The Origins Of 10 Days Of Prayer and Fasting

The concept of marking the start of the new year with 10 days of prayer and fasting in the Christian religion varies from denomination to denomination. It is a concept that does not seem to be well documented as to how it started in each denomination. Ten days of prayer and fasting does seem to be just an oral tradition that is purported to have begun in some Pentecostal churches with no precise dates.

When I first enquired in the early 1980s, when I was a Pastor in the Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe (AFM) about the origins of the 10 days of prayer and fasting, nobody I asked was very clear as to the precise time the practice started and how it started and why. However, a good number of people concurred on the belief that it was about the time of the AFM annual general conference at Rufaro, Chatsworth, Zimbabwe that a word came by the spirit of God. A certain woman was filled with the Holy Spirit on the last day of their spiritual conference when they were receiving journey mercies and she spoke in tongues.

It was then interpreted that the Holy Spirit was warning the people that few days after their annual conference (which normally was held in August) that there was going to be a deadly pandemic that was going to attack and kill young children. The church needed to quickly take 10 days of prayer and fasting the following month of September so that God may be gracious with their children and spare them death from the deadly pandemic. It was then said that the church was supposed to fast and pray at the beginning of the following year for ten days asking for God’s protection and blessings. Thereafter, it was to become the church’s annual practice that it should fast and pray for ten days at the beginning of each year asking God for protection and blessings. Such a practice/tradition was then adopted by other Pentecostal denominations that thereafter branched from the AFM and each was declaring ten days of fasting and prayer as their practice, right from their inceptions.

This practice does seem to be good practice and quite recently from the 1990s, the non-Pentecostal churches began to adopt the concept of 10 days of fasting and prayer at the beginning of each year giving various reasons for introducing such a practice into their faith.



The Biblical fasting seems to have been started by Moses when he was called by God to come up the mountain and he spent 40 days fasting as he was busy writing the ten commandments on two tablets of stone. And this does not teach that the church should fast and pray for 40 days although it’s not a bad practice.
Exodus 34:28 “And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments”.


Daniel chapter one is misunderstood by many bible readers. The chapter does not state that Daniel and his three friends fasted for ten days. Rather, we are told in Daniel 1:8 that “…Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore, he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself”. In Daniel 1:12, Daniel and his friends requested of the prince of the eunuchs: “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink”.

The passage in Daniel chapter one does not in any way suggest that Daniel and his three friends fasted for 10 days. They simply asked to be exempted from taking food that was not Kosher for 10 days (i.e., food that is not proper according to Jewish tradition) and be re-examined if their health was below the king’s expectations. After eating vegetables and drinking water for 10 days, they were re-examined and Daniel 1:15 reports, “At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food”. This again does not teach that the church should fast and pray for 10 days at the beginning of each new year although it’s not a bad practice.

In Daniel 10:2 we have an account of Daniel abstaining from food and drink (nil by mouth concept) for full three weeks (21 days) as he was praying and mourning before the Lord. 21 Days were simply the days it took Daniel to receive an answer for what he was asking for before the Lord. This does not imply that the church should embark on 21 days of fasting and prayer for God to answer your prayers. God can answer prayers without even fasting. It is a wrong belief that God can only answer prayers if we go on an intense period of fasting.


It is an oral tradition that Jesus ascended into heaven 40 days after His resurrection and 10 days after the ascension, His disciples (120) were gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem until the day of Pentecost fully came. The book of Acts in chapter one clearly states that the disciples devoted themselves fully to prayer.
Acts 1:14 “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers”.
The passage does not seem to suggest that the disciples were gathered together fasting and praying for 10 days. It is a wrong assumption that this was the origin of the prevalent 10 days of prayer and fasting at the beginning of every year. The disciples were not fasting, but they were praying. However, I will stress again that there is nothing wrong with fasting and praying for 10 days.


Acts 13:1-3 has an account of the church at Antioch fasting and praying as part of their routine form of worship of the Lord, but it does not stipulate how many days they were fasting and praying.

Acts 13:2 “While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Worship with fasting is a good routine for the church to seek the face of the Lord for as long as they feel led by the Holy Spirit. It is a good practice for the church to pray and fast. Jesus taught that there was nothing wrong with the disciples if they were to fast and pray after He had gone away from them.

Mark 2:18-20 “Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. And people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day”.


Based on Jesus’ teaching on Mark 2:18-20, the church can fast and pray for as much as the Holy Spirit can lead them to fast and pray based on their needs. Reading from the King James Version, in Matthew 17:21, the church can engage in fasting and praying if they need to be endued with power to fight against the terrible forces of darkness. In His sermon on the mount in Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus did not condemn fasting but rather encouraged people to fast the correct way.


Fasting is a biblical way for people to abstain from food and drink for a period(s) of time as they humble themselves before the Lord to seek His face in prayer. By fasting, people will be creating for themselves enough time to seek the face of the Lord without robbing of themselves time to prepare and eat food and drink. Fasting is simply an act of humility and sincerity before God. It is not a guarantee to answered prayers. God simply answers all prayers that are prayed according to His divine will regardless of the fact that people have fasted or not. It is the motive for prayer that matters before God. Amen.


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