The deacon board is calling the church to pray and fast during this ongoing season of pastoral transition within the church. We are encouraging everyone to participate in some form of fasting and prayer, one day per week for 12 weeks. This season will take us through advent up to the week before Christmas.
What is fasting?
Fasting is a spiritual discipline. It is a believer’s voluntary abstinence from food, behaviors and ways of thinking for the purpose of growing in holiness and strengthening prayer. The discipline is rooted in our relationship to Jesus and practiced with the desire to draw close to God and to become more like Jesus, individually and together as the Body of Christ.
Biblical fasting is God’s idea. Jesus expected that his followers would fast. Notice Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:16. Jesus does not say if you fast do not look somber as the hypocrites do, he says when you fast. In Matthew 9: 14-15, John the Baptist’s disciples ask Jesus why his disciples do not fast, Jesus replies, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from then; then they will fast.” Jesus saw fasting as a normal spiritual discipline that his followers would engage in after his death, resurrection and ascension.
Fasting helps us to practice self-denial and teaches us self-control. Dallas Willard explains that “It confirms our dependence upon God by finding in Him a source of sustenance beyond food. Through it, we learn by experience that God’s word to us is a life substance, that it is not food (bread) alone that gives life, but also the words that proceed from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).” Fasting helps us to curb our self-indulgence and to draw closer to God.
What are the different ways that I can fast during this season?
The most common form of fasting is to abstain from food for a period of time. If you choose to fast from food, we recommend that you choose to fast one day per week. The deacon board will be fasting on Tuesdays but we recognize that you may need to choose a different day of the week to be successful in your fast. Fasting takes practice but an easy way to step into the discipline is to fast from food after your evening meal and to abstain from food during breakfast and lunch the following day, breaking fast during supper 24 hours later. It is important to drink plenty of water and vegetable/fruit juice can be added to help sustain you as you fast.
You might choose to engage in a partial fast such as the Daniel fast for a longer period of time (eating only vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains and abstaining from meat, poultry, fish or dairy products) or choose to eat simple meals of rice, beans or potatoes once a week.
Many people are not able to fast from food for medical reasons but they are able to engage in a fast from behaviors and patterns of thought. This type of fast includes abstaining from activities that exert too much influence on your heart and tend to draw you away from holiness and spending time with God. Some examples include fasting from media (facebook, television), sports, talking, and video gaming. Finally, you might choose to fast from a negative pattern of behavior (anger, shame) or thought pattern (negative thoughts such as judgement or criticism toward others or self). If you choose to fast from a behavior or thought pattern we recommend that you choose to fast for at least 40 days or for the entire 12 weeks.
How does fasting strengthen prayer?
John Calvin wrote, “Whenever men are to pray to God concerning any great matter, it would be expedient to appoint fasting along with prayer.” Fasting increases our passion for prayer and increases our understanding of the importance of prayer within our lives. Fasting doesn’t change God’s willingness to hear our prayers…he is always listening, but it does change how we pray. Fasting strengthens the fervency of our prayer life.
What are the different ways that I can participate in prayer during this season?
The deacons are asking everyone to set aside 24 hours per week, preferably Tuesdays or the day you have chosen to fast, to focus more intently on praying for the church around each weekly theme. We are not asking you to pray continuously for 24 hours, but we are asking you to pray more fervently and often for our faith community. We also are encouraging people to take the time to come and pray one hour before service each Sunday at 9:00am and to participate in our First Friday service of prayer each month. Each weekly theme will be the focus of our corporate prayer during Sunday worship services.
What are we to pray for?
Please pray while you fast around the following 12 themes. You can pray as you feel led by the Holy Spirit around each theme or focus your prayers on the scripture passages listed for each topic.