Acts 13:1-3 Prayer and Fasting

Do you have a calling? How do you know if God has called you to something specific? How do you facilitate an atmosphere to hear God speak? 

How do you know God’s will? Are you seeking God’s will? 

Do you treat God like He is the owner of the universe and the creator? A few weeks ago I was at the store with the family. Meagan said to grab some potatoes. I went to grab some potatoes. Mercedes said, “Those aren’t the right potatoes.” I said, “Yes they are.” She said, “No they are not.” I said, “Yes they are.” She said, No, “They are not the right potatoes, daddy!” I said, “Mercedes, you have been alive for three years, how do you know!” Is that how we act with God? We act like Mercedes. We act like we know it all to the supreme creator and maybe we do not seek His will, when He knows it all.   

In Acts 13:1-3 we see the church in Antioch hear God’s call to set aside Paul and Barnabas for God’s mission. They follow through with that. I want to talk about this passage for a few minutes and I want to show you that the call to missions was heard because they were worshipping and fasting. They were seeking Him. They were putting God on the throne.  

Let’s read Acts 13:1-3:

 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 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.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

This is a pivotal point in the book of Acts. Paul the apostle was just introduced in chapter 7. At that time he was a young Jewish man persecuting the church.

Then in Acts chapter 9 Saul became a Christian. Jesus confronted him. 

Now, between Acts chapter 9 and Acts chapter 13 around 12 or 13 years passed. Paul was converted in about A.D. 33 and now it is around A.D. 46 or 47. In Acts chapter 13 the focus changes from Peter to Paul. The rest of the book of Acts is predominantly about Paul. Look how it happens. 

Verse 1: they are in Antioch. Antioch would be north of Jerusalem in Syria. In Acts 11:19ff we read how they got to Antioch. 

Verse 1 tells us there are prophets and teachers in Antioch. Verse 1 lists 4 of these specific prophets and teachers. Now prophesy was a spiritual gift. The Holy Spirit would speak through a prophet in order to proclaim God’s Truth. This might be a conviction about sin or some future event.  

Barnabas and Saul (Paul) were listed amongst these prophets. There is also Simeon called Niger. Niger is Latin for black so it is likely he was from Africa. Lucius of Cyrene is also a Latin name and it is likely he is from an area in Northern Africa too.  

Then there is an interesting note about this man Manaen. He was brought up with Herod. This is the same Herod who had James killed, mistreated Jesus and others. Apparently Manaen was brought up with him. The Greek wording suggests having the same wet nurse. It is possible that Manaen was the child of one of their slaves. Herod grew up in Rome and it was common for the children of slaves to grow up with the master’s children. The children grow close and the slave is freed when he or she is an adult. Either way, Manaen is now serving the Lord with the gift of prophesy or teaching. 

Now verse 1 showed us “who” and now verses 2 and 3 where show us “what”

Verse 2 says they were worshipping the Lord and fasting. Isn’t that an interesting intro? What is about to happen, happens while they are coming into the presence of the Lord in worship and fasting. 

There are other examples of major things happening during worship. In Isaiah 6 Isaiah was called while in the temple performing a priestly duty. 

To fast means to abstain from food and possibly other pleasures in order to seek God. The people of Antioch were worshipping the Lord and fasting. They were seeking God for input. God is about to give them His guidance. 

Well, they were worshipping and fasting and the Holy Spirit spoke to them. It is likely that the Holy Spirit spoke through one of the prophets. The Lord wanted Paul and Barnabas set aside for His work. This idea of setting aside means to set apart for a special purpose.  The Lord wanted Paul and Barnabas set apart for His purposes.  Back when Paul became a Christian the Lord said that He would use Paul to reach the gentiles. That is about to happen. 

Verse 3: is about the churches response. The church obeys. You know, at this point the Lord hadn’t told Paul or Barnabas where they were going. It doesn’t matter. Paul and Barnabas made themselves available. The church gathers together and they laid hands on them. This is comparable to ordination. They were sent out. 

From Acts 13:4— 14:26 we can read about the missionary journey that resulted from this. Many people heard the Gospel because the church in Antioch was in an atmosphere to hear God. They were worshipping and fasting. Then Paul and Barnabas obeyed. By the end of Acts, Paul had taken the Gospel to all of the known world. He might have taken it as far as Spain. He definitely took the Gospel to Rome. Things happen when you intentionally create an atmosphere to hear God.  

This happened to Meagan several years ago. She was working at McDonalds at the time. She was spending some time in prayer before work when she heard the phone ring. Now usually we don’t need to interrupt our time with God by answering the phone. But in this instance she received a job offer. This happened during prayer time.  


This Scripture passage shows us a few things. One is that foreign missions are important. This is Paul’s call and they go far away. Secondly, this text shows how to hear God’s call: by being involved in the spiritual disciplines. These are prayer, worship, fasting, Scripture reading.   

People need the Lord everywhere. You know, while Paul was going around the known world with the Gospel, James was pastoring the Jerusalem church. James the half brother of Jesus stayed home to pastor the church. Missions is important local and foreign. 

Missions is about ministering to temporary felt needs and eternal spiritual needs. 

What you need to know is that you will not hear God if you are not in the spiritual disciplines. Prayer, reading Scripture, Worship and sometimes fasting are imperative to hearing God. Maybe God will be calling you to a short term mission trip. Maybe God will be calling you to full time missions. Maybe God will be calling you to a new ministry around here. Maybe God will call to you to something else. Will you hear God’s call? 

First, Do you know Jesus yourself?

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2) 

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude) 

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5) 



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