Prayer becomes powerful when it is accompanied by fasting. Jesus did it very often. Before beginning His public ministry, the Lord fasted for forty days. Being God, if Jesus found time to fast and for that long, this clearly shows us the importance of fasting.
Why should we fast and pray?
1) Because Jesus taught us to When we stray from God, with our sinful habits, especially when Jesus’ presence leaves our bodies, or we lose the presence of God, the best thing to do is, to fast and pray. Luke 5:35 states, “But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days”. Jesus has promised us that He will be with us until the end of age (Matthew 28;20) so we need not fast as long as He is with us. But when we commit sin, the presence of God leaves us (1 Sam 16:14) and that is the time we should fast and come back to God. ““Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning” (Joel 2:12) Whenever we want to turn to God, away from our sinful habits, the easiest way is to follow the way of fasting.
2) It will release God’s presence and mercy towards you When the people of Nineveh committed sins and moved away from God, Johan was sent to preach to them. Then they repented and declared a fast. “Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them….When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity whichHe had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. (Jonah 3: 5 & 10) God wants us to come back to Him, but He looks at the way – how we turn back to Him.
3) Fasting helps us to conquer our enemies Judges 20: 26 – 28 states, “Then all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD….The LORD responded, ‘Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands”. When we fast, the bondages which control our flesh are broken and it releases the power which Jesus gave us in Calvary. This power will begin to work in our flesh. When the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 20:3), some men came and told Jehoshaphat about it. “Jehoshaphat was afraid, he resolved to enquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. All those who went to war fasted first. And what happened after the fasting and prayer? “This is what the LORD says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.”’ (Verses 15-17) That is the difference we see, when we fast and pray.
4) There is a reward for fasting Matthew 6:16, 17 & 18 says, “16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.And your Father who sees in secret will reward you”. There are two points which need to be noted here: Firstly, Jesus says, “If you fast” and “when you fast”. It means, Jesus knows that we should be fasting. Are we doing so? “Father who sees in secret will reward you” is what Jesus said. This is the Word of God, which clearly promises that there is a reward from the Father. This reward is given exclusively to those who fast and pray secretly. Hannah prayed in the presence of God with fasting (1 Samuel 1: 6-8) God heard her prayers and gave her a son. Prophet Anna, a widow, never left the temple, but worshipped there with fasting and prayer, night and day, waiting for the Saviour. She could see Jesus, the Saviour and the Promised Messiah. (Luke 2:36-38)
5) Fast to gain control over your flesh Through fasting, you are controlling the small desires of your flesh. Only then can you control the bigger desires of your flesh. All those who are not able to sacrifice their small needs or desires, cannot, in any way, sacrifice their bigger needs and desires. This is how one gets into attractions and lust. Luke 16:10 states, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much”. Therefore it is good for us to control the desires of our senses, which will help us, in turn, to conquer our bigger desires. Let us sacrifice the desires of the members of our body. That is also a kind of fasting. Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship”.
How is it possible? God has given us a pair of beautiful eyes; that does not mean that we should watch everything. We should see what is needed and sacrifice other sights. Use the ears He has given us to hear what is needed; sacrifice the rest. Speak only what is good with the tongue He has given us. Likewise, use each part of your body for sacrifice. This is referred to as ‘living sacrifice’ or ‘spiritual worship’. This is a powerful kind of fasting.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (TCC 2043) says, “Fasting helps us to acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart”. CCC 976- 987 says, “For mortal sins, confession is necessary. For less serious sins, confession is recommended. But reading the Bible, prayer, fasting and the performance of good works also have the effect of forgiving sins”.
Written by Fr. Joseph Edattu V.C.