Seeking God’s Special Guidance by Fasting & Prayer

Ezra 8:21,23; Daniel 10:1-5,11,12; Acts 13:1-3

[Ezra] proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance…So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us.

In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel…In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel; then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz…And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee…Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set think heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers…As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Note here that fasting is not abolished with the ceremonial law, but still to be used as a duty of the gospel…Weighty businesses are best dispatched fasting―to edge our prayers and give wings to them; for fasting inflameth prayer, and prayer sanctifieth fasting; hence they go coupled for the most part, Luke 2:37, Matthew 17:21, 1 Corinthians 7:5.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Our seasons of fasting and prayer at the Tabernacle have been high days indeed; never has heaven’s gate stood wider; never have our hearts been nearer the central Glory.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Prayer is extraordinary when fasting is joined to the duty of prayer.

ARCHIBALD ALEXANDER (1772-1851): One special occasion on which the apostles and their companions were accustomed to fast, was when ministers were to be ordained and sent forth. Thus we read in Acts 13. And again, Acts 14:23, “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”  Is this practice now followed by those who ordain?

E. M. BOUNDS (1835-1913): One great need of the modern church is for leaders after the style of Ezra.

ALEXANDER COMRIE (1706-1774): They “wait upon” God in their fasting.

HUDSON TAYLOR (1832-1905): It is not lost time to wait upon God. May I refer to a small gathering of about a dozen men in which I was permitted to take part in November 1886? We, in the China Inland Mission, were feeling greatly the need of Divine guidance in the matter of organization in the field, and in the matter of reinforcements, and we came together before our conference to spend eight days in united waiting upon God—four alternate days being days of fasting as well as prayer…We had a thanksgiving, for the men and the money that were coming, in November, 1886, and they were all received and sent forth before December, 1887.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): How often we are exercised about some important matter, some critical step in life, some change in our affairs involving momentous issues.  We distrust our own wisdom, we want to be sure of God’s will in the matter, we spread our case before the throne of grace, and ask for light and guidance. So far, so good.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Bring thy condition to Christ in this solemn ordinance of prayer and fasting; this hath at last been the happy means to strengthen many a poor Christian.

MATTHEW POOLE (1624-1679): There is nothing which God hath promised to give or bestow on any but faith will obtain from Him, if attended by a fervent prayer, to which fasting is subservient, as preparing us to it. There are some things which are obtained by a stronger faith, and by more fervent and importunate prayers, than others are―fasting was always used in extraordinary cases.

JOHN TRAPP: Fasting and prayer are like Jonathan’s bow and Saul’s sword, that never turned back or returned empty (2 Samuel 1:22). God is a liberal rewarder of all such as in this sort diligently seek Him. He will turn their fasting into feasting, their prayers into praises, Zechariah 8:19. They shall have out their prayers either in money or money’s worth; either in the very thing they desired, or at least strength to stay themselves upon God, with good assurance that His grace shall be sufficient for them, and that He will be their shield, and their exceeding great reward.

WILLIAM GURNALL: When the Christian is in the dark concerning any truth, and cannot satisfy his judgment by humble and diligent inquiry he hath made after it―now is a fit season to take up this extraordinary duty as an excellent means to be led into the knowledge of the mind of God therein. Prayer is the proper key to unlock God’s heart, and he alone can open our understandings and satisfy our scruples.

JOHN TRAPP: It is a help to the understanding of heavenly mysteries, as Daniel found it.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Daniel, no doubt, had often visited the throne of grace, and been a long trader in that duty; but God reserved the fuller manifestation of His love, and the opening of some secrets to him, till he did, to ordinary prayer, join extraordinary fasting and prayer…This course Daniel took, and got more understanding by his fasting and prayer than by all his study, for a messenger is sent from heaven to “give him skill and understanding,” Daniel 9:20-23, and again, in chapter 10:12. In both he sped. And the angel is careful to let him know that it was his extraordinary praying that procured this extraordinary favour, and also how acceptable his motion was, by the easy access and quick despatch it found with God; and therefore tells him in both, that he had no sooner set upon this course of afflicting his soul but he was heard, and the messenger ordered to give him an answer to his prayer.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.

WILLIAM GURNALL: Thus Cornelius, in Acts 10, came to be instructed in the mystery of the gospel, upon his extraordinary seeking of God by fasting and prayer. It is very probable this good man in those divided times, wherein he saw many zealous for the old way of Jewish worship, and others preach up an new way, stood in some doubt what to do; and this might stir him up by fasting and prayer to ask counsel, and beg further light of God to direct him in the way of truth, as may seem by the tenor of the message sent him from God in the vision while he was at prayer, which bade him send to Joppa ‘for one Simon, whose surname is Peter…and he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do,’ verses 5, 6.


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