Over the next week, we’re choosing one day to fast and pray together. We have all days in a week covered, and everyone gets to choose what day works with their schedules.
When I announced this plan, I got immediate replies of commitment. Thank you! And I also heard from many of you want to join but have never fasted before and are looking for the details on how to do this well.
Before I get into details on fasting, let’s begin with some foundational perspectives on prayer.
Three crucial perspectives
1. God is good. God is more loving, more caring, and more generous than you can imagine. He’s more compassionate than you are.
2. You have an enemy. We live in a world at war. Spiritual warfare is real. This is what we are going up against in prayer.
3. You have a role to play. God calls us to work with Him in bringing about His will.
1. We don’t have to convince God to answer our prayers
We begin with the foundation that the God we serve is more compassionate and more loving than we are. I guarantee there are good things you are praying for that God wants to happen even more than you do. He wants your children to walk with Him even more than you do. He wants your marriage to thrive even more than you do. He wants you to be reconciled to that person you fell out with even more that you do.
In prayer, we aren’t begging God to act on our behalf. We are coming alongside Him to bring about His will in our lives and on the earth. We aren’t beggars hoping to convince the king to respond favorably. We are beloved children of the King who approach the throne of grace with confidence. (Hebrews 4:16) We know He is more loving and compassionate than we are. And we know He loves to give good gifts to His children. (Matthew 7:11)
I love this quote from Martin Luther on prayer:
Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance. It is laying hold of His willingness.
2. You have an enemy
God gave Adam dominion over the world (Genesis 1:28), Adam lost it to the enemy in the fall. That is why Satan is called the prince (ruler) of this world (John 12:31, John 14:30 and John 16:11), and the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4).
John 5:9 says the whole world is under control of the evil one. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he promised him the kingdoms of the world and all their splendor. He could promise this because they belonged to Him.
You have an enemy. Spiritual warfare is real. And we must fight. (Ephesians 6:10-20) We were born into a world at war, and when we become born again we become soldiers behind enemy lines.
Jesus told us the thief comes only to steal kill and destroy. And Jesus has come that we may have life and have it in abundance. (John 10:10) 1 Peter 5:7-9 tells us our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
What if we approached prayer knowing the battle raging around us? Knowing that we aren’t convincing God to act, but that we are working with Him to bring it about?
In Daniel 10:12, we learn from the moment Daniel prayed God sent an angel to answer him. But this angel was caught up in warfare for 21 days. We know that our battles are in the spiritual realm (Ephesians 6:12), and we fight on our knees. Imagine if Daniel prayed once, and then went about his business thinking that if God wanted to answer him He would. What if Daniel had stopped praying before the angel broke through and he had his answer? How many times do we walk away from the battle too early? I don’t know about you, but I’ve never fasted for 21 days.
If we don’t know we’re in a battle, and if we don’t know we have a role to play, we might mistake a lack of answers for lack of care on God’s part.
3. God calls us to work with Him in bringing about His will
We are coworkers in God’s service (1 Corinthians 3:9). That’s incredible. The Creator of all wants us to have a part! And it’s not just that He wants us to have a part, He set up systems that require it. (James 4:2-3) The Lord calls us to be allied with Him in His work. He is bringing restoration and reconciliation. And He has called us to join Him in the ministry of reconciliation. We are His ambassadors. (2 Corinthians 2:18-20) Our work is both in the spiritual and the natural. We have work to do both in the spiritual (prayer, our relationship with the Lord) and in the natural (our good works and service to others) Jesus compared our relationship to Him with grapevines. He is the vine and we are the branches. Connected to Him, we will produce much fruit. Disconnected, and we wither. (John 15:1-8)
1 Kings 18:42-45 is a great example showing us that in even in God’s perfect will, we have a role and we are to pray until it comes to pass.
In 1 Kings 18:1, we see that God has decided to end the famine and bring rain. This wasn’t Elijah’s plan—it was God’s plan. And God had Elijah labor in prayer to bring it about. Passages like this show us that it’s incorrect to think that if it’s God’s will it will happen. Often, in giving us our own will, God doesn’t get His.
Elijah didn’t offer a quick prayer and walk away saying, if it’s God’s will He’ll bring rain. Elijah knew it was God’s will to bring rain. Seven times Elijah fervently prayed, looking for signs it was working. There is a way things work spiritually. James 5:17 tells us Elijah was a person just like us. He wasn’t superhuman with super prayers, anything he did, we can do, coming alongside God to bring His will into the world.
The enemy wants you to fire off a quick to-do list to God and then go about your life thinking God is holding out on you. God has so much He wants to give you and do for you. (Matthew 7:11) And He has so much He wants to do for others that require our involvement!
He is a better Father than any human father you can imagine. He delights in giving you good gifts. He wants an intimate, close relationship with you. Jesus wants us to be one with Him as He is one with the Father, and He wants us to be one together with each other. (John 17:21)
In His sovereignty though, the Lord created a world where the choices we make matter. Our choices have consequences. God has chosen to involve us and often doesn’t act unless we do. We have a part to play. We’ve been given the tools for battle and told to fight.
This quote from Augustine refers to this dynamic:
Without God, we cannot, and without us, He will not.
What if we assume God won’t act until we ask? (James 4:2-3) How would that change our prayer life? What if we approached prayer as coming alongside the Lord, working together to bring about His will? Would that change how you pray?
There are things we are responsible for. We have a role to play. What if we assume God has answers and blessings that are just waiting for us to do our part and ask for them? What if God is waiting for us to do our part, to intercede in prayer, and fight the spiritual battles necessary for us to have what we’re asking for? Our choices matter. Our words matter. Our prayers matter. (James 5:16)
What if we believed John 15:7, that If we remain in Him and His words remain in us we can ask whatever we wish and it will be done for us?
What does it take to remain in Him? We are the branches connected to Jesus the vine. We put our relationship with Jesus first. We seek Him and His righteousness. We spend time with Him, we read His Word, we do all He tells us. We fall so madly in love with Him that moments away and preoccupied feel terrible and we can’t wait to get connected to His heart again. We prefer Him to any gift He could give us.
And that brings us to fasting. Fasting can help us get to that place where we put our relationship with God first and where we stay so connected with Him that we hear what’s on His heart and then make ourselves the living sacrifice (Romans 12:1) that works with Him to make it happen.
So with this foundational view of prayer, we can see that adding fasting to prayer isn’t trying to force God’s hand or convince Him how much we want something. It’s positioning ourselves in a right relationship with God, putting our priorities in order. Fasting is adding strength to our fight. It helps us find out what God’s will is in a situation, and then join Him in bringing it to pass.
We fast to strengthen the power of our prayers. We are in a war and we are either fighting or we are losing. We don’t get to opt-out. Sacrifice in the natural helps us in the spiritual. When we fast, we turn our focus to God instead of food. Every time we remember our hunger we redirect it to the Lord. Instead of food, we hunger and thirst for righteousness. (Matthew 5:6)
There isn’t a guide for fasting in the Bible. And, as with other things with the Lord, our attitude and heart are most important with fasting.
Fasting = Feasting
Take the time you spend cooking and eating and pray and read God’s word. Replace feasting on food that doesn’t last with feasting on the Word of God. (John 4:32-34) Fasting helps us draw near to Him.
Fasting is choosing to go without something good for a spiritual purpose. We voluntarily sacrifice something good physically for something good spiritually. In the west, our culture is marked by excesses. We overindulge in good things.
Fasting lets us choose to go without, positioning our hearts to align with God’s. When we feel hunger while fasting, it can prompt us to pray. To turn our focus off our inconvenience and uncomfortable feelings and onto the Lord, His purposes and His will. We combine fasting with a more focused time of prayer.
Called to fast
In Jack’s Q&A posts on fasting, he talks about fasting when called to do so. This means we seek God’s direction on this. You may be prompted for a certain day and for a certain fast.
If you don’t have a relationship with the Lord where you hear from Him like this, fasting to bring you closer to God and open your spiritual senses to His promptings is a great beginning. Ask to hear Him more clearly, and to clear away any warfare that prevents you from hearing Him.
Those who should not go without solid food
There are some who should not go a full day or longer without solid food. If you have a medical condition or suffer from an eating disorder that prevents this, ask the Lord what you can fast to draw closer to Him.
You could be like Daniel, (Daniel 10:3) giving up choice foods like meat and wine. You could ask the Lord if any substance has too much focus in your life, like alcohol, sugar, or caffeine, and avoid it during your fast.
Some choose habits or recreation to give up for a period of time if they notice this takes priority over the Lord in their lives.
Types of Fasts
In the typical fast, we eat no food and drink only water.
For those who can’t fast for medical reasons, many will fast solid food but use liquids with calories like juices or protein shakes.
A one day fast in Judaism was sundown to sundown the next day. (Remember their days begin at sundown.)
With all of this info and with any fast, take it to the Lord and let Him guide you into the type and length of fast you should do.
Some questions I’ve received
What if I feel weak while fasting?
If your health is sufficient enough to fast (and note, there are many conditions that improve with fasting!) It’s natural to feel weak without the calories you normally have in a day. Your body will complain. Your mind will complain! But when we are fasting for spiritual reasons, we don’t do it alone. We have the Holy Spirit to bring us strength and comfort us. Ask Him to empower you to get through it. Depend on the Lord, not on your own strength.
Can I do this on a day I work?
Some choose to fast on days they don’t have to work so they can devote the day to the Lord praying and reading the Bible. But you can definitely fast and work on the same day. You will likely feel weaker if you aren’t accustomed to fasting. And our flesh doesn’t like to go without. You can use any weakness or complaints from your body and mind as opportunities to lean on the Lord for strength. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.
What if I get hangry? (Anger brought on by hunger)
You may find that fasting brings out emotions or heart positions the Lord wants to deal with. Anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, jealousy, and other emotions may surface. Don’t be quick to write them off as just being hungry. If you feel irritable and short-tempered with loved ones, use this as an opportunity to discipline yourself. You can act kind, even if you feel irritable. You can be loving even if you’re angry. Give these feelings to the Lord and confess anything that surfaces that He might want to address.
Ask for the Holy Spirit to help you! Ask that your words and behavior show the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Fasting is excellent for helping us mature in Christ, and it often reveals the things that control us. It can reveal any substances, habits, or emotions that have a hold of us or that have too high a place in our lives. Take each thing that surfaces and give it to the Lord.
Do you have any verses you like to focus on while fasting?
The whole of Psalm 63 is so good. I recommend you read it through each morning before you begin your fast and on the day(s) you are fasting. Meditate on it throughout the day.
Isaiah 58 is my absolute favorite. Read the whole chapter. It reminds us that just giving up food and thinking we’re earning points with God is incorrect. It’s our whole being, our whole heart that God wants. He wants us aligned with Him in relationship and serving others out of our relationship. What is the fast God has chosen? To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke. To share your food with the hungry and provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when we see the naked to clothe them, and not turn away from our own flesh and blood.
Isaiah 58:3-9 is the main part about fasting, but the whole chapter is so good.
In the next post, I’ll give our prayer requests to join us in praying for the ministry.