So today begins our 52 Day Challenge. You will notice as you begin that these first 21 days are focused on prayer and fasting. As I have talked to some of you, I know that you are nervous about the fasting part.
That is understandable. You have most likely not spent much time fasting. As we see God’s face during these 52 days for our lives and for our church, fasting will play a crucial role in us drawing near. Let me encourage you to take this seriously. Let me encourage you to not skip a day of this guide and challenge, even the fasting part.
I thought since some are unfamiliar with fasting, I would give you some helpful information on it this AM as we begin fasting during this challenge:
THE GOAL OF FASTING
The goal of fasting is to draw nearer to God. Biblical fasting always has to do with eliminating distractions for a spiritual purpose; it hits the reset button of our soul and renews us from the inside out! It also enables us to celebrate the goodness and mercy of God and prepares our hearts for all of the good things God desires to bring into our lives. Remember, your personal fast should present a level of challenge, but it is very important to know your own body, your options, and, most importantly, to seek God in prayer and follow what the Holy Spirit leads you to do.
Scripture References: Matthew 6:16-18, Matthew 9:14-15, Luke 18:9-14, Acts 27:33-37, Nehemiah 9:1-3
HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR FAST
In preparation for this special time with God, I strongly urge you to examine your heart, and detect any unconfessed sin. Scripture records that God always requires His people to repent of their sins before He will hear their prayers. King David said:
Come and hear, all of you who reverence the Lord, and I will tell you what he did for me: For I cried to him for help, with praises ready on my tongue. He would not have listened if I had not confessed my sins. But he listened! He heard my prayer! He paid attention to it!
Blessed be God who didn’t turn away when I was praying, and didn’t refuse me his kindness and love. (Psalm 66:16-20)
In your prayers, confess not only obvious sins, but less obvious ones as well. The sins of omission as well as the sins of commission experiences. These may be experiences leaving your first love for our Lord: worldly-mindedness, self-centeredness, spiritual indifference, and unwillingness to share your faith in Christ with others, not spending sufficient time in God’s Word and in prayer, a poor relationship with your spouse, your children, your pastor, or other members of your church.
PHYSICAL PREPARATION (If you are fasting from food)
Although fasting is primarily a spiritual discipline, it begins in the physical realm. You should not fast without specific physical preparation. If you plan on fasting for several days, you will find it helpful to begin by eating smaller meals before you abstain altogether. Resist the urge to have that “last big feast” before the fast. Cutting down on your meals a few days before you begin the fast will signal your mind, stomach, and appetite that less food is acceptable.
Some health professionals suggest eating only raw foods for two days before starting a fast. I also recommend weaning yourself off caffeine and sugar products to ease your initial hunger or discomfort at the early stages of your fast.
TYPES OF FASTS
This fast calls for drinking only liquids, typically water with light juices as an option.
This type of fast involves removing certain elements from a diet. One example of a selective fast is the Daniel Fast, during which you remove meat, sweets, or bread from your diet and consume water and juice for fluids and fruits and vegetables for food.
This fast is sometimes called the Jewish Fast and involves abstaining from eating any types 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 common for those who do not have much experience fasting foods, who have health issues that prevent the fasting of food, or who wish to refocus certain areas of their life that are out of balance. For instance, someone might select to abstain from using social media or watching television for the duration of the fast—and then choosing how to carefully bring that element back into their life in an orderly fashion.
GET THE MOST OUT OF THIS FAST
Arranging special time each day with God is absolutely crucial in attaining intimate communion with the Father. You must devote yourself to seeking God’s face, even (and especially) during those times in which you feel weak, vulnerable, or irritable. Read His Word and pray during what were mealtimes. Meditate on Him when you awake in the night. Sing praises to Him whenever you please. Focus on your Heavenly Father and make every act one of praise and worship. God will enable you to experience His command to “pray without ceasing” as you seek His presence.
As you enter this time of heightened spiritual devotion, be aware that Satan will do everything he can to pull you away from your prayer and Bible reading time. When you feel the enemy trying to discourage you, immediately go to God in prayer and ask Him to strengthen your resolve in the face of difficulties and temptations.
The enemy makes you a target because he knows that fasting is the most powerful of all Christian disciplines and that God may have something very special to show you as you wait upon Him and seek His face. Satan does not want you to grow in your faith, and will do anything from making you hungry and grumpy to bringing up trouble in your family or at work to stop you. Make prayer your shield against such attacks.
My major reason for fasting is for personal revival, revival for our nation, for the world and for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. But praying for our own needs and interceding for others are also important reasons to fast and pray. Bring your personal needs before the Lord, intercede for your loved ones, your friends, your church, your pastor, your community, your nation, and the world. By your prayers of humility, as you fast, you will help the Great Commission be fulfilled.
However, do not become so caught up in praying for yourself and others that you forget about simply reverencing and praising God. True spiritual fasting focuses on God. Center your total being on Him, your attitudes, your actions, your motives, desires, and words. This can only take place if God and His Holy Spirit are at the center of our attention. Confess your sins as the Holy Spirit brings them to your attention and continue to focus on God and God alone so that your prayers may be powerful and effective.
A renewed closeness with God and a greater sensitivity to spiritual things are usually the results of a fast. Do not be disappointed if you do not have a “mountaintop experience,” as some do. Many people who have successfully completed extended fasts tell of feeling a nearness to God that they have never before known, but others who have honestly sought His face report no particular outward results at all. For others, their fast was physically, emotionally, and spiritually grueling, but they knew they had been called by God to fast, and they completed the fast unto Him as an act of worship; God honored that commitment.
Your motive in fasting must be to glorify God, not to have an emotional experience, and not to attain personal happiness. When your motives are right, God will honor your seeking heart and bless your time with Him in a very special way.