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Spiritual fasting during the Lenten season: praying for the persecuted church

February 14, 2024 by Abigail Hart in Prayer Guide

These next six weeks leading up to Easter are based on Christ’s temptation, found in Matthew 4, when He went and fasted in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights. Whether your faith tradition includes celebrating Lent or not, what a great opportunity to spend time in spiritual fasting to draw near to the Lord and intercede for the persecuted church. Spend the next 40 days with us in prayer and petition for our persecuted brothers and sisters, remembering how important they are to Christ and His Church.

Fasting in the Bible

Fasts are a Biblical way to grow closer to God and intercede for fellow believers. Some examples of how to fast from the Word are as follows:

 Fasts for Help, Safety and Protection

-Esther calls for an intercessory group fast to obtain God’s favor and protection. (Esther 4:16)

-Ezra proclaims a fast to obtain God’s protection and travel mercies. (Ezra 8:23)

-Alone and in danger, Elijah fasts before approaching God for help. (1 Kings 19:8)

Fasts Resulting in Godly Blessings, Knowledge and Reward

-Jesus instructs His followers to fast in secret for a Godly reward. (Matthew 6:18)

-Moses fasts for 40 days and receives the covenant of the 10 Commandments. (Exodus 34:28)

-Daniel fasts from pagan foods that defile; then he receives godly knowledge. (Daniel 1:12)

Fasts to Resist the Enemy

-Jesus fasts for 40 days to resist temptation of the devil. (Luke 4:2)

-Through a prophet, God says a fast can break chains and set the oppressed free. (Isaiah 58:6)

-As a vast army approaches, Jehoshaphat proclaims a fast for Judah. (2 Chron. 20:3)

According to the Bible, fasting for God can result in a variety of positive outcomes: divine favor, humility, justice, knowledge, reward, self-control and a move of the Holy Spirit, just to name a few. The Bible demonstrates that our spiritual well-being hinges upon the principles of fasting and abstention.

Consider God’s command of abstention for Adam in Genesis 2:16-17:

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil …”

In Exodus 34:27-28, we see that Moses fasted for 40 days and nights and received the 10 Commandments:

The Lord also said to Moses, “Write down these words … I have made a covenant with you …” So Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.

Today, the Body of Christ embraces Jesus as the new covenant—and fasting is still an integral part of God’s plan for His people. In Matthew 6:16-18, Christ instructs His followers on the principle of fasting. Many Biblical scholars remark that Jesus’ words—“when you fast”—serve as a command:

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Planning a fast on behalf of the persecuted church

To get started, select a fast. Some common varieties include:

-Option 1: Abstain from food. During this particular fast, Christians drink water and avoid food. (Some people permit calorie-free beverages such as unsweetened coffee and tea.)

-Option 2: Abstain from solid food. During this type of fast, believers only ingest liquids such as broth, fresh juice and smoothies, etc.

-Option 3: Abstain from select foods. During this fast, Christians abstain from one or more specific foods and/or beverages. For example, you might opt to eliminate meat, coffee, soda, sweets or another item of your choice.

-Option 4: A Daniel fast. During this specific fast, believers eat healthy and natural foods such as fruits and vegetables while abstaining from meat, bread, dairy and sweets, etc.

-Option 5: Abstain from certain activities. During this alternative fast, Christians abstain from items other than food, such as television, social media or sports, etc.

After you choose your fast, select a duration. Some common options include:

-Partial-Day Fast: You may wish to abstain from food or activities for a portion of a day (often for lunch and dinner, or from sunrise to sunset).

-One-Day Fast: Some who fast choose to do so for a 24-hour period.

-Three-Day Fast: Other believers opt for this duration, given that it was performed in Biblical times.

-21-Day Fast: Those partaking in the Daniel fast often do so for a period of three weeks to mirror the fasting that is recorded in the book of Daniel.

Journaling for spiritual fasting

Finally, we recommend keeping a journal as you fast and pray for your persecuted family. Consider noting your responses to some of the following questions.

-How did Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection change everything for mankind?

-How is God calling me to pray for the persecuted church today?

-As I abstain from food and/or activities, does my gratitude increase for God’s daily provision in my life?

-What challenges are afflicting my persecuted family today? How can I intercede for their daily needs?

-What can I learn from the Biblical accounts of spiritual fasting and abstention as it relates to persecution?

-While this world will have trouble—which my persecuted family knows all too well—how has Christ overcome? How can I praise Him?

-At the conclusion of my fast, how has God grown my prayer life and walk with Christ?

-How might I pray for the persecuted church moving forward?

Thank you in advance for praying and spiritually fasting for the Lord and our family around the world. May God bless you as you abide deeply with Him during this dedicated time of intercessory prayer.

Looking for specific prayers for the persecuted for the next 40 days? Check out our 40-day prayer blog by clicking here and spend time poring over scripture and reciting daily, short prayers for our oppressed brothers and sisters.

About the author
Abigail Hart writes for Global Christian Relief where she gives voice to the persecuted, making sure they’re heard and represented around the world. Get the latest blogs and prayer requests at

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