21 Days of Prayer & Fasting
MARCH 27-APRIL 16
Fasting is one of those spiritual disciplines that often goes unnoticed and unpracticed. We naturally gravitate towards the more “visible” spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible study, etc.) When you also consider that fasting is usually something “personal” or “private” then a congregational fast for 21 days may sound strange.
So let us answer a few questions as you prayerfully consider how God would have you to participate.
What is a Fast?
In the traditional sense, Christian fasting is “a believer’s voluntary abstinence from food for a spiritual purpose.” (Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, 192). Although that definition is somewhat vague, it points out at two important realities:
- First, fasting requires the voluntary giving up of something that is significant to the individual.
- Second, fasting is done for a spiritual purpose. It is not an end unto itself.
Today, we have expanded fasting to include other aspects of life (social media, certain behaviors, etc.) In the Bible, fasting was always from food.
When we temporarily give up something as essential as food, we teach our bodies to live in sync with what we say we believe; namely that God is enough for us. As one person put it, “What we hunger for most, we worship.” (Piper, A Hunger for God, 14).
PURPOSE: Why Should You Fast?
Before Jesus began his ministry, he spent 40 days and nights fasting in the wilderness.
When his time of fasting had come to an end, the devil tempted him, saying, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus replied, “Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
In this verse, Jesus captures the essence of WHY we fast.
The purpose of fasting to put yourself in a position of holistic dependence on God.
Dependence upon God is expressed in a number of ways. Therefore, the purpose of fasting can be varied.
Some of the purposes in Scripture include:
- Strengthening prayer (Ezra 8:23; Joel 2:13; Acts 13:3)
- Seeking God’s guidance (Judg. 20:26; Acts 14:23)
- Expressing grief (1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Sam. 1:11–12)
- Seeking deliverance or protection (2 Chron. 20:3–4; Ezra 8:21–23)
- Expressing repentance and returning to God (1 Sam. 7:6; Jonah 3:5–8)
- Humbling oneself before God (1 Kings 21:27–29; Ps. 35:13)
- Expressing love and worship to God (Luke 2:37)
Jesus’ time of fasting was his final preparation for ministry.
After the 40 days of temptation and fasting, Jesus went “in the power of the Spirit,” proclaiming the good news the Kingdom (Mk. 1:14-15; Lk 4:14).
As a congregation, we too want to walk in the fullness of the Spirit as we proclaim the good news of the Gospel. (Acts 1:8)
What might be your purpose in fasting?
POSTURE: How Do You Fast?
Jesus gives us some very clear guidelines for fasting in the Sermon on the Mount.
He says, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)
Notice a few points of clarity from this passage:
First off, Jesus’ teaching implies that He expects his disciples to fast.
Verse 16 begins with, “when you fast.” If you look at the surrounding context of the passage, Jesus uses the same type of language for other disciplines, such as, “when you give” or “when you pray.” Jesus expects fasting to be as common among God’s people as prayer, tithing, and the study of Scripture. The more common it is among us, the less mysterious it will become.
Secondly, Jesus’ warning is more so against pride in your heart than it is the publicity of your fast.
The goal is that it would not be obvious to others, and that it would be done for the Father. This does not mean that others cannot know about it, but that there should be no sense in which we are filled with pride because it makes us look more “spiritual” than those around us. Jesus cares more about the motivation of our fast than he does the public response around it.
PLAN: What Will You Do?
Since it’s an expectation for disciples of Jesus to fast we are encouraging you to consider joining the rest of our church family in a 21 day fast leading up to Easter. The motivation of this fast is NOT to be “seen by others” but to “express our dependance on God” together as a church.
While your individual reasons may vary based on your circumstances, doing this fast together will invite God’s blessing on our church. Jesus promises a reward to those who engage in this process the right way.
For this 21 days of fasting and prayer we are asking that you take one of four tracks:
- Fast 1 Day A Week
- 2. Give up 1 Meal A Day
- 3. Give Up 2 Meals A Day
- 4. 800 Calories A Day
All four of these tracks are completely up to you, and you may need to adjust according to what you can physically handle. For example, giving up two meals a day might be too much if this is your first time to fast.
Whatever track you choose, we are praying together for you and with you that God will use it to strengthen your dependence upon him.
There will be commitment cards passed out on Sunday for you to publicly commit to the process. You can sign your name or just indicate which track you decide to do. Nobody will know about your commitment except The Lord and whoever else you decide to tell.
Join us in praying that God will use this season of prayer and fasting for his good purposes in our lives and our church.