prayer into our lives much more than we do fasting.

Prayer is an important part of being a Christian. Consider the following five verses about the importance of prayer:

  1. “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” - Ephesians 6:18,
  2. “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.” - Jeremiah 29:12,
  3. “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” - Mathew 26:41,
  4. “Rejoicing inhopeperseveringin tribulation, devoted to prayer.” -Romans 12:12,
  5. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” - James 5:16.


What about fasting?  Is that really something that God wants us to do?  Let us look at what the scriptures have to say. Here are five scriptures (three from the Old Testament, and two from the New) that tell us about the importance of fasting:

  1. “They mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan and for the people of the Lord and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.” - 2 Samuel 1:12,
  2. “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.” - Acts 14:23,
  3. “Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” - Ester 4:16,
  4. “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” - Mathew 6:16,
  5. “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments.”  Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil.” - Joel 2:12-13.


The verb, “fast” occurs twenty-two in the Bible, while the noun, “fast” appears twenty-six times (source:  The frequency of its appearance shows us how important fasting is to God. Fasting involves sacrifice, which is an important part of being a Christian.

If we want the Holy Spirit to lead us, we need to remember the example of Barnabas and Saul, and we need to incorporate both prayer and fasting into our lives. 

For those who have been baptized and received the Holy Spirit, It has in the past and will continue to let us “feel” what God wants us to do.  When God is compelling us to do something, we can pray and fast about it and then act. 

We will conclude today’s lesson by revisiting our focus scripture from Acts 13:2.  Luke writes:

  • “While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ This was spoken to Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul.” 


Virtual Bible Study

If you practice fasting, how long do you usually fast for?

Virtual Bible Study

I need to get better at fasting. I do it for really big decisions, but typically I only fast for half a day or so.

I think fasting should involve more of a sacrifice them that. I am trying to gradually increase the frequency and the duration.

I am curious how others practice fasting if anyone wants to share.

Thank you! - John

Pat Dermody

I do pastoral care and usually pray for the Holy Spirit to guide me in what I say. One time a mother and son were in a contentious relationship. Each confided in me and I could understand both sides of the problem but always just listened. The son asked me to accompany him on his next visit so he would remain calm because the stepfather always interrupted before the son could get his point across. I was very nervous about this since I did not want to take sides . However, when we were together the Holy Spirit intervened and I could, at times, help by redirecting the conversation when the stepfather interrupted so the son could make his point. I was truly being used as an instrument for peace. The son felt he had been heard and they resumed a more comfortable relationship which is still continuing after a year and a half

Pat Dermody

Very encouraging. Thank you for sharing Pat!


I've actually only really felt the Holy Spirit a couple of times in my life. But it was wonderful, and peaceful, and I wanted to experience that feeling more. I'll keep studying and working to grow my faith and trusting in God's love, God's plan and God's grace.