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Acts 13:1-3 (ESV):

1 Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

What were they fasting for? How did the fasting help?


Related: What's the purpose of fasting and prayer in Acts 14:23?

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  • The Orthodox fast before the Divine Liturgy. Catholics do before Mass (kind of). If you fast long enough, you enter into a state of heightened calm and focus, perhaps related to ketogenesis. Jun 9, 2022 at 23:04

2 Answers 2

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Fasting is a practice that is not required by Christian rule or law, but is often done to help a Christian focus the mind on the spiritual subject at hand when petitioning God earnestly.

  • Matt 4:2 - Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days before His great temptations
  • Matt 9:15, Mark 2:20, Luke 5:35 - Jesus predicted times, after His resurrection, when His followers would feel the need to fast
  • Luke 2:37 - the prophetess Anna was commended for here "prayer and fasting" when looking forward to the Messiah
  • Acts 13:1-3 - the disciples fasted and prayed before dedicating Paul and Barnabas to their next journey
  • Acts 14:23 - Paul and Barnabas and the "brothers" fasted and prayed before appointing elders to function in the local church

Following this survey, we should note two things:

  • Jesus did not condemn the practice of fasting, Matt 6:16-18, but did not require it either.
  • fasting is not a way of winning God's favor and "twisting God's arm" to do something. That is, it does not change God's mind, but it helps focus the mind of the one fasting on the spiritual task at hand.
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Fasting and prayer are often paired on special occasions.

Acts 13:

2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

It is not just prayer but prayer and fasting to humble ourselves before an important decision. Fasting served to intensify prayer.

Acts 14:

23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

In both cases, the disciples fasted before making the important appointments that had long-reaching consequences. Fasting solemnizes the souls to listen to God.

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