Are prayer and fasting connected? from Compelling Truth
Prayer and fasting are tied together at places throughout the Old and New Testaments, but no specific connection is explained nor are the practices commanded together. In fact, while fasting is certainly seen as a positive practice, Christians are not explicitly commanded to fast.
In the Old Testament, prayer and fasting usually happened when the people of God were in a jam—they needed protection or deliverance. Nehemiah prayed and fasted in response to Jerusalem falling into enemy hands (Nehemiah 1). Daniel’s pleas to God for mercy upon the Hebrews were also accompanied by fasting (Daniel 9:3). David prayed and fasted for God’s mercy upon his ill child (2 Samuel 12:16, 21–22). Esther asked the entire Jewish population to fast for her as she risked her life to plead with the king for deliverance (Esther 4:16).
In the New Testament, Anna is introduced as a prophetess who worshipped, fasted, and prayed (Luke 2:37). In Anna’s life, fasting was integrated with her prayer and worship. She saw Jesus as an 8-day-old and declared Him the Savior. After Jesus’ baptism, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. Jesus was there for forty days and fasted during this time (Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13). When Saul and Barnabas were set apart on a missionary journey from Antioch, the church there prayed and fasted then sent them on (Acts 13:1–3). In the life of the church at Antioch, the Christians, through prayer and fasting, sought the guidance of Holy Spirit, and then God’s protection and blessing.
Jesus may have told His disciples they were unable to exorcise a demon from a boy because they failed to pray and fast (Matthew 17:14–20; Mark 9:14–29). Some manuscripts include Matthew 17:21 or an extra phrase in Mark 9:29 that have Jesus telling the disciples this type of demon “cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” Jesus appears to be instructing His disciples that there is a stronger expression of faith, and power, when a Christian prays and fasts.