Preparing for the Fast
“Behold, I am making all things new.” -Jesus, Revelation 21:5
In the second to last chapter of the Bible, John is given a vision of the future. He sees a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1) and the glory that comes with it. He hears Jesus say the words above: “Behold, I am making all things new.”
We believe the same God who will make all things new in the future is at work making things new in the present.
During these 40 days, we believe God wants to do something new in us.
We believe He wants to do something new in us as individuals, as we set things aside and fast for the purpose of leaning into Him.
We believe He wants to do something new in our church as we earnestly seek Him together.
We believe He wants to do something new in our community as we live our lives with a heightened awareness of His presence and power.
So in this season, remember that God makes all things new. Enter these 40 days with a sense of hope and expectation, because we believe God will use this time to do something new in you.
Virtually every religion in the world practices fasting of some form. And even non-religious people fast for political and health reasons. So why should Christians participate in this practice?
16th-century theologian John Calvin says, “Let us say something about fasting, because many, for want of knowing its usefulness, undervalue its necessity, and some reject it as almost superfluous [unnecessary]; while, on the other hand where the use of it is not well understood, it easily degenerates into superstition.”
In the Old Testament, the primary Hebrew word used is tsom, which means “to abstain from food.” In the New Testament, the Greek word for “fast” is nesteuo, which means “to abstain from eating.” In both, fasting is merely going without food to seek God for a special reason. It is the abstinence from food with a spiritual goal in mind, the purpose of which is to seek God earnestly in prayer. In his book, The Power of Prayer and Fasting, Ronnie Floyd writes, “[Fasting] is when I pursue the God of Heaven to do something powerful and supernatural in and through my life and the life of others.”
When scripture refers to fasting, it generally refers specifically to abstaining from food. However, Jesus said some people would hear the word of God, and a desire will be awakened in their hearts, but then, “As they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life…” (Luke 8:14), “The desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). “The pleasures of life” and “the desires for other things”—these are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God. These pleasures include food, drink, hobbies, and other elements that add richness to our lives. But, all of them can become deadly substitutes for God. Therefore, fasting or abstaining both highlight the many things we tend to lean on, and they reveal to us how God fulfills us in ways the ‘pleasures of life’ cannot. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899– 1981), the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, delivered a great sermon on fasting while preaching through the Sermon on the Mount. In it, he said, “Fasting, if we conceive of it truly, must not . . . be con fi ned to the question of food and drink; fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose. There are many bodily functions which are right and normal and perfectly legitimate, but which for special peculiar reasons in certain circumstances should be controlled. That is fasting.” When we fast from food or abstain from human desires, it creates sacred intentional space to encounter the Lord in formational friendship. We discover the power of fasting when we have a heart to draw near to our King. This is expressed beautifully in Psalm 63 (worth memorizing while you fast),
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food.” (Psalm 63:1– 5)
DISCRETION: IT IS A MATTER OF THE HEART
We must use discretion as to why we are fasting since it is a practice deeply tied to the heart. John Piper reminds us that, “Like a great declaration of freedom over every book on fasting flies the banner, ‘Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do’ (1 Corinthians 8:8).” Jesus points out that there once were two men. One said, “I fast twice a week,” the other said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” Only one went down to his house justified (Luke 18:12– 14). If we fast out of a desire for religious performance, we’ve missed the point. Fasting is about surrender, dependence, and hunger for His mercy and transformation. The most important word on fasting in the Bible comes in Matthew 9:14– 17. Using two parables, Jesus addresses the issues of when to fast and why to fast. (We encourage you to read John Piper’s reflections on this text but below is a stirring conclusion from it). John Piper summarized this teaching: “What’s new about fasting is that it rests on all this finished work of the Bridegroom (Jesus). The yearning that we feel for revival or awakening or deliverance from corruption is not merely longing and aching. The fi rst fruits of what we long for have already come. The down payment of what we yearn for is already paid. The fullness we are longing for in fasting has appeared in history and we have beheld Jesus in His glory. It is not merely future. We have tasted the powers of the kingdom to come, and so our renewed fasting is not because we are hungry for something we have not tasted, but because the new wine of Jesus’ presence is so real and satisfying. We have tasted it so wonderfully by his Spirit and cannot now be satis fi ed until the consummation of joy arrives. We must have all he promised. And as much now as possible.
Every year at Bridgeway, we invite our church family to participate in a 40-day fast in preparation for our annual Regional Worship, Prayer and Healing Gathering. We want to go into that event as close to the Lord as possible.
We are to pray intensely for ourselves, our neighborhoods, our church, our region, our country and the world during the 40-Day Fast. We want to hear God’s voice and see Him move. We want Him to heal any issue He wants to heal and any situation He wants to correct. We are in His hands, He is the author of these days, and He is connected intimately with us in this formative time of worship, prayer and healing.
At Bridgeway, we focus on two types of fasts before the Regional Worship Prayer and Healing Gathering:
40 Days of Experiential Fasting – This is 40 days of removing something from your life for the Lord that may be distracting you from hearing His voice. It could be something sinful you struggle with that God has been asking you to set aside. You can take these 40 days to submit it to Him and deny yourself. Alternatively, you can remove something that is not inherently sinful but may negatively impact your life or take too much of your attention (sweets, social media, caffeine, etc.).
Food Fasting on Wednesday – Each Wednesday during the 40 days, we are fasting from food during that day (so, you eat a meal on Tuesday evening and then your next meal is Wednesday evening or Thursday morning). If you are new to fasting or have medical concerns, you may need to only fast one meal on Wednesday or make some other dietary modification. The goal is not to be unhealthy, so please adjust your fasting goals to avoid anything that could create a health challenge for you. The goal of food fasting is to deprive yourself in some way and allow your hunger to remind you of your need for God’s presence. but to deprive yourself to some degree.
There are several purposes of the 40-Day Fast
1. To repent of anything that has made our hearts cold towards God. Broken and contrite hearts lay the foundation for a great move of God. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
2. To commit ourselves to the work of seeking unity in the body of Christ. In these divisive and uncertain times, we believe it is paramount that we model unity for a watching world by remaining united as a church and uniting with churches throughout our region.
3. To seek God’s face for revival in our land, that He would pour out His Holy Spirit in power on His church, on His people, on our broken and dry land. We seek an increase in deliverance from sin, in the blessing of His presence in our lives and in a great harvest of lost souls.
Ultimately, during this time we want to prepare our hearts and to pray and hear God’s voice! Through fasting, we can increase our attentiveness to God’s Spirit because when we notice something missing, it can be a reminder to turn our attention to Him. We believe this period of intentionally seeking the Lord will allow us to go into the Regional Worship, Prayer, and Healing Gathering ready to encounter Him!
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Regional Worship Prayer & Healing Gathering
Worship, Prayer, and Healing Night began, here at Bridgeway, as a cry of desperation for God to fill the holes that we as humans are unable to fill, and problems we are unable to fix. The church began to come together for these all-out worship nights, and every year we end our church-wide, 40-Day Fast with Worship, Prayer, and Healing Night on Sunday, November 13th at 6:00 pm.
If you have any needs that you are carrying that you would want to be covered in prayer, whether they are physical or emotional, come ready to receive prayer and intercede for others with their needs.
Come ready to press into worship, we want to lay down everything to the Lord in our praise, so we can press in and dig deep into our praise.