Acts 13 Lesson

Prayer And Fasting

PRAYER AND FASTING

Most modern-day Christians understand the importance of prayer in their everyday lives. But what about fasting? As disciples of Jesus, are we expected to incorporate fasting into our lives today?

Our focus verse for today’s study is taken from the Book of Acts, where 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.” - Acts 13:2

The story of Barnabas and Saul is a fantastic example of the Holy Spirit issuing a command, and people following it. 

LISTENING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT

God gave us the Holy Spirit to help us. (John 14:26).  But how do we accept His help? How do we know when it is the Holy Spirit putting an idea in our head and not simply a passing thought? To answer that question, we will revisit a passage from Virtual Bible Study’s lesson on the Holy Spirit from 1 John 4where we said: 

Every word of the Bible is inspired by God. It provides direction to our lives and serves as a “true north” and moral compass. The Bible is the authority for determining right from wrong. As Paul wrote in his second letter to Timothy:

  • “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

At times in our lives, we will find ourselves having to make decisions where the scripture does not specifically answer the questions that we have. So what should we do then?

It is in these times that we need to rely on the Holy Spirit to help us. Both the Bible and the Spirit are critical to our salvation. We can think of their relationship as follows:

  1. The Bible tells us “what” God commands us to do,
  2. The Holy Spirit allows us to “feel” God’s presence and make decisions that will please Him.

The Bible and the Holy Spirit will always agree.   They will never contradict one another.   John wrote about this in his first epistle:

  • “By this, you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist.” – 1 John 4:2.

And when the Holy Spirit reaches out to us, we are to trust Him and follow His direction. That is exactly what happened to Paul and Barnabas, who after they had prayed and fasted were sent out by the Holy Spirit to share the Gospel.   It is important to take note of the sequence of events and when they occurred:

  1. First, they prayed and fasted,
  2. Then, they were told what to do by the Holy Spirit.

This provides us with a framework for us to use in modern-day Christianity. If we are not sure what God’s plan is for us, we need to pray and fast about it and ask the Holy Spirit for His assistance.

BIBLE VERSES ABOUT PRAYER

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.

FASTING

Fasting is often overlooked in modern-day Christianity, although there is no scripture telling us that we should no longer fast. Listed below are five scriptures that teach us the importance of fasting. For this reason, fasting should be part of our spiritual lives and service to God, just as prayer is 

  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.

CONCLUSION

The verb, “fast” occurs twenty-two times in the Bible, while the noun, “fast” appears twenty-six times (source: answers.com).  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. 

Those who have been baptized and received the Holy Spirit, have Him as a Helper to navigate life and pursue our true purpose in life. When the Holy Spirit is compelling us to do something, we should pray and fast about it, and then take action!

We will conclude today’s lesson by revisiting our focus scripture from earlier in the lesson:

  • “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.” - Acts 13:2.

Comments

Virtual Bible Study

1) What did today’s Bible study make you think and feel?
2) How can you apply what you have just learned to something specific that is happening in your life?

***PLEASE POST YOUR QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS HERE***

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Virtual Bible Study

1) What did today’s Bible study make you think and feel?
2) How can you apply what you have just learned to something specific that is happening in your life?

***PLEASE POST YOUR QUESTIONS OR COMMENTS HERE***

Reply
Virtual Bible Study

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

Reply
John
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

Reply
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

Reply
John
Pat Dermody

Very encouraging. Thank you for sharing Pat!

Reply
John

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.

Reply