Post written collaboratively by Sam Andres and Matthew Parks.
If you haven’t already, read Matthew’s post “Start of 2022 the Right Way: Fasting and Feasting” to get a bit more context for the rest of this blog.
What do we need more than goals for the new year? What do we need more than increased productivity? What do we need more than losing weight, or getting physically stronger? What do we need more than avoiding sickness? What do we need more than more money?
We need to know God more deeply.
We need to seek the face of God with focus and fervency.
We need to allow His truth and His love to further transform our hearts.
I hope you plan to join the church for 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting, starting January 10. We will be gathering at the Commons on Wednesdays at noon, and on Zoom, during the fast. Here is the Zoom link (password is 2020). The capstone to 21 Days of Prayer and fasting is a Defiance United prayer gathering on Sunday, January 31 at 6:00pm at First Church of God, Defiance (561 Carter Rd, Defiance, OH 43512)
Jesus speaks as if it’s a given that His disciples will have seasons of fasting. He says,
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18).
Jesus does not say, “if you fast,” He says, “when you fast.” He assumes that His followers will fast on occasion, and when we do, that we don’t make a big show to brag about it, but rather, that we do it humbly and in secret. Fasting is never commanded as a law, but Scripture is full of examples of godly people fasting and praying for various reasons:
- Moses went 40 days without eating or drinking before receiving the 10 Commandments on tablets of stone (Exodus 34:28).
- David fasted for a week in intercessory prayer for his sick child (2 Samuel 12:16-18).
- Ezra proclaimed a fast that God’s people would be humbled before God and have safety from their enemies (Ezra 8:21-23).
- Daniel did a partial fast as a rejection of the king’s pagan food (Daniel 1:8), and later in life fasted as he prayed a prayer of repentance on behalf of Israel (Daniel 9:3-19).
- Jesus himself fasted for 40 days in the wilderness as a season of tempting and preparation for ministry (Matthew 4:1-2).
- Paul fasted after his conversion on the Damascus road as he sought the Lord (Acts 9:9).
- The early church fasted before major decisions, such as the time of worship and fasting in Antioch that led to sending Paul and Barnabas to plant a church (Acts 13:1-3).
Fasting is not just for those who see themselves as spiritual special-forces elites. Fasting is for every believer who desires to know God more deeply, wants to put Him first, and perhaps wants to seek God over a specific matter for clarity or spiritual breakthrough.
I encourage you to take out your journal and write out a prayer asking God to give you direction for why you want to fast. Answer these questions in your journal.
- Is there a spiritual habit you want to develop this year?
- Is there someone in your life who doesn’t know Jesus who you want to meet Him?
- Is there a decision where you need God’s direction to be made clear?
- Is there a sin struggle you want God’s help putting to death?
- Is there a distraction that may not be clearly sinful that you want to shed in order to know God more deeply?
- Is there a relational conflict that you want God to bring peace in?
- Is there something you’re anxious about that you want God to lift from you?
- Is there a decision or struggle that faces the church that you want to see resolved?
“More than any other single discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things come to the surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately – anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear. If they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger. Then we know that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.”
-Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
FAST FROM WHAT?
This is up to you. Fasting is not just about abstaining, it’s about replacing it with something better. As Matthew Parks said in his blog post, fasting does not have to be strictly about food. Some people will fast from lunch daily and spend that time praying and reading scripture. Some will fast from social media and/or entertainment and use that free time to seek God. You could fast for a few days at a time. A very common fast is to fast for breakfast and lunch, and then break the fast for the evening meal. Whatever you choose to fast from, be intentional. Challenge yourself, but be realistic. Write down your goals and share them with a close friend in the church.
CHURCH-WIDE FASTING FOCI
Over these 21 Days, there are various emphases for the church that we desire you to be praying about. We will text the daily prayer focus out to the church over the 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting.
Our church’s mission is to make gospel-centered disciples who delight in Christ, declare His Cross, and display His love. Let’s pray specific prayers in light of that mission. Listed below are prayer prompts for each day of the week for the next three weeks (21 prompts in all). Each prompt will have a specific prayer to get you started as well as a passage of Scripture to pray. Use this passage of Scripture as a launching pad into prayer. Read the passage prayerfully, using God’s own words to help you know what to pray for. Ask the Lord to bring specific requests to mind as you are praying the Scriptures.
WEEK 1: DELIGHTING IN CHRIST (January 10-16)
- Pray for a Growing Passion for God — May we increasingly delight in Him, specifically that He will give us renewed desires for His work and His people. Scripture to pray: Psalm 37:3-5
- Pray for Hope for the Discouraged and Anxious — May we be encouraged that we have hope in our suffering through the peace offered in Jesus. Scripture to pray: Romans 5:1-5
- Pray for an Insatiable Thirst for Whole-Life Worship — May we continue to hunger and thirst after God and worship Him with every part of our lives. Scripture to pray: John 4:7-14, 23-24
- Pray for a Genuine Desire for God’s Word — May we continue to grow in our desire to know and love God’s Word. Scripture to pray: Psalm 19:7-11
- Pray for a Thankful Heart — May our appreciation for God’s goodness be expressed through thanksgiving and outward praise. Scripture to pray: Psalm 100
- Pray for a Deeper Sense of Dependence on God — May our dependence on the Lord continue to increase as we wait on Him. Scripture to pray: Psalm 130
- Pray for a Greater Awareness of the Love of God — May we continue to be awed and humbled by God’s relentless and amazing love toward His children. Scripture to pray: Ephesians 3:14-19
WEEK 2: DECLARE HIS CROSS (January 17-23)
- Pray for Evangelistic Fervor and Fruit — May we be zealous to share and declare the good news of Jesus to those around us that they may call on His name and be saved. Scripture to pray: Romans 10:13-15
- Pray for Making Gospel-Centered Disciples — May we learn to follow Jesus from God’s Word in community with one another. Scripture to pray: 2 Timothy 2:2
- Pray for the Gospel to Be Central in Our Homes — May the gospel so saturate our homes that all who enter, whether family or strangers, will be blessed and shown the love of Jesus. Scripture to pray: Deuteronomy 6:4-9
- Pray for Local and Global Ministries We Support — Visit our Partnerships page on our website. Scripture to pray: Matthew 28:18-20
- Pray for Friends, Family, and Neighbors Who Don’t Know Jesus — May we gently but intentionally seek to win those closest to us to the Lord through our words and actions. Scripture to pray: 2 Timothy 2:24-26
- Pray for Church Planting Opportunities in Putnam County — May the Lord give us a desire and opportunity to plant a church in Putnam County as well as provide a lead church planter. Scripture to pray: Matthew 9:35-38
- Pray for Discernment on Whether to Unite with Second Baptist — Pray for God’s wisdom on whether uniting with Second Baptist is strategic for reaching more people for the gospel. Scripture to pray: 1 Corinthians 3:6-11
WEEK 3: DISPLAY HIS LOVE (January 24-30)
- Pray for Oneness in Christ to be Expressed in Loving Relationships — May we as the church fight to maintain unity among one another, especially in a hostile and divided society. Scripture to pray: John 17:20-26
- Pray for Love to Be the Distinguishing Feature of KCC — May we as a church be known for loving others as Christ has loved us. Scripture to pray: John 13:34-35
- Pray for Godly Speech Toward One Another — May our words toward one another and the world be gracious, speaking the truth in love, and used to build up rather than tear down. Scripture to pray: Ephesians 4:25-32
- Pray for the Energy to Do Good to All People But Especially to One Another — May we seek to do what is best for those around us, but let us especially take care of one another as family. Scripture to pray: Galatians 6:9-10
- Pray for Those Who are Sick or Suffering — May we grow in our faith for God to heal those who are sick and in need of God’s grace in the face of suffering. Scripture to pray: James 5:13-16
- Pray for Opportunities to Serve One Another — May we consider who to serve those in our body, specifically those struggling with infertility, foster care, adoption, or single parents. Scripture to pray: Philippians 2:1-5
- Pray for Opportunities to Serve Our Community — May we consider who to serve those in our community, like the PATH Center and the CPC:Women’s Health Resource. Scripture to pray: Matthew 20:25
MORE RESOURCES ON FASTING
David Mathis’s book, Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus Through Spiritual Disciplines has an excellent chapter on fasting, and the PDF version is free online. Read chapter 10, “Sharpen Your Affections Through Fasting,” starting on page 118.
CRU’s website has some helpful practical instruction on fasting as well: Your Personal Guide to Fasting and Prayer.
This article is an encouragement that Fasting Isn’t for the Spiritual Elite. It’s for the Hurting.