Of all the things you’ve heard about prayer and fasting, have you ever considered humility in connection with fasting?
Part 1 in the Series of Prayer and Fasting
There is a verse in the Bible that you may have read or heard before about fasting. In fact, there are several references to fasting but the one I’m thinking of right now is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14. It is about humbling yourself before God and when you do, He will hear from heaven. Believe it or not but this verse explains why humility and fasting are important!
Here is the verse in the KJV: If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14.
I will be using this verse in addition to a few others to explain why humility is a huge part of prayer and fasting and is so important for believers today.
First, I would like to ask you if you think that fasting is an option for believers. Is this something we can do only when we have a need for God to intervene or do you think we should regularly fast for spiritual growth? Think about this as we work through this study on the purpose of prayer and fasting.
The Barrier to Answered Prayer
Have you prayed to ask God for a solution to a problem but not received an answer from Him? I’m sure you have continued to pray, laying the problem before Him but with little to no results.
Why do you suppose that might be?
One answer is that there could be a barrier between you and God. Can you think of what that barrier might be?
It is pride. Pride will get in the way of God hearing your plea for help.
As a side note, do you recall the very first sin recorded? It had to do with pride. Remember when Lucifer got the bright idea that he could be like God? His pride resulted in his expulsion from heaven. Isaiah 14:12-14 tells us the extent of what he wanted to do. This is the lowest depth that pride can go to.
The dictionary meaning of pride is a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements.
However, the Biblical meaning of pride goes beyond that. There is a difference between the pride that God hates and the kind of pride that we can express toward a job well done.
The pride that God hates can be summarized in Psalm 10:4, 4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
Proverbs 8:13 says 13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogance, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
God hates it when we prefer our self-will rather than submitting to His will.
Can you think of a time in your life when you refused to submit to God? If so, that is called pride and is also rebellion! Ouch!!
The Remedy for Pride
There is a cure for combating pride in your life. At one time or another, we probably all have moments when we think we can do things our way rather than allow God to have control. We talked about the ‘ouch’ already.
However, there is a remedy for pride. Can you guess what that might be?
It is humility!
Humility is the remedy for pride.
Our key verse in 2 Chronicles 7:14 quite clearly states what it is.
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
How do we humble ourselves? By bowing down? By submitting to God? Or is it more than that?
Jesus, in Luke 14:7-11, gives a great example of humbling yourself. When you take this approach of seating yourself at the lowest position, the only place you can go is up.
God clearly states in our main text that we are to humble ourselves. He did not say that He would humble us.
In fact, if we were to ask Him to humble us, more than likely we wouldn’t like or appreciate what He would do. For example, Jonah was humbled by God when he ran away from doing God’s will. I’m sure he didn’t like that!
So, humility begins with you.
- Submit to God’s will,
- partake in fasting for effective prayer.
- Esteem others better than yourself, Philippians 2:3.
The Importance of Humility
Review the parable that Jesus taught in Luke 14:7-11, He said not to choose the best room or the best seat when you are invited somewhere. Sitting in an honourable place may displace you to a lower seat. The seat you chose may be intended for someone more honourable than you. This is an embarrassing and humbling moment for sure!
God exalted Jesus as we learn in Philippians 2:5-11. Paul is teaching that Jesus had humbled himself when He became a servant, made in the likeness of men. He was obedient to death even the death on the cross. Philippians 2:9 says Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name:
Do you want to have an effective prayer life? Let it begin with humility. James 4:10 says Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
Turn a few pages over to 1 Peter 5:5-6 to read Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:
Did you catch what Peter said? Humble yourself, not ‘let God humble you.’
What is Humility?
By now, I’m sure you are wondering why we are talking so much about humility. What does humility have to do with fasting and prayer and why is it important?
We already learned about pride and its opposite character trait called humility. Humility is also recognizing that you need God’s help knowing that you cannot succeed in your own strength.
When we recognize that everything we have comes from God, we can give praise Him and give thanks for what He has done for us. This is humility.
Humility also means that we can examine our hearts to check our motives and attitudes. Are we condescending towards others? Or, are we helpful and encouraging and a blessing to them? Are we kind and gentle or rude and pushy?
When we act and behave in a godly manner, we are being humble and will probably have more influence on people than if we are abrasive and rude.
Fasting is one way to show humility before God. David said in Psalm 35:13, But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
Fasting is one way to show humility before God.
Leviticus 16:29-31 describes the Day of Atonement for the Jewish people. The term “afflict your souls” is understood by the Jewish people to mean “fasting.” Note this term used in vv 29 and 31. The people were to humble themselves by fasting, that is, going without food for a whole day.
Related Post: My blogger friend, Melissa Davisson who blogs over at Cups to Crowns has written a series of blog posts on the subject of prayer and fasting. Here is her Part 1: Our Firm Foundation for Fasting.
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Prayers Filled with Humility and Fasting
God will hear your prayers when they are offered in times of fasting. Let’s review some instances when this happened.
Ezra 8:21-23 explains what happened when Ezra called for a fast at the riverside, seeking God’s protection. The story is that Ezra had previously told the king that his God had His hand upon those who believed and followed God.
At this point, Ezra was leading the Jewish people on a treacherous journey for which he could have asked the king for an escort for their protection. However, that would contradict what he said about God, that God was with them. So, when they were at the river Ahava, they stopped and afflicted themselves before our God, to seek Him the right way for them.
God heard their prayers offered while fasting, and provided a way of safety and protection from their enemy, Ezra 8:31.
Can you recall a time when you testified of God’s faithfulness to others as Ezra did?
King Ahab fasted and prayed before God, did you know that? We mostly know him as a very evil king, husband to Jezebel, who despised God. Here’s the story:
God told Elijah to go to King Ahab (king of Israel) to pronounce judgment on him. You can read the full story here, 1 Kings 21:17-29.
1 Kings 21:22; 25; 27-29 are the key verses of the judgment, the extent of Ahab’s wickedness and Ahab’s change of heart.
When Ahab heard the judgment, it penetrated his evil heart causing him to turn to God. He tore his clothes, put on sackcloth which represents mourning, and fasted before God.
Did you notice God’s response to Ahab as He spoke to Elijah? Read 1 Kings 21:29 where God saw Ahab’s humility before Him and in response, He delayed the judgment to his son’s lifetime.
Judgment Averted through Humility and Fasting
Here is another time when judgment was averted due to prayer and fasting. Are you familiar with the story of Jonah? Jonah was given a word to give to the people of Nineveh but instead, Jonah ran away from God. Why? Because he didn’t want the evil Ninevites to have the opportunity to repent.
After spending three days in the belly of the great fish, he repented of his sin and God forgave him, causing the great fish to spit him out on the beach. Jonah walked to Nineveh and proclaimed the message from the LORD.
The people believed God (Jonah 3:5-9) and the king declared a fast for all the people to cry out to God in repentance of their evil ways. What did God do? He averted their judgment for 100 years because of their changed hearts!
Fasting and prayer should be two vital elements of the believers’ life.
Here is one more example of the power and purpose of prayer and fasting. You may know the story of Queen Esther and her bravado with the King. Do you recall that she proclaimed a fast for herself, her maids and all the Jews for three days and nights?
The purpose of this prayer and fasting was for God’s intervention to have favour in the presence of the king. We are told that the Jewish people were marked for extinction (Esther 3:5-6), however, this prompted Esther to proclaim a fast for God to intervene on their behalf. (See Esther 4:3, 15-17.)
The result of their fasting? Well, you can read Esther chapters 5 through 8 to see how God diverted the extinction of the Jews and placed it on those who instigated it in the first place.
The Turning Point When God’s People Fasted
Did you notice a commonality between the above examples? What happened as a result of people humbling themselves before God with fasting and prayer?
God intervened. Sometimes He responds immediately, sometimes you may see the answer weeks or months later. He will respond in due time.
Can you think of what could happen if you spent more time in fasting and prayer? Not only for your health issues or whatever challenges you face but also for your spiritual growth on a daily basis.
Humility and Fasting in 2 Chronicles 7:14
It’s time to review our key verse in detail. Turn with me to 2 Chronicles 7:14. You may have already noted the two lists in this verse but if not, let me help you with that. Let’s see how humility and fasting go hand in hand.
2 Chronicles 7:14: If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
|Our Part||God’s Part – “I Will”|
|1. humble ourselves||1. hear from heaven|
|2. pray||2. forgive their sin|
|3. seek God||3. heal their land|
|4. turn (repent) from wickedness|
God lists the part the people are to perform before He indicates what He will do.
This verse teaches us to fast and pray, not just fasting alone. In seeking God, we may do that in earnestness, laying prostrate before Him, or with tears and weeping. In all seriousness, in whichever manner we approach Him, God sees our hearts and knows our thoughts. There is no hiding from Him so be sincere as you approach God in this manner.
Be honest before God, confess your sins so there is no allegation against you from the evil one in the court of heaven.
Basically, start your fasting time with a clean slate through repentance. Then as you are in His presence, He may lead you to identify specific sins for repentance…or He may not.
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How Often Should You Pray and Fast?
Ahha! Here’s the big question! How often should you have a time of prayer and fasting? What do you think? When there are trials and tribulations in your life? When faced with health issues? Or, whenever you feel the need to seek God for direction?
How often is often enough?
Some churches proclaim annual times of refreshing in prayer and fasting while other churches have monthly prayer meetings but not monthly prayer and fasting times. Should they? What do you think? Would it be beneficial for them to have God heal their land, ie, their church growth, their outreach, their people?
Christians may understand the humility of prayer and fasting and have their own weekly or monthly times of prayer and fasting.
One thing Jesus did say in Matthew 6:6-7; 16-17, is that He had an expectation that His followers would pray and fast. Did you realize that when you read Matthew 6 before? He didn’t say “if you pray” or “if you fast”, He said, “when”. When you pray and fast, don’t do it like the hypocrites but instead, do it this way.
Would a one-day a week fast be too much for you? How about a half-day fast? Done weekly, that would be 52 days a year. There may be times of special fasting where you would have a three-day fast or longer as the Spirit leads you. But, basically, one day of prayer and fasting would benefit you greatly.
But in all honesty, whatever you decide is between you and God.
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Wrapping this Up – How Important is Prayer and Fasting to You?
On a subject that could cover so many topics, I trust that as you read through this quick study, you caught the importance of fasting along with prayer.
The main points are:
- defeating pride through humility
- the affliction of the soul = fasting = humility
- God expects His children to humble themselves before Him
- Jesus expects His followers to fast and pray
- An important aspect of humility is through fasting
Do you recall the question I asked at the beginning of this study? As a refresher, here it is:
I would like to ask you if you think that fasting is an option for believers. Is this something we can do only when we have a need for God to intervene or do you think we should regularly fast for spiritual growth?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
More posts in this Series on Prayer and Fasting:
- Part 2 – Is Fasting Necessary for Christians Today? Learn what Jesus said about fasting and whether His followers should fasting today or not.
- Part 3 – 10 Powerful Benefits of Fasting and Prayer. Find out how fasting with prayer can benefit your spiritual growth and also learn what the 4 kinds of fasts are.
- Part 4 – 10 Proven Types of Fasting in the Bible. There is a difference between kind of fast and type of fast. We’ll look at 10 types of fasts that are proven and tested by well-known Biblical characters. One of these may be the type of fast for you.
- Part 5 – How to Start a Fast and The Best Way to Break a Fast. This is chock-full of good information to properly start and end a fast.
Cindy Barnes has been called by God in the early 80s to be a teacher of His Word. She is a serious student of the Word, focusing on the Inductive Bible Study Method since 2007. Her passion is to teach women how to study the Bible using this method. In addition, she desires for women to develop an intense yearning to draw closer to God through reading and writing out the Bible.
Cindy teaches hundreds of women in her private online Bible Study Group who express their joy of growing deeper in their spiritual walk.
You can stay in touch with Cindy on Facebook through 215 Ministry.