21 Days of Prayer + Fasting – Resources to Help
Here at Substance, we start every year with a season of fasting. Of course, nobody HAS to fast; but, when you understand what the Bible teaches on fasting, you’ll realize that we “get to” fast. It’s actually an incredible opportunity.
In both the Old and New Testament, God powerfully rewarded those who fasted. “Those who fast get healing” (Isa. 58). Jesus said, “those who fast get power over demonic oppression” (Mk 9). Again, Isaiah said, those who fast will live like kings — You’ll “ride on the heights of the land” (Isa. 58); When Ezra fasted, God gave protection over his kids & possessions. When Daniel fasted, God gave him understanding (Dan. 9). When Abraham’s servant fasted, God gave him a woman! (Gen.24) (Some of you men suddenly started taking notes). When Jesus started his earthly ministry, one of the first things he did was fast. And don’t misunderstand me: fasting won’t make God love you more. You can’t earn your way into Heaven. However, like the author of Hebrews reminds us: “God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).
So, why then are people scared to do this discipline? Well, like any discipline, if you do it as an obligation to earn love from God, it will feel oppressive…the exact opposite feeling that God wants you to experience. Don’t get me wrong: fasting is never easy, but it’s a powerful way to discover all of the circumstantial ways we comfort ourselves outside of Christ and His word.
And keep in mind: fasting doesn’t merely mean abstaining from food. You can fast almost anything. In the truest sense, fasting is a process of abstaining from something for the purpose of worship, prayer, and self-discipline. For example, my wife will often fast sweets, desserts and candy. Other people fast movies, social media, or even coffee.
But here’s why: Fasting is one of the few spiritual disciplines that reveals the truest state of our self-denial muscles. And if that sounds scary, consider your alternatives: crisis and moral failure also reveal this. So, we have a choice: preventative humility vs. humiliation.
So how do I participate? Well, quite simply, pray about what God would have you fast & simply join in, January 1st through the 21st! Spiritual disciplines like this can actually be quite fun when you’re doing it alongside a big group of people.
But allow me to get practical. Every year people ask me for tips on fasting. And for those of you who’ve never fasted before, here are a few tips to make this a fun experience:
(1). Start out with short fasts (e.g., skip lunch): Once you understand how it affects your body, slowly extend them to experiment: When I do 24 hour fasts, I start by eating lunch, skipping dinner/breakfast/lunch… and then break it with dinner the next night. Many people think short fasts like this are harder than extended fasts. After a few days, hunger pangs tend to subside.
(2). When you fast, do it with Friends! It helps to process your experience with other people. It also keeps you encouraged while you fast!
(3). Give yourself extra margin and rest. When you fast, plan on going to bed early.
(4). Drink lots of water and be sure to get Electrolytes for your brain: I have an entire blog on this here! Anyone who’s doing water-only fasts for longer than a few days needs to understand the fundamentals of hydration and electrolytes.
(5). Can fasting be Dangerous? Potentially. It can also be incredibly healthy too. The average American could probably go forty days based on body fat. Once again, I have an entire blog on the physiological /psychological affects of fasting that’ll help you discern if you are higher risk. Obviously, if you are pregnant, nursing, diabetic or have an eating disorder, you need to get extra counsel. But don’t let your fears get the best of you. I know hundreds of people who’ve done 40-days of juice only fasting. Obviously, if you’re really terrified about water-only fasts, then start smaller: Do a fruit & veggie fast / “Daniel Fast” for one day. And ramp it up with time.
(6). When fasting, stay in an Attitude of Worship (Isa. 58). It sounds obvious but, remember that you’re worshipping God when you do this. So, if all you do is whine the whole time, you’re defeating the whole purpose! Keep in mind, God responds powerfully when we seek him (Heb.11:6).
(7). Make a fasting Calendar: I love to have variety when I fast. So when I map out my 21 days… I almost never do “juice only” for 21 days straight. Often, I like to mix it up. For example, I’ll do 4 days of fruits and vegetables only (a.k.a., a Daniel Fast), then a juice only day, then a free day. For me, I’ve found that this kind of variety helps me stay in a worshipful attitude more. Having a “free-day” also helps if you have some sort of inescapable hosting situation (like a birthday) where you’re making your guests feel awkward by staring at them while they eat. But experiment for yourself. Remember, this should be a fun yet challenging experience.
(8). Ask your family to participate: My kids have participated almost every year. One of them fasted video-games. Another fasted sweets and their precious iPhone. Use this as an opportunity to share your faith with your own family. Share prayer requests and set fasting goals. There is nothing more exciting than watching your family experience supernatural breakthroughs.
But one thing is for sure– This can be your best year yet, if it’s your best year spiritually. So don’t miss out. Let’s do this together!
ADDITIONAL FASTING RESOURCES:
A SERMON on the physiological aspects of fasting (January 2019 First Wednesday service). You can find that message here.
– Here’s a great fasting guide + devotional from Rob Hoskins of One Hope: Kick-Start a New Beginning
– Church of the Highlands has tons of great fasting resources, including an app called Pray First that will guide you through your 21 days! Pastor Chris Hodges is also releasing a new book in January called, Pray First, that you can pre-order here (and there are great resources to go along with it, too!).
– PRAYER LIST FOR FASTING: Use this focused prayer list to intentionally pray for 10 (or more!) people!
– TYPES OF FASTS: If you want to study the “types of fasts” that many people do, read more here.
– Daniel Fast recipes, click here.
– HOW TO GET STARTED: if you’re still nervous about how to get started, check this out: How To Get Started on Your Fast