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Acts 14:21-23 reads (NKJV, emphasis mine):

And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God." So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

What was the purpose of prayer and fasting in this passage?

Related: What was the purpose of fasting in Acts 13:1-3?

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    Related: What was the purpose of fasting in Acts 13:1-3?
    – user38524
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 18:03
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Thanks! I included the link in the question. Acts 13 also deals with fasting and prayer, while Acts 14 is specifically connected with the appointing of elders.
    – The Editor
    Commented Jun 9, 2022 at 22:23

2 Answers 2

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The specific case in the OP is one in which special support was sought from God. New churches had been planted and now the missionaries were leaving them to govern themselves after appointing elders to the task. Before leaving, the missionaries prayed solemnly for these churches and their new leaders. By fasting as well as praying, they expressed their seriousness both to God and to the church, perhaps hoping as well that their fasting would make their prayers more effective.

A related scripture is Jesus' statement regarding the exorcism of a strong demon that the disciples could not remove:

“This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)

It may be that the disciples applied this teaching of Jesus to other situations requiring more than normal spiritual strength. The appointment of elders for a new church would certainly qualify.

Fasting would soon become an established tradition in the early church.

  • According to the Didache, fasting was practiced before baptism and also twice a week on a regular basis.

  • In the Shepherd of Hermas, the author receives revelation though fasting and prayer. Fasting is presented as an acceptable sacrifice unto the Lord.

  • Tertullian warned against heretical over-emphasis on fasting. But he also traced the history of fasting through both Testaments, clearly approving of the practice. Interestingly he see its origin in God's commandment to "fast" from partaking of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge.

See The Practice of Fasting in Church History by William R Horne

The purpose of prayer and fasting in Acts 14:21-23 was to implore God's aid in a particularly solemn manner, possibly with the thought that adding a fast to the prayers would provide extra spiritual power.

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A strong unobstructed dedication to bring to Gods attention all the needs of the diciples, the church and the elders.

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