21 Days of Prayer & Fasting
September 11 – October 1
We are calling you to join our church family in a season of prayer and fasting. Our theme for this season is ‘Far More’, asking the Lord to do ‘far more abundantly than all that we ask or think’ (Eph. 3:20). The fast will begin on Monday, September 11, and conclude on Sunday, October 1 with a 6:30pm worship night.
WHAT IS FASTING?
So what is fasting? Generally, Christian fasting is a temporary abstention from good things like food, in order to intensify our expression of need for God and his work in our lives. This type of fasting is not explicitly commanded in the Bible for Christians, but it seems clear that Jesus expected fasting to be a normal spiritual discipline among his followers.
In Matthew 6:16-18 for instance, Jesus 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.” Notice Jesus says, ‘when you fast’, not ‘if you fast’. There is an imbedded expectation that Jesus’ disciples will fast, just as there is an expectation they will pray. In fact, Jesus himself even began his ministry with 40 days of fasting immediately following his baptism by John (Luke 1:1-2).
WHY IS THE CHURCH FASTING?
Why are we calling our church family to a season of fasting & prayer? Simply put, it is dependence on God. We need the ‘wilderness’ to drive us into greater dependence. Fasting and prayer is a way to declare to the Lord that He is more important to us than food, or whatever other good things we may be abstaining from. Fasting is a discipline that helps us realign our priorities. The goal of fasting and prayer is to draw nearer to God. Biblical fasting always has to do with eliminating distractions for a spiritual purpose; hitting the ‘reset’ button in our souls and asking the Lord to bring renewal from the inside out. Fasting also enables us to celebrate the goodness and mercy of God and prepares our hearts for the good things God desires to do in and through us. Fasting puts Him first and allows us to hear His plan, and receive His direction and blessing.
Fasting is an intensifier. In the words of pastor John Piper, fasting says, ‘This much, O God, I want you.’ It can intensify our pursuit of God and intimacy with Him. In the book of Daniel, we see Daniel intensify his prayers with pleas, provoke his hunger with fasting, and channel that hunger towards God (Dan. 9:3). Fasting helps us intensify our seeking of God by redirecting the energies and passions we normally fix on food or other things toward the Living God.
Fasting is also for seeking guidance from the Lord. In Acts 13:1–3 the leaders of the church spent time fasting in order to lay hold of God for the future of their ministry. “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.’
These leaders were fasting & praying in order to express to God their own longing and desire with their bodies for God’s guidance in missionary breakthroughs. And God responded in the sending of Barnabas and Saul, which turned out to be one of the most important missionary endeavors in the history of the world.
Fasting is a way of saying with our whole body how much we need and want and trust Jesus. It is a way of saying that we are not going to be enslaved by food or other things as the source of our satisfaction. We will use the abstention from these good things from time to time to express that Jesus is better. And in that sense fasting is a great test and confirmation that God is as real to us as we say he is.
WHY SHOULD I FAST?
Perhaps you have been feeling what Octavius Winslow (1808-1878) called “personal declension” in your soul. You do not seem to be making progress in your walk with God and victory over sin. Your time for prayer has been crowded out. Your conscience has grown duller. Your hunger for God has grown faint. Wherever there are true Christians the Spirit of God is at work. Even when Christians are at their lowest, they are still the people of the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19). Having said that, how can we ever be satisfied with such a sad state of affairs? Christians were meant to drink of the living waters of the Lord Jesus Christ. When they do they are promised that out of their hearts “will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). If we are not experiencing that as a faith family, we need to fast and pray.
We are grateful for the first 10 years God has given us, and we eagerly anticipate decades ahead of fruitful ministry. But we need the Lord’s direction. As we move into a new season of ministry in a new facility, we want to petition the Lord together to do among us and through us ‘far more abundantly than all that we can ask or think’ (Eph. 3:20). We want the Lord to direct our steps, give us greater unity, greater passion, and a ‘God-sized’ vision for maturing & multiplying disciples in Asheville and beyond for God’s glory. We need to fast and pray.
1 Timothy 2:1-3 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
There is no greater prayer than to pray for God to move in the hearts and lives in those we love and live around. We need to be praying for our families, our friends, our co-workers, our classmates, our neighbors, our waiters and all those in our city who will belong to Jesus but at this moment have no idea who He is or what He has done for them (Acts 18:10). They need to encounter the One who made them and desires to save them. We need to fast and pray.
WHAT TYPES OF FASTS ARE THERE?
Your personal fast should present a level of challenge, but it is very important to know your body, your options, and most importantly, to seek God in prayer and follow what the Holy Spirit leads you to do.
In this type of fast, you abstain from all solid foods for a prescribed time and drink only liquids, typically water with light juices as an option.
*Please talk to your personal physician before attempting a Full Fast.
This type of fast involves removing certain elements from your diet. One example of a selective fast is the Daniel Fast, during which you remove meat, sweets, and bread from your diet and consume water and juice for fluids and fruits and vegetables for food.
*There are many online resources to assist you with this. Here is one http://danielfasting.com/
This fast is sometimes called the “Jewish Fast” and involves abstaining from eating any type of food in the morning and afternoon. This can either correlate to specific times of the day, such as 6:00 am to 3:00 pm, or from sunup to sundown.
This fast is a great option if you do not have much experience fasting food, have health issues that prevent you from fasting food, or if you wish to refocus certain areas of your life that are out of balance. For example, you might choose to stop using social media or watching television for the duration of the fast and then carefully bring that element back into your life in healthy doses at the conclusion of the fast.
HOW SHOULD I SPEND MY TIME?
Whether you are fasting from a meal or another activity, it is important to structure your time to create rhythms you can stick with. We learn from Mark 1:35 that Jesus had a consistent habit of getting up early, going to a solitary place, and praying. We would all do well to create similar rhythms including a specific time, place and plan for our times of prayer. Although prayer cannot be reduced to a formula, it is helpful to include certain basic elements in our time with God. One model we have found helpful is ‘ACTS’ - Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.
Adoration is to worship and praise Him, to honor and exalt Him in our heart and mind and with our lips.
Confession is acknowledging our sins, failures & weaknesses to God, as well as our attempts to justify ourselves apart from His grace. When our discipline of prayer begins with adoration, the Holy Spirit has opportunity to reveal any sin in our life that needs to be confessed.
Thanksgiving to God for who He is and for the benefits we enjoy because we belong to Him, enables us to recognize that He controls all things - not just the blessings, but the problems and adversities as well. As we approach God with a thankful heart, He becomes strong on our behalf.
Supplication includes petition for our own needs and intercession for others. Pray that your inner person may be renewed, always sensitive to and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Pray for others - your spouse, your children, your parents, neighbors, and friends; our nation and those in authority over us. Pray for the salvation of souls, for a daily opportunity to introduce others to Christ and to the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.
Before God does a mighty work he often moves in His people to seek His face with prayer and fasting. We hope you will consider joining us on this journey as we come humbly before the Lord asking him to do ‘far more’.