What’s the aim?
To spend the day fasting and giving some deliberate time to private prayer, to household prayer, and to corporate prayer.
Why are we fasting?
It’s a clear biblical practice carried out by God’s people at times of crisis. The pandemic is clearly a crisis for our world and a crisis for the church. The church across the land has been unable to gather for public worship for the last 64 days; that situation is due to last for at least 100 days total. We should be humbled by that, confessing our sin to God, and asking him to have mercy upon us. It’s right to spend time in self-examination, and asking God to deepen his work in us and our love for the gospel.
How should I get ready to fast?
An early night beforehand will probably help. You’ll need to decide what time you’re going to get up. Decide ahead of time what meals you’re going to miss and how mealtimes will work with any children while you’re fasting.
Do I have to fast all day?
In the Bible, fasting involves not eating any food all day. If that is possible, that’s a good goal. However, many of us will have jobs to do, and children to look after. Fasting doesn’t excuse us from performing those responsibilities well, so it might not be possible to fast all day. It could still be possible to miss one meal and spend that time in prayer. There may also be medical reasons why fasting is not advisable for you.
I’d encourage you to drink liquids, like water and tea.
It’s helpful to see fasting like a piece of exercise equipment. It takes training before you’re able to get the most of it. It might be better to be less ambitious at first, and work up to a full day’s prayer and fasting. The point isn’t to not eat all day; it’s to use the fasting to help us to pray more deliberately.
If I fast all day, when should I break the fast?
The Bible mentions people fasting until evening, which suggests they then eat. Aim to last until after the prayer meeting.
How to pray?
All true prayer is offered to the one God, through the Lord Jesus Christ as Mediator, in dependence on the Holy Spirit. We don’t use techniques to draw us nearer to God, like incense and candles; Jesus brings us close to the Father.
The Bible doesn’t require specific posture for our prayers, but it does mention posture. For example, kneeling with hands raised is particularly appropriate for confession of sin (see Ezra 9:5). For our private prayers, it’s helpful to find a private, quiet space; if you share a bedroom, you might need to go outdoors.
When should I pray? For how long? How often?
Privately: Getting up early could be your only option to guarantee some time to pray. Aim to spend an extra 30 mins in prayer to normal. If you can split up prayer through the day, early morning, afternoon, and before bed, great. If you can go for longer, great. I will send out a guide to help steer our private prayers.
In households: Find a way to pray with children during their breakfast – particularly saying sorry to God.
Corporately: we’ll pray together as a church at lunchtime 12.30-1.15pm and at 8-9pm. Do join us then, and be ready to take part.
Some other things to think about:
Try to cut out distractions.
Our days are filled with distractions – the phone, social media, youtube, iplayer, watching a film, “marital relations” (1 Cor 7:5). The point of fasting is to stop using things that are good in themselves in order to focus directly on God. Use that extra time to pray!
What should I wear?
In the OT, people put on sackcloth and ashes, tore their clothes, and pulled their hair and beards out! I’m not suggesting we do any of those things, but think about what you put on: what will help you to feel humble, as though you want to get serious with God?
What acts of kindness can I show?
God’s people were always in danger of fasting for fasting’s sake. God called them to show generosity to others (Isa 58:6-7). Is there money you can give? Are there people you can go out of your way to help and show Christ-like love to?
Fasting is a tool in the Bible’s toolbox that often gets over-looked, and when it is pulled out is often mis-used. Let’s aim to use it in ways that glorify Christ. Our awesome, loving God says to us:
‘”Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments”. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster’ (Joel 2:12-13)