By Pastor Reg Overstreet, March 16, 2023
Purpose: In our 18 Goals for 2023, Goal #4 is: to Observe quarterly personal DAYS OF PRAYER AND FASTING and one annual Church-Wide DOPF on campus. This is our provided guide for your experience!
Our First of the year will correspond with EASTER!
Dear Church Family,
We will be identifying four weeks during 2023 for our people to choose one day to devote to prayer and fasting. Our first is next week, between March 19 and March 26–the day of our Easter-Season Concert of Prayer. Then, towards the end of 2023, we will hold our 2nd annual all-church Day of Prayer and Fasting at our campus (date TBD).
Why this focus? Biblically, prayer is fundamental to a relationship with God, while adding fasting to our prayers creates one of the most powerful of all Christian activities. These are God-prescribed methods of dealing with urgent needs, asking for breakthroughs, growing our faith, seeing God work.
In this post you will find a guide for the principles, purposes, and practices of fasting, to help your households experience God and unite with the church family in Christ. I gathered this material from other churches and my own personal notes and believe that it will serve us well.
Thank you for participating, brothers and sisters, for God’s glory and our good,
I. Principles of Fasting:
The presence and mystery of fasting runs throughout the Bible.
Definition: Voluntarily going without food (or other focus items) in order to focus on prayer and fellowship with God.
Drinking of water is recommended; especially, with prolonged days of fasting. One can live without food for weeks, but only three-four days without water.
Forms of Fasting:
1.) Regular Fast: Abstaining from all food. Illustrated by Jesus following His baptism – Matthew 4:2
3.) Partial Fast: Abstaining from certain foods as illustrated by Daniel – Dan. 10:3; 1:12
3.) Absolute Fast: Completely abstaining from eating & drinking. Employed by Ezra as he mourned over the faithlessness of the people of Israel in Exile – Ezra 10:6 and in Acts 9:9, Saul (Paul) neither ate nor drank for three days after the incident on the road to Damascus.
4. Non-food and other helpful Fasts – E.g. 1 month Media fast, or fasting/abstaining from something that has become an idol in your life. One young man said earlier this year that was sports for him in that season, and he fasted from them for a time.
Length of Fasting:
Varies in length as the Spirit of God lays in your heart. However, below are some time frames found in the Bible: 1.) One day – Judges 20:26, I Samuel 14:24, 2Corinthians 11:27; 2.) Three days – Esther 4:16-17, Acts 9:9; 3.) Seven days – I Sam. 31: 11-13; 2Sam. 12:16-18; 4.) Twenty-one days – Daniel 9; 5.) Forty days – Exodus 34:28; I Kings19:18; Matt. 4:8.
II. Purposes of Fasting
- To 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.” Frequently in Scripture, fasting has been used by God’s people when there is a special urgency about the concerns they are praying about.
- Purity: Fasting starves the flesh so that our spirit can be nourished. It facilitates the breaking of the bondage of sin in our lives – Isaiah 58:6; I Cor. 9:27; Matt. 16:24
- Repentance and Revival: Fasting brings an awakening of our spirit. It gives renewed and constant awareness of God’s presence – Isaiah 58:9, Daniel 9:1-3, Jonah 3:5-10
- To seek God’s guidance and spiritual sensitivity: Fasting facilitates fellowship and intimacy with God, which in turn quickens your senses to God’s guidance – Isaiah 58:8,10-12; 40:29-31
- To Express Grief; Humility/Brokenness: Fasting brings you to a place of humility, where you see yourself as worthy of nothing; a place where you absolutely need God in your life – Isaiah 58:5
- To Seek Deliverance, Protection, or Power; To Overcome Temptation: During fasting, you experience fresh power to overcome unseen forces militating against you – Isaiah 58:6, Luke 4:14a, Matthew 17:14-21, 2 Chronicles 20:1-30
- Healing: According to Paavo Ariola (Health expert), “Fasting is the oldest therapeutic method known to man, even before the advent of the medicine man and in the healing arts, man instinctively stopped eating when feeling ill and abstains from food until his health was restored.” Fasting is the body’s most natural way of getting rid of harmful toxins and causes the mind to think clearly. – Isaiah 58:11b&c
- To Minister to the Needs of Others: In Isaiah 58:1-12, the most extensive passage in Scripture dealing exclusively with fasting, God expresses that the kind of fasting that pleases Him is one that shows concern for others, not just for ourselves.
- To Express Love and Worship to God: The prior reasons have mostly dealt with extreme circumstances. The Bible also expresses fasting can show our love and worship to God. In Luke 2, Anna, assuming she was young when she was married, had lived a life of worship to God which, for over 50 years was characterized by “worshiping day and night, fasting and praying.” (Luke 2:37)
III. Practices of Fasting
1. Set Your Objective: Identify your timeframe, parameters, and your aim/objective for the fast – E.g., victory, healing, wisdom, grace to handle a difficult situation, revival, others’ salvation, etc.
2. Make a commitment: Pray that God will help you a.) Limit/restrict certain physical and social activities b.) Identify how much time you will devote to prayer and Word of God.
3. Prepare yourself spiritually: The primary foundation of fasting is repentance. Unconfessed sin will hinder your prayers.
4. Prepare yourself physically: Fasting requires reasonable precautions. Consult your physician if you are on prescribed medication or dealing with chronic illness. A few pointers include:
- a.) Do not rush into your fast.
- b.) Prepare your body. Eat smaller meals before starting a fast. Avoid high-fat or high-sugar foods.
- c.) Eat raw vegetable and fruits for two days before engaging in a long fast.
- d.) Limit your physical & mental activity as much as possible.
- e.) Avoid medications. Please consult your physician if you’re on prescribed medication.
- f.) Exercise moderately and rest your body as much as you can.
- g.) Prepare yourself for the body’s natural reaction to the new restrictions – e.g. crankiness, irritability, hunger pains, dizziness and even headaches, which may be the result of sugar and caffeine withdrawal.
- h.) Groom yourself well. Only God should know that you’re fasting.
5. Put yourself on a schedule and be disciplined to follow the schedule (Avoid television & social media or other distractions that will dampen your spiritual focus): Set aside ample time with God during your fast. The more you spend time alone with Him, the more you will hear Him speak.
- Begin your day in Praise & Worship
- Read and meditate on God’s Word
- Invite the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself to you during the fast
- Get back to GOD in prayer and God’s Word
- Take a short prayer walk
- Spend some unhurried alone time in the presence of the Lord just seeking Him
- If others are fasting with you, meet together for prayers.
- Expect great things!
IV. Prayer Points while Fasting
(Many more will be provided during the on Campus Annual Day of Prayer and Fasting later this year)
1. Worship the Lord for who He is- Psa. 96:9; I Chron. 29:11-14 and thank God for being our help in ages past – Psa. 90:1
2. Thank God for His good hand upon Community Grace; Worship the Lord for who He is and what He is doing in our lives – Neh. 2:8
3. Holy Father, give us the strength we need to embark on this fast – Isaiah 40:29. Father remove from us every distraction that the enemy of our soul will stage against us or our family during this fast – I Peter 5:8-9
4. Father, remove from us every negative behavior and attitude, unforgiveness, guilt, sin, or iniquity that will hinder us from experiencing the fulfillment you have for us.
5. FATHER, create in us a deeper desire for more intimate relationship with you in the HOLY SPIRIT, such we are consistently being transformed to be like CHRIST in character and experience.
6. Protect us from the princes and principalities of the air; remove their grip on this neighborhood in the name of Jesus.
7. Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest during this year – Matthew 9:35-38.
8. Pray for all church leadership. (Eph. 6:18-20)
9. Father, as many as fellowship in this church and are not born again, meet them this year & permanently change their story in Jesus’ name – Acts 9:1-18
10. Pray for all the church projects during this year and in years to come.
11. Father, from the North, South, East, West, and from Heaven above, send financial help to CG’s vision, needs, and opportunities for ministry and meeting needs.
12. Pray for unity and maturity throughout the Body – Eph. 4:11-17
13. Pray that the Lord will give us a passion for the lost.
14. Pray for the neighborhoods among which the church campus is located – our loving influence and for the blinders of eyes be removed for faith and salvation.
15. Pray for all cross-cultural mission and ministry that we will ever do, and for God’s leading of everyone for their parts in it.
16. Profoundly thank God for all answer to prayers.
Once again, choose your type of fast and prayer and fasting day, between March 19-26, 2023. Save or print this blog post as a guide or grab a hard copy in church on Sunday at Connections. Search the Scriptures listed throughout.
For me, I have a love/hate relationship with fasting. I hate the discomfort (of course!), but I love how close I am to God by the end of fasting and how clearly I hear His voice. We have experienced some of our best family devotions on these days as well.
May God bless you richly in this God-given spiritual discipline.
(And share a story from your experience to spread the blessing!)