By Hilary Horn —
Something that I really value about my denomination is as we step into each new year, we dedicate the first 21 days to prayer and fasting. I think it’s a beautiful way to set apart the first weeks of the new year to seek the Lord in a fresh way. To seek him for not only our personal devotion, but with our families, church, for our city and global community. Much like planting a seed in ready soil, we envision God will water this foundation we lay before him as 2020 unfolds. It’s also an incredible thing to reflect on the global body praying some of the same petitions to God together.
I took the following from our church website that I found insightful for briefly explaining the what and why of fasting:
WHAT IS A FAST?
Fasting is when someone or a group of people abstain from food either fully or partially for a specific period of time in order to seek God through prayer. Many people in Biblical times practiced fasting as a spiritual discipline or in response to a specific need. In the Old Testament, Israel was required by God to fast collectively at least once a year on the Day of Atonement as well as other occasions. In the New Testament we have records of the early church fasting and praying together for specific reasons and reliable church history tells us that Christians practiced fasting at least twice a week.
WHY DO WE FAST?
Knowing what a fast is doesn’t necessarily mean we understand its purpose. We can find many good Scriptural reasons for fasting and below you will find a short list that may be helpful. It’s important to remember that we not only fast and pray for ourselves, but also for those around us.
1. To humble ourselves to God through repentance – (Psalm 35:13, 1 Samuel 7:6, Ezra 9)
2. To draw closer to God – (James 4:8)
3. To receive revelation from God’s Word – (Ephesians 1:17-22)
4. To know God’s will or direction – (Acts 13:1-2)
5. To seek healing/deliverance – (Isaiah 58, Matthew 17:21)
6. To seek God’s intervention – (2 Samuel 12:16-23, 2 Chronicles 20:3)
7. To intercede for others – (Daniel 9:3)
DIFFERENT TYPES OF FASTS
There are many different ways to do a fast. The most important part of fasting is the time we spend with God in prayer. If we deny ourselves food and do not pray then we will accomplish nothing. The following types of fasts are simply references to what we can do as we seek the Lord in prayer.
1. Full Fast
A full fast is where you go completely without food for a specific amount of time. There are at least four references in the Bible where people fasted food and water; however we are only referencing food as a ‘full fast’ for obvious reasons. If you choose to do a full fast then we recommend you consult with others prior to doing so, especially if you take any kinds of medication.
2. Partial Fast
A partial fast is to simply go without a meal or two during the day of your fast. For example, you could fast from breakfast and lunch and spend an extended amount of time in prayer in place of that meal. There are no rules to this kind of fasting but you should decide beforehand what you will do and stick to it as with all fasts.
3. Daniel Fast
This kind of fast comes from Daniel chapter 10, where Daniel had a terrifying vision that caused him to abstain from all pleasant food and drink. If you choose to do this kind of fast then essentially you will be abstaining from all “meats, sweets, and treats.” Most people stick to fruits, vegetables and nuts or similar kinds of protein. There are many resources online that could provide healthy options with this fast.
4. Media Fast (Daniel 6:18)
Sometimes we are unable to participate in abstaining from food for various reasons, however, this does not mean we cannot fast and pray. We strongly encourage you to fast by replacing some forms of entertainment (TV, movies, internet surfing) with prayer and intentional time with family. God often uses this kind of fast to quiet the noise in our life and increase our ability to hear His voice.
Whatever you choose to fast – food, a lunch, social media, TV — whatever it is sometimes it can be jarring in many ways. What I am fasting from this month was disorienting at first. It kind of wakes you up to some of the time you waste or put energy into that isn’t always best. It also helps to reset your focus. Fasting took a while to fully get into the rhythms and practice to focus on God in deeper levels and in consecrated energy. Yet, once you get past the initial reaction (often a very hard thing to give up!) the deeper revelations and breakthroughs come. I am excited to continue this journey of 21 days of fasting and to press into more of what God has – even if I don’t see it right away, but trusting those seeds have been planted.
Maybe you want to consider a fast into the new year to get 2020 on the right foot. It’s not too late to begin. What else can be matched to start off your new year with set apart time with Jesus?