As a church family we will begin 2024 with our annual practice spent in an intentional time of prayer & fasting. We have found this practice to be necessary and important as many of us are desperate for breakthrough, something that a practice of fasting brings forth.
We are asking, “what is God waiting to pour out on our church, or our city or our lives if we would seek him through prayer & fasting?”
Although the Bible doesn’t give a direct command on this issue, examples of fasting appear in both the Old and the New Testaments. One of the most telling passages in which fasting is mentioned is Matthew 6:16, where Jesus is teaching His disciples basic principles of godly living. When speaking on fasting, He begins with, “When you fast,” not “If you fast.” Jesus’ words imply that fasting will be a regular practice in His followers’ lives. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, said, “Jesus takes it for granted that His disciples will observe the pious custom of fasting. Strict exercise of self-control is an essential feature of the Christian life. Such customs have only one purpose — to make the disciples more ready and cheerful to accomplish those things which God would have done.”
Wesley Duewel, a twentieth-century writer, said, “You and I have no more right to omit fasting because we feel no special emotional prompting than we have a right to omit prayer, Bible reading, or assembling with God’s children for lack of some special emotional prompting. Fasting is just as biblical and normal a part of a spiritual walk of obedience with God as are these others.”
Some of the most encouraging words that we can read as we prepare to enter into this season are found in Acts 13:2, which reads, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said…” We are encouraged and invigorated to know that our time of dedicating ourselves to the Lord in this way will result in us actually hearing from Him!
People fast for a number of reasons. Following are seven circumstances in the Bible in which believers sought God through this discipline.
1. To prepare for ministry. Jesus spent forty days and nights in the wilderness fasting and praying before He began God’s work on this earth. He needed time alone to prepare for what His Father had called Him to do (Matthew 4:1-17; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-14).
2. To seek God’s wisdom. Paul and Barnabas prayed and fasted for the elders of the churches before committing them to the Lord for His service (Acts 14:23).
3. To show grief. Nehemiah mourned, fasted, and prayed when he learned Jerusalem’s walls had been broken down, leaving the Israelites vulnerable and disgraced (Nehemiah 1:1-4).
4. To seek deliverance or protection. Ezra declared a corporate fast and prayed for a safe journey for the Israelites as they made the nine-hundred-mile trek to Jerusalem from Babylon (Ezra 8:21-23).
5. To repent. After Jonah pronounced judgment against the city of Nineveh, the king covered himself with sackcloth and sat in the dust. He then ordered the people to fast and pray. Jonah 3:10 says, “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He relented and did not bring on them the destruction He had threatened.”
6. To gain victory. After losing forty thousand men in battle in two days, the Israelites cried out to God for help. Judges 20:26 says all the people went up to Bethel and “sat weeping before the Lord.” They also “fasted that day until evening.” The next day the Lord gave them victory over the Benjamites.
7. To worship God. Luke 2 tells the story of an eighty-four-year-old prophetess named Anna. Verse 37 says, “She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” Anna was devoted to God, and fasting was one expression of her love for Him.
©2023 Kristen Feola | Faith Gateway
Each day of this journey we will be sending out 3 prayer prompts to guide you: one in the morning, one at noon, and one in the evening and this is to encourage you to pray morning, noon, and night. Receive these daily by texting “Prayer” to 855-615-6150.
This is a great opportunity to enjoy a holy quiet and stillness before the pace of the day increases and distractions begin to clamor for our attention. We encourage you to view the COTC Daily and engage with the scripture in your formation journal along with the prayer prompts.
The middle of the day is an opportunity to reflect on the morning – noticing the activity of God in and around you – and intentionally invite Him into the rest of your day. Take time to remember that God is with you, He is actively working around you, and you’re invited to join Him.
We’ll spend time each evening simply giving thanks. This practice develops and strengthens a heart of gratitude toward the Lord for what He’s done and revealed during the day.
Praying morning, noon, and night will be a simple way to establish a rhythm of listening in the morning, noticing His activity in the middle of the day, and then expressing gratitude in the evening. Each activity may only take a moment or two, but it will bring our hearts back to the Lord throughout the day.We desire to see more of Heaven on earth, and prayer is a big component of that.
Each day during our fast, we will have Scripture reading that will be available in our formation journals, as well as on our COTC daily video content. Our hope is for this content to encourage you as you navigate this fast, connecting you with others in our family who are journeying alongside you. The formation journal is designed to be an easily accessible addition to the experience, and is available for pick up in person or online at the end of December. Register to receive our daily video devotionals by texting “COTCDAILY” to 855-615-6150.