Prayer is central to all that we do in ChristChurch London and is undoubtedly one of the big reasons that we enjoy God’s blessing week by week as a church. A number of groups meet to pray at different times each week but for me the real highlight is our termly church-wide prayer meeting. I love the standing room only, expectant atmosphere, the energy charged worship, and the fervent and passionate way in which people give themselves to prayer. I get home on those evenings still fully amped from such amazing times together.
Our next church-wide prayer meeting is on Tuesday 28 February. This is right at the beginning of the season of the church calendar known as Lent; a period when Christians all around the world will be praying and fasting in the run up to Easter. So this term, we have decided to accompany our prayer with our first ever church-wide day of fasting.
I don’t know how familiar you are with fasting? You may have tried it once or twice; you may never have heard of it before. Many Christians have found fasting to be a powerful way of connecting with God at a deeper level. That has certainly been my experience. And when churches take time out to pray and fast together, they typically find that their physical hunger spills over into a deeper spiritual hunger for more of God and His blessing on their lives.
So here are a few thoughts on what fasting is, why we do it, and how we should do it.
Fasting means to voluntarily go without something – typically food – for the purpose of spending time praying and drawing closer to God. In the Bible, fasting was an assumed part of people’s regular lifestyle, so Jesus said to his disciples ‘when you fast…’ not ‘if you fast…’ (Matt 6:16). Some people seem to have fasted twice a week (Luke 18:11-12) and there were regular festivals during which God called all His people to fast together (Zech 8:19). Individuals would choose to fast at particular moments when they faced challenges (Daniel 1:8-21), or wanted to get closer to God (Luke 4:1-2) and sometimes a nation’s leaders would call people to fast either in repentance (Jonah 3:5-10) or to request God’s help (Ezra 8:21-23; 2 Chron 20:1-4).
We want to invite you, if you feel able, to join us in fasting and spending time drawing closer to God in advance of our prayer time. This is an opportunity for us as a church to seek God and ask for Him to speak to us, and as we do this, we believe God will strengthen and guide us for the way ahead.
Here are a few spiritual and practical guidelines to help you as you think about fasting on February 28:
- Fasting is not primarily about testing yourself, or seeing what you can achieve, and it’s certainly not a hunger strike to try to force God into giving you something! It is designed to help you meet with God as you recognise your dependence upon Him. As you fast, ensure that your motives are appropriate and that you are genuinely desiring to meet with God and for His holiness to become more evident in your life.
- Whilst fasting is typically related to food, some people may find it helpful to fast other things such as television, music or technology. The important thing is that when you fast, you shouldn’t simply ‘go without’. Aim to replace time spent eating, watching television, or whatever, with time spent praying and reading God’s word. This may mean needing to schedule times into your day for prayer or arranging to go somewhere different during your lunch break.
- As you fast, be particularly open to hearing God speak to you for yourself and for the church. Expect that He will speak to you through His word and give you guidance from the Holy Spirit.
- Be sensible with fasting. If you are of ill health, please do not go against medical advice, and consider carefully whether a full day’s fast will be a viable option for you. You may find that fasting a particular item or meal would suit you better.
- Decide the length of your fast and plan it into your schedule. You may decide to fast for the whole day on the 28th, or just skip one meal. If you do decide that you want to fast for longer than 24 hours, you are welcome to, but plan carefully and be willing to review the duration if your health or circumstances change.
- Ensure that you don’t over-exert yourself whilst fasting. Make sure that you rest where possible and only exercise lightly.
- Remember, we are not doing this to gain God’s favour; fasting is designed to help us meet with God, not to damage our bodies. So if at any point you feel the need to break your fast, feel free to do so.
We are really excited at the opportunity to do something like this together. I think it is going to be a great experience for us as individuals and as a church. But whether you are able to fast on the 28th or not, do join us at the prayer meeting, 19.00 for a 19.30 start at:
70 Endell Street
If you would like to learn more about fasting we would recommend the following resources:
Adrian Holloway – A Hunger for God (MP3)
Arthur Wallis – God’s Chosen Fast
John Piper – A Hunger for God