Calvary, we are a people who fast and pray in response to the leadership of the Lord Jesus Christ.
God gives us spiritual practices which help us to become more aware of the God who is with us, to practice authenticity with the Lord and others, and to help us align with the ways of Jesus.
In this blog, I want to cast vision for our upcoming 21-Day First Love Fast for January 3 – 23. Our theme for this fast is One Thing I Desire. I want to help equip us to fast and pray. And, I want to help us become all who we are in Christ.
Listen to the testimony of Nathan Foster regarding spiritual practices in general and fasting in particular.
The Making of an Ordinary Saint: My Journey from Frustration to Joy with the Spiritual Disciplines, Nathan Foster.
My world is built on pursuing and satisfying my every need and desire—after all, I am an American. When I have a headache, I take medicine. When I’m tired, I go to bed. When I’m hot, I turn on the air conditioner, and when I’m hungry, I eat. The notion of voluntarily depriving myself of anything that is readily accessible feels ridiculous. Not only do I get nervous about the suffering associated with fasting, but I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the mix of motives it brings up. (Foster, Nathan. The Making of an Ordinary Saint (p. 37). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
As I now reflect on the past four years [of practicing the disciplines], I see that joy has sprouted. I no longer see the disciplines as something unattainable, reserved for the super spiritual or stuffy monkish folks. Practicing the disciplines rather feels like a gentle and graceful attunement to seeking God in the everyday mess and simple things. Sometimes it’s as easy as being thoughtful and intentional in my actions, unafraid to try new things. I look to where God is already at work, and gently yet profoundly I push toward his leading to find the easy yoke and light burden. I found that when I intentionally set out to practice a discipline, God was ready and willing to provide an opportunity to learn. I didn’t have to search long and far or create huge events. The openings to explore were most always found in the ordinariness of everyday life. (Foster, Nathan. The Making of an Ordinary Saint (pp. 189-190). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
Fasting taught me I can do without and it doesn’t have to be bad, even if the deprivation brings up unresolved emotional junk. (Foster, Nathan. The Making of an Ordinary Saint (p. 190). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
One of the first books I read on fasting was in Richard Foster’s, Celebration of Discipline. This book on spiritual practices helped to change my mental model and understanding about spiritual disciplines in general and fasting in particular.
Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people. (Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline (p. 1). Harper Collins, Inc. Kindle Edition.)
The classical Disciplines of the spiritual life call us to move beyond surface living into the depths. They invite us to explore the inner caverns of the spiritual realm. They urge us to be the answer to a hollow world. (Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline (p. 1). Harper Collins, Inc. Kindle Edition.)
In one important sense, the Spiritual Disciplines are not hard. We need not be well advanced in matters of theology to practice the Disciplines. Recent converts—for that matter people who have yet to turn their lives over to Jesus Christ—can and should practice them. The primary requirement is a longing after God. “As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the Living God,” writes the psalmist (Ps. 42:1, 2). Beginners are welcome. I, too, am a beginner, even and especially after a number of years of practicing every Discipline discussed in this book. As Thomas Merton says, “We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners, all our life!” (Foster, Richard J.. Celebration of Discipline (p. 2). Harper Collins, Inc. Kindle Edition.)
Fasting must forever center on God. (Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline (p. 54). Harper Collins, Inc. Kindle Edition.)
God questioned the people in Zechariah’s day, “When ye fasted…did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?” (Zech. 7:5, KJV). If our fasting is not unto God, we have failed. Physical benefits, success in prayer, the enduing with power, spiritual insights—these must never replace God as the center of our fasting. (Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline (p. 55). Harper Collins, Inc. Kindle Edition.)
Once the primary purpose of fasting is firmly fixed in our hearts, we are at liberty to understand that there are also secondary purposes in fasting. More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. (Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline (p. 55). Harper Collins, Inc. Kindle Edition.)
Casting vision for our 21-Day First Love Fast: One Thing I Desire, January 3 – 23.
We are a people who fast and pray in response to the leadership of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“When you [fast to] practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face. God doesn’t require attention-getting devices. He won’t overlook what you are doing; he’ll reward you well” (Matthew 6:16-18 MSG).
Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast” (Matthew 9:14–15).
Corporate fasting and prayer have been a significant part of our history at Calvary.
Throughout the 1990’s, we would fast and pray for long periods of time for particular assignments. For example, in 1993, we fasted and prayed for 30 days as a part of Praying Through the 10/40 Window where the majority of unreached peoples live. Churches were asked to pray about a nation to adopt for prayer and fasting. Then, we were to travel to that nation to pray with insight onsite– prayerwalking. The Lord led us to adopt Nigeria. Calvary sent a team to Nigeria in October 1993. Because of a relationship which we had through Eddie Smith back in 1990, Rev. Mosy Madugba hosted our team as we traveled and prayed throughout the country of Nigeria. We took a prayer notebook of prophetic words, declaration, and promises which the youth put together from our time of corporate prayer and fasting. We gave that resource to Rev. Mosy. Our relationship with Ap. Mosy, Ministers Prayer Network, and Nigeria continues to this day.
For more than a decade, we took on times of fasting and prayer for revival and other emphases. We sometimes fasted for up to 40 days.
Through the years, some members of Calvary continued to fast and pray regularly through the Global Bridegroom Fast, or some engaged in fasting as a personal spiritual practice. But for the most part, we really didn’t engage together in corporate times of focused prayer and fasting.
That all changed in 2019. The Lord spoke to us about returning to our first love. Our church responded to the Lord’s leadership by fasting and praying once a week from August – December 2019, Return to Our First Love: Remember. Repent. Renew.
Earlier in 2019, the Lord spoke to our staff team about calling the church annually to a fast to start each new year. After the 5 months of focused prayer and fasting in 2019, Calvary entered into a 21-Day First Love Fast for January 2020 and again in January 2021.
In praying about starting this new year, your staff team at Calvary felt like the Lord is leading us in to another 21-Day First Love Fast.
Why are we starting the new year with 21 days of fasting and prayer?
- Because we want to respond to the invitation of the Lord by starting the new year focused on Lord (Revelation 2:4-5; Jeremiah 29:11-14, esp. vs. 13).
- Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first… (Revelation 2:4–5).
- For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD… (Jeremiah 29:11–14).
- Because we want to start the year off on the right foot by getting our perspective on the right place and on the right person: Jesus (Matthew 4:19, 6:33).
- Because we want to posture ourselves in humility before the Lord (Isaiah 58:5; 2 Chronicles 7:14 James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5-7).
- “‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? (Isaiah 58:3-5).
- If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).
- Because we want to focus on the simplicity of loving Jesus first and of saying “no” to other things which vie for our attention and affection (Matthew 6:10; 2 Corinthians 11:3).
- But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:3).
- Because Jesus emphasized that the Father rewards fasting (Matthew 6:16-18).
- Because Jesus expected his disciples to fast after he was gone (Matthew 9:15).
- Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast (Matthew 9:14–15).
- Because fasting with prayer is about surrendering and remembering.
- Specifically, we want to begin the year by surrendering:
- “Let thy kingdom come, let thy will be done in me and in earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
- “Not my will but thine be done” (Matthew 26:39).
- Specifically, we want to begin the year by surrendering:
- And, we want to remember the Lord by putting him first in our attention, affections, and activities (Matthew 22:37-39).
- We are asking each member of Calvary to fast as the Lord leads.
- There are different types of fasts.
- In Scripture, a normal fast is abstaining from all food, solid or liquid, but not from water.
- A modified fast would be fasting from lunch to lunch, that is skipping 2 meals.
- A partial fast would be some restriction in diet, but not total abstinence of food, like no meats and sweets.
- At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over (Daniel 10:2–3).
- There are different types of fasts.
- The level at which a person engages in fasting from food should be determined according to age and physical limitations. Those with a physical disability, illness, or eating disorder should not fast, except under the supervision of a physician. Minors are discouraged from fasting food unless supervised by adults. Minors who desire to fast are encouraged to consider non-food abstentions, such as TV, movies, Internet, video games, and other entertainment.
- So, please mark your calendar for our 21-Day First Love Fast, Jan. 3 – 23.
- Prayer: Please take time right now to pray, asking God to give us a spirit of grace and supplication. We need his grace to pray, to fast, and to press into the Lord.
Go to our website for more information and equipping on fasting.
We have posted resources on our website about fasting.
- Fasting tips, Mike Bickle.
- Practical Tips for Fasting from Luke 18.
- The Rewards of Fasting, Mike Bickle.
- A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer, John Piper.
- The Making of an Ordinary Saint: My Journey from Frustration to Joy with the Spiritual Disciplines, Nathan Foster.
- Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster.
- Kicking off the New Year with a 21-Day First Love Fast (sermon notes). These notes from 2019 present much detail about the why, what, and how of fasting.
Let’s do this period of fasting and prayer together and in response to the invitation of the Lord.
With God helping us,