As we begin a season of focused and increased prayer, we would love to encourage you toward monthly corporate times of fasting as well. This month, we will be fasting on January 24th, beginning at 5pm. On January 25th, we will break our fast with a time of simple worship and celebration called Under the Lightbulb, beginning at 7pm at 121.
In a culture obsessed with the pursuit of more, fasting may seem dated, foreign to modern consumerism and even the modern day church. However, the presence of fasting throughout Scripture calls us to regularly practice the putting off of the things of this world, in order that we might put on the likeness of Christ.
What is fasting?
Fasting is defined as abstaining from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance. As believers, we abstain from something in order that we might feast on God. “Fasting must forever center on God.” (The Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster)
"Fasting involves the denial of certain appetites to increase dependence on the Lord. Fasting typically reveals where appetites have been misplaced and attempts to whet those appetites toward Christ." - Ross Sawyers
Why do we fast?
Most importantly, we see fasting in the teaching and example of Christ. In Matthew 4, immediately preceding temptation in the wilderness, Jesus fasted. In Matthew 6, Jesus taught, “When you fast…”, assuming that the devoted follower of Christ would engage in such practice, which had been modeled throughout history by God’s people in times of persecution, mourning, danger, repentance, and grief. As followers of Christ, simply put, we are to do what He did. As we do this, we anticipate the provision of God’s sustaining power, just as Jesus experienced upon fasting (John 4:32, 34).
The purpose of fasting then, is to reveal what controls us, attempting to reinitiate 2 Corinthians 5:14, the control of Christ’s love, in our hearts and lives. Fasting serves as a reminder that we are sustained by God alone (Matthew 4:4, Colossians 1:17).
While there are multiple examples of fasting in Scripture for a variety of purposes, it is our aim that this year would be one focused on taking the next step in our prayer life, whatever that may look like, both individually and corporately. So we encourage you to use fasting to accelerate you toward that end. Scriptural references to the purpose of fasting can be found below.
1) To strengthen our prayers (Nehemiah 1:4, Daniel 9:3, Acts 13:3)
2) To seek God’s guidance (Judges 20:26, Acts 14:23)
3) To express grief (1 Samuel 31:13, 1 Samuel 20:34)
4) To seek deliverance or protection (Esther 4:16, Psalm 109)
5) To express repentance and return to God (1 Samuel 7:6, Joel 2:12, Jonah 3)
6) To humble oneself before God (1 Kings 21:27-29, Psalm 35:13)
7) To express concern for the work of God (Nehemiah 1:3-4)
8) To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God (Matthew 4:1-11)
9) To express love and worship to God (Luke 2:37, Romans 12:3)
(The Resurgence, 2012, “9 Ways to Worship Jesus Through Fasting")
How do we fast?
We fast in a continual posture of worship and dependence on God. Typically, fasting occurs over a predetermined length of time, whether it is a week, a day or a meal. During this time, focused times of worship and prayer are encouraged. We thank God for who He is and for the sacrifice of His Son on the Cross on our behalf, we repent of the sin in our lives, we present to Him requests with His glory as their end, and we seek Him for the wisdom and direction we desire.
What do we fast from?
Traditionally, fasting has referred to the abstinence of food, with many variations found throughout Scripture (Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough: A Guide to Nine Biblical Fasts by Elmer Towns). Food can be completely forgone, choosing to drink only water and/or juices, or a variation can be adapted, such as fasting from meat or sweets. If health restrictions keep you from a food fast, a sacrificial fast involves simply abstaining from something in order to devote time and energy to prayer, such as media.
What should I expect?
Through fasting, we can simply expect more of God! As we fast, we are essentially making room for more of Him, for His abiding presence and His character in us. Often times, He will likely root out things that are not of Him, give us clear direction and wisdom where we may be seeking it, and most importantly, grow our desire for Himself. Corporately, we can expect God to potentially use times of prayer and fasting as a launching pad for carrying out His purposes. When the early church prayed and fasted in Antioch, God used it to launch a missions movement responsible for over 2 billion Christians today!
What are some ways to bring family in?
Take this opportunity to clearly explain the biblical practice of fasting to children that are able to know and understand it’s purpose. Encourage your kids to go without something for a set amount of time, that they too would depend on God and desire Him above all else. This could be fasting from anything from food or a snack to their favorite toy.
Create unique spaces during fasting to incorporate family devotion, such as the beginning and ending of a fast or during meal times. Take blocks of time to pray intentionally with your kids, for the desires and concerns on their hearts. Encourage and excel them toward a relationship with God that involves constant communication with and worship of God, rather than the things of this world.