January 1 2021
As the Church of the City family we feel compelled to begin 2021, now more than ever, with an intentional time of prayer & fasting. We are in a season where 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?”
We’ve seen instances in the Bible when a community of people fast together, asking for the Lord’s direction (Lev. 23:27). This season of fasting together as a church will unify us as we collectively assume a posture of receiving from God by turning over our plates. As C.H. Spurgeon once reflected about a time of fasting in community with his congregation; “never has heaven’s gates stood wider; never have our hearts been nearer the central glory.”
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!
Each day during our fast, we will be releasing a Daily Guide that will include a combination of Scripture, written content, and 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 Daily Guide is designed to be an easily accessible addition to the experience, and is available through a variety of platforms.
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Biblical fasting is refraining from food for a spiritual purpose. Our primary focus in fasting is to fix our eyes on Jesus and to listen to hear the voice and direction of God. It is vitally important for us to pay attention to our motives behind the commitment we’ve made.
“Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted… was it for me that you fasted? – Zechariah 7:5–6
“If our fasting is not unto God, we have failed. Physical benefits, success in prayer, the ending with power, spiritual insights—these must never replace God as the center of our fasting.” – Richard Foster
“First, let [fasting] be done unto the Lord with our eye singly fixed on him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven.” – John Wesley
Fasting helps us to realize the things that control us. Practicing the discipline of fasting allows the Lord the venue to help us to bring these areas into alignment. Just as David once wrote, “I afflicted myself with fasting…” in Psalm 35:13, we will be intentional to provide the Lord the venue to instruct us and bring clarity to our lives.
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. – 1 Corinthians 6:12
Fasting from any nourishment, activity, involvement or pursuit—for any season—sets the stage for God to appear. – Dan B. Allender
We fast because it helps to give us balance in life. It makes us more keenly sensitive to the whole of life so that we’re not so obsessed by our consumer mentality. – Richard J. Foster
We understand that there are different factors that lead to your decision to say yes to participation in this church-wide commitment. We want to do the best that we can to help provide 3 different ways to engage with this fast. We do not presume to be authoritative or comprehensive in the correct ways to fast, but we have chosen these pathways after thoughtful consideration about ways to include everyone in the journey we feel called to in this season. As a church, we have purposed that our fast will be directly connected to food, as we see multiple examples of this throughout the Scripture.
OPTION 1 (Varied Weeks)
Week One: A commitment toward fasting from all food except water, juice, and other broths for the first 7 days.
Week Two: A commitment toward fasting from all meals, except the incorporation of one meal into the schedule during days 8-14. (ex: fasting all day until 6PM)
Week Three: A commitment towards fasting for one meal out of the day, with an intentional time of focused prayer during the time period normally spent eating during days 15-21.
OPTION 2 (All Meals)
This will be a commitment toward fasting from all food except for water, juice and other broths for the duration of the 21 days of the fast.
OPTION 3 (Some Meals/Altered Diet)
This will be a commitment toward fasting for a significant portion of your day, incorporating only 1-2 meals into your schedule. (ex. fasting all day until 6:00 PM) Or, due to medical and other considerations, it may be necessary to participate by altering your diet for the duration of the fast. (This may be with vegetables only, or something known as the Daniel Fast)
The practice of fasting is in stark contrast to most of the way we live on a day to day basis in our lives. The Bible mentions fasting over 70 times directly and is inferred many more. This practice was clearly important to God, as even Jesus engaged in a 40-day fast immediately following His baptism.
Heightened Emotional Sensitivity
“Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear—if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we know that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ.” Richard Foster
Changing the amount and type of nutrients that you intake on a regular basis could possibly affect your energy levels, leading to physical fatigue. Headaches have also been known to be a symptom during fasting.
Although this may seem like an obvious point of awareness, it is important to note that you may feel hunger in a way that you’ve not experienced before. This will become the primary indicator and reminder for times of prayer and listening during the fast.
For some, this will be the first time to pray in such a focused and intentional way. It may seem a bit daunting. During our recent teaching series, “The Way of Jesus,” we received a prayer guide which comes from Matthew 6:9-13. This is a great way to begin to be guided through prayer as you engage in this fast. Also, as we engage this fast together, the church will provide you with a variety of resources that will coach and guide you through this time.
What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:9
Prepare Your Fast (See “How Can I Participate?” FAQ question)
Option 1 (Varied Weeks
Option 2 (One Meal)
Option 3 (Some Meals/Altered Diet)
Prepare Your Prayer
Consider the ways that we are praying together for our church. We want to see unity amongst the body of Christ. We are hoping for the fulfilment of vision and purpose for our COTC family. We are praying that we see many come to know Christ as their redeemer in 2020.
Find a journal to document your prayer and experiences.
Identify some friends and partners to be praying with through this time.
Prepare Your Mind
Take some time to consider the real implications of how the fast will affect your regular life rhythms. For example, think about how your daily schedule may be altered and have some forethought on how to adjust properly.
Ask the Lord to prepare your mind for the challenge in the days ahead.
Meditate on scripture and stories that are a reminder of God’s faithfulness and ability to sustain us: ex. Psalm 100, Matthew 4:1-4, Matthew 6:25-26
Prepare Your Heart
Take some time to ask God to identify potential areas of difficulty during the 21 days. Do you see the potential for emotions like anger, anxiety, and fear to rise up during this fast? Are there areas of sin that you are aware of and have not addressed in your life?
Spend some time in confession and repentance concerning these areas to which the Spirit leads you. As it says in 1 John 1:9, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Asking yourself difficult and direct questions and answering them in honesty may help you to enter the fast with a posture ready to receive. (ex. Am I honest in all my acts and words or do I exaggerate? Do I confidentially pass on what has been said to me in confidence?)
Ask the Lord to show you any areas of discord or disunity in your life relationally and seek to address them.
Prepare Your Body
Drink plenty of water, maintaining proper hydration and water intake leading up to
the beginning of the fast.
Eat healthier foods (fruits and veggies) directly before the start of the fast in order
to make for an easier transition. Avoid overindulging, as well. When the fast is complete, be mindful of easing back into your regular diet, as to not shock your system.
If you have potential medical concerns, you should visit your doctor to make sure that you are physically able to participate as you intend. A chronic or severe medical condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, may prevent you from fasting in the manner you’d like. You should also consult your doctor if you are pregnant or nursing in order to enter into the fast in the most informed way.
Prepare Your Schedule
Take time to pre-plan what types of juices, liquids, and supplies you will need
while engaged in the fast. If you are planning to drink juices for part or all of the fast then you may prepare for this by purchasing a portable cooler to take with you to work, ball games, etc. This practice will keep you from being at the mercy of snack and sports drink machines.
Think about when you will set aside time to pray and when you will partake in liquids throughout the day.
Discuss with family and those in your household about what the upcoming days will look like together.
Prepare Your Response
“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. – Matthew 6:16–18
In hopes to avoid pride and self-appreciation, we don’t want to broadcast our decision to fast publicly. But, when addressed about it directly, we should prepare a thoughtful response, rather than feeling the need to be dishonest or making a bigger issue of it.
When someone asks why you aren’t eating, consider simple ways to communicate that you are dedicating yourself toward a time of prayer and listening to God. Seek to respond in a simple and straightforward way without belaboring the point.
Consider beforehand how to graciously communicate with those that may invite you to a meal or gathering when it may conflict with the fast. (ex. As you are preparing for the gathering, please note that my family and I are praying and fasting together in this season, so we may not fully take part in the meal portion of the evening. Thanks for understanding.)
It’s our conviction that we will only see the power of the GOSPEL unleashed when the church starts to truly seek God through prayer and fasting. We are excited and hopeful to see how the Lord is glorified as we head into this season!
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. – Galatians 5:16–17
For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. – Hebrews 2:18