Mon, Jan 4: Psalm 51, Ezekiel 11:19-20
Tues, Jan 5: Romans 12:1-2, Isaiah 55:8-13
Wed, Jan 6: Lamentations 3:22-24
Thurs, Jan 7: Isaiah 40:31
Mon, Jan 11: Luke 19:1-9
Tues, Jan 12: Nehemiah 1:4-11
Wed, Jan 13: Luke 10:25-37
Thurs, Jan 14: John 4:7-26, 4:39
Mon, Jan 18: 2 Cor 12:9-10
Tues, Jan 19: Matthew 24:14, Revelation 7:9
Wed, Jan 20: Matthew 9:36-38
Thurs, Jan 21: Matthew 25:34-40
When we think of prayer, it’s often in the context of our plans. As one year winds down, we look forward to the next with its promise, and we pray. Prayer that invites God to have His way must always precede the work of the Spirit.
(Looking for our year-long Ready…Set…Go plan? Click here)
As we follow along in the prayer guide as a church (and denomination), each day will have a specific focus for times of prayer under the general themes of “All Things New” (Isaiah 43:19 & Rev 21:5):
Week 1: All Things New in My Life
Week 2: All Things New in My Church + Community
Week 3: All Things New in My Global Community
Although many of us have participated in prayer guides, be it devotional books or email chains, but fasting is a fairly foreign concept in our culture. Fasting is most commonly done by denying oneself food for a defined amount of time. In our modern culture fasting is most know as a weight-loss fad, but for the early church, fasting was a regular spiritual discipline, just like prayer.
Why do we fast?
In scripture we find three distinct reasons God’s people participate in fasting:
First, when a defining moment has taken place (i.e. when Paul and Barnabas are commissioned to start their ministry in Acts 13) the Church may fast in response to God’s presence or leading.
Second, when God’s people repent of sinfulness (i.e. 1 Samuel 7), fasting is a response to the realization and weight of man’s brokenness.
Lastly, when something terrible happens (i.e. King David’s response to being persecuted by Saul and others) a proper response may be to embody the grief that we feel by fasting.
In all three cases it is important to notice that nowhere in the bible do people fast to try and bend God’s will toward their desired outcome. This happens at times with prayer and intersession, but not fasting. What does happen in the practice of fasting is an embodied connection between humans and their experiences. When we fast and deny ourself the comfort, nourishment, and even entertainment of eating we are reminded of our human frailty, and in turn, can press into our dependency on God.
Let’s be honest, so much of our modern existence is about comfort and excess. For much of history humans were threatened by starvation, food shortages, and malnutrition, but in our life-time we are threatened more by death via obesity than any of those. Today you can literally order food from ANY region on earth (Italy, Mexico, France, China, India) from your phone and someone will deliver it to your door. It is easy for us to forget our frailty when so much extravagance is all around us. That’s what makes fasting so important.
The conscious decision to withhold good things from ourselves is counter to our human desire. Typically, we work hard to continually fulfill whatever it is we want. Very little is out of our reach these days. But God invites us into this discipline of self-denial, not as punishment, but for our benefit. Fasting is a way we deny ourselves so that we might recognize our dependency on God. Not eating brings discomfort & even grief which is good to sit in as a reflection of our broken state.
Are we commanded to fast? No. But we are invited into it. The people of God have practiced this way of connecting to God for thousands of years. We invite you to step into this practice as well. Here is how you can practice fasting (along with prayer) at the start of 2021: