Why You Need to Fast for the Prodigal You Know

(Unsplash/Seth Doyle)

I've recently written a post on "When You Grieve a Prodigal's Sin More than He or She Does." Many of us share the grief of a heart broken by the choices of someone we love. In this post, I want to encourage you to fast as you pray for your prodigal. Here's why:

  1. The Bible gives examples of fasting in times of crisis. Jehoshaphat called a fast when three armies prepared to attack the people of God (2 Chron. 20). Esther requested a fast when she prepared to talk to the king (Esther 4). Nehemiah fasted when he saw the broken walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 1). Crisis drives us away from our tables and to our knees.
  2. Fasting forces us to determine how seriously we want a prodigal to return. Fasting does that in general: it pushes us to decide if we're so serious about God's intervention that even our physical well-being matters less.
  3. Fasting is an expression of "helplessness and hope in God."* In the case of our prodigal, we fast when we long for God to change his or her life, and all we can say is, "God, I cannot make a difference. I'm trusting You to change a life." Helplessness gives way to hope as we focus more on God than on food.
  4. Fasting turns us away from self toward God and others. Obviously, food is important to the human body; at the same time, though, we're sometimes so selfish that we focus only on meeting our own hunger pangs. Fasting as we pray for a prodigal turns our heart toward someone else—beginning with God.
  5. Fasting focuses our attention on the eternal rather than the temporary. Many of our prodigals are living for the temporary, fleeting pleasure of sin. We know that path will lead eventually to trouble, but our prodigals seldom recognize that truth while they're living in sin. Through fasting, we have the privilege of considering the eternal on their behalf.
  6. Fasting is intentionally connected to prayer. Only God can capture a prodigal's heart and bring him or her home. As we fast, we not only turn from food; we also turn to God in intercession and desperation. He hears us when our heart clings to Him on behalf of others.

Let us know how we might pray with you as you fast and pray.

Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

This article originally appeared at chucklawless.com.

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