Why do Christians fast for prayer?

Why would anyone starve themselves for their religion and faith in God? If you have been reading or listening to the Bible for a while you may have seen that in times of urgency, some Biblical characters are said to have fasted for days in a row!


In this answer, I will not discuss if a Christian should or should not fast, for I believe that the Bible is clear that it is between them and God if they feel lead to do so. I will focus upon the reason why many do decide to fast and the Biblical reason for doing so.


People in the Bible fast for different reasons. For example when the people of Ninevah realised their sins because of what Jonah had told them about God. They were so filled with the grief of their sins and so fasted to display repentance. Fasting was an outward sign that showed that their hearts had been completely changed from their old ways, because of what they now believe, this was an act of devotion towards God. Because of this, He showed mercy on them!


The underlying reason for fasting in the Bible is to show an outward act of repentance, dealing with grief or seeking God's favour and guidance in a situation. Fasting is a clear act of faith, it tells us that we are more reliant on the eternal grace and power of God, even more so than the temporary nutrition we receive from food. It is an admission to God that we are empty, that we are in need of something that food can't sustain. It expresses a longing for Christ and what he has to offer, it shows us our hunger for him and what he has done for us. It creates room for him in our hearts that we might have found difficult to create if we did not give up, at least for a time, some of the temporary things that we can sometimes put before God. To draw us closer to him, which as it happens is also one of the many purposes of prayer.


One thing if anything, that you should remember about fasting is that it does not put the Christian who fasts above the Christian who has not. They are both justified and forgiven equally by God. In fact, the Bible says that when we fast we should not make it a big deal it tells us to do it meekly. After all, we are not doing it for our friends in Church to admire us or for the pastor to have increased respect for us. It is a private act of devotion towards God. “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face” Matthew 6:17. This means that we are not to deliberately look starved while we are fasting so that it is obvious to everyone we see, since in so doing we would be seeking their approval, and not the favour of God. In whose eyes we are made perfect by the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus.