No matter what kind of fast you observe, here are prayers to guide you through the experience.
If we were to meet an early Christian and ask about his or her most important spiritual discipline, the answer might surprise us. Or part of the answer. Because there’s a good chance “fasting” would be high on the list. In fact, the New Testament contains about 20 references to fasting (depending on the version or translation you’re using). It was an important and valued part of early Christian experience.
Yet some followers of Jesus today don’t fast. Some of us barely know what fasting is. Put simply, it is denying yourself something—usually (but not always) food—for a set period of time in order to focus your heart and mind more fully on God.
Early Christians fasted and prayed for clear direction and during special seasons of need. Fasting wasn’t only for special occasions, however; it was a way of exercising self-control and dethroning one’s all-too-human appetites while also aspiring to a new level of intimacy with and devotion to God. Fasting and prayer go together beautifully.
Whether you’ve tried before or not, or whether you’ve tried-and-failed or not, consider a fast as a way of enriching and expanding your spiritual life. There are numerous ways to do it. You may fast from food—for a meal, perhaps, or for a day. You may, as many do, fast from red meat on Fridays during Lent. You may fast from eating out or from eating dessert. But a fast doesn’t have to be food-related. You may fast from a pleasure or a habit for a certain period. Whatever you fast from and however you choose to do it, fasting can do wonderful and unexpected things in and for you—particularly if you soak your fast in prayer. Offer something like the following before, during and after your fast:
Before Your Fast
God, You are my God, and I seek You earnestly (Psalm 63:1). I seek You as I undertake this fast. I bow before You and ask You to purge me of all unworthy thoughts, words and deeds. Forgive my sins as I forgive those who have sinned against me. Keep me strong and alert during my fast. Protect me from the Evil One, deliver me from temptation and steer my mind and heart away from all distractions. Help me to bring my spirit, soul, body and mind into subjection and focus them on You, to Whom all praise belongs, amen.
During Your Fast
Lord, the great and awesome God, Who keeps Your covenant of love with those who love You and keep Your commandments (Daniel 9:4), I give myself to You. I love You more than these things from which I fast. I seek You more than my own comfort and pleasure. Meet me here. Amen.
When Your Fast Ends
Almighty God, my Father, thank You for being with me as I fasted. Stay with me as my fast ends, that I may not wane in my devotion to You. Remind me always of the purpose of Your fast, as You revealed through Isaiah: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke, to share my food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter, to clothe the naked and not to turn away from your my flesh and blood. Then, let it be so that my light will break forth like the dawn, and my healing will quickly appear, that my righteousness will go before me, and the glory of the Lord will be my rear guard, that I will call, and You will answer, that I will cry for help, and You will say: Here am I (see Isaiah 58:6-9).