I have been pastoring for some time and have led our church into many seasons of prayer and fasting. Lately I have been contemplating how effective those seasons have been and wondering if there is more we could do to make the experience of greater benefit.
A season of fasting and prayer is when we should experience deep spiritual change in our lives, bringing about an incalculable spiritual fruitfulness. Spending intentional time with Jesus should not only deepen a person's relationship with Christ, but also have a radical effect on their external life, their triumphs, and their successes.
With these thoughts bundled up within me, I have felt led to create a guide to a 21-day fast. When I say “led," I am not saying I have come up with a good idea and am being self-led. Nor am I saying I have developed an ambition to write on this subject, hoping to gain some level of influence as an expert. Neither is true. When I say “led," I mean led by the Holy Spirit.
I realize those who read this book may not have a natural desire to read it; neither may they, at first glance, consider the content full of good ideas. Nor may they have an ambition to read this or fast at all, considering all their other responsibilities. Some others, however, might be sensing the Holy Spirit’s leading them to read and participate in fasting so they may pursue Jesus more intently. They may be longing for some much needed triumphs and successes just beyond their reach. Others may also recognize a need for a spiritual reset, compelling them to engage in a life-revolutionizing 21-day season of fasting. Either way, may I urge you to read and see what Jesus just might do with a time of fasting in your life?
If you are being led by the Spirit, you can assume you are not reading this under obligation, for anyone who is led by the Spirit does not live life in bondage to an obligation (Galatians 5:18). Instead, those who are led by the Spirit of Jesus live as children who are motivated by the Father's love, a desire to more deeply know Him, and a desire to more triumphantly live with Him (Romans 8:14).
Our approach is simple. In this guide, we are going to lead you through a daily walk of fasting, in the hopes it will create a Jesus revolution in your heart.
In other words, over the next twenty-one days, you will slowly become a different person. At the outset, you may not be aware of the subtle changes the Holy Spirit is making, but be assured that when these daily Jesus-changes are made, they will add up to a life change. We pray this life change will have three goals:
a) Deepen your relationship with Jesus, thus renewing your spirit.
b) Reset essential habits of life to lead you into triumphs and victories only Jesus can produce.
c) Allow Christ's grace and favor to be fully restored so you can enjoy the successes prepared for you.
While every day is a fast day, not every day in this 21-day fast is a no-food day. Right now you are fasting or abstaining from something so you can read this book. There are other things to fast than just food.
The goal of this book is not for you to learn about prayer and fasting before you begin a season of prayer and fasting, but to use the fast itself as an opportunity to learn about prayer and fasting.
Some assume a season of prayer and fasting is about abstaining from food so one can pray. I call this starvation prayer. To not eat just so one can pray would be more like taking your wife on a date, doing all the talking, and then wondering why you didn’t feel any closer to your wife. My goal is not just to talk to my wife, but to listen to her and get to know her. Fasting isn’t for more prayer, but dialogue, which involves much listening.
Neither fasting nor prayer is a goal, but a tool to get you to your goal.
So if fasting and prayer are tools, what should they accomplish? This is what we hope to answer over the following 21 Days. To best answer this question, each day is divided into five sections.
1. Daily Directives
2. Daily Scripture
3. Daily Commentary
4. Daily Decisions
5. Daily Journal Thoughts
We will explain more about each of these five sections on day two and let you just experience each of them today, before they are explained.
The directive for today is to awaken to the fact that Jesus is wanting to call you into a journey where:
a) your relationship with Him can be renewed, and thus your own spirit;
b) your habits can be reset for triumph;
c) His grace can be restored, so the successes He has planned for you can be realized.
“I have given you every place where the sole of your foot treads, just as I promised Moses. … 5 No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or abandon you.
Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. Above all, be strong and very courageous to observe carefully the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:3-9 CSB
Let me review this passage in the following way. Moses had recently died, and Joshua was taking his place as the leader of Israel. Yahweh had come to announce to Joshua and Israel that His plan had not changed. The promise Yahweh had made to Israel to give them Palestine as an inheritance was not changing just because some circumstance had changed.
It is important for us to know that God's plans and promises for our lives do not change just because some circumstances have changed. God's Word is not detoured or obstructed by changing physical circumstances of any kind. A change of leadership was not going to change God's plan.
If you look in verses 1 through 5 of the passage above, two insights should grab you:
1) Yahweh had already given the Israelites the land they had yet to possess (Joshua 1:3).
2) No one would be able to stand against Joshua and Israel as they went in to possess the land (Joshua 1:5).
In the first five verses, Israel is told they had, in promise, already received land and no one could stop them. In verses 6-9, Yahweh tells Israel how they can turn the promise of what was already theirs into an experience. What was theirs by promise needed to become theirs in experience.
Yahweh told Joshua the Israelites would need to:
1. Express an unbreakable trust in Yahweh to keep the promise He made to Moses.
2. Establish the spiritual habits necessary to develop God's inner strength and courage to resist all opposition.
3. Meditate on God’s word perpetually so they could obey what God was commanding.
In essence, Yahweh was telling Joshua and Israel that they needed to win in their spirits before they could win in physical reality.
Fasting and prayer allow your heart to refocus, not on what you can do to win, but on God's promises.
When our focus is on the promises of God and carefully embracing His work, we prosper and succeed in everything we do.
"This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to meditate on it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do." Joshua 1:8 CSB
By definition, fasting means to abstain from food. The English word fasting once also meant self-control. The main point of fasting is to exercise self-control under the power of the Holy Spirit, to abstain from certain activities in order to engage in others, with the purpose of growing closer to Christ (Galatians 5:22-23).
The first decision you must make in relationship to fasting is: when will you abstain from other things and make reading this book and spending time with Jesus your priority? What will you say no to? What will you say yes to and when?
If you seek to try to do this at some unplanned, uncommitted time over the next twenty-one days, you will fail. You will fast a bit and pray a bit, but essentially be the same person at the end of this season. The Holy Spirit seeks to bring you into a commitment to set aside a specific time every day where you give Him permission to work on your spirit, your hidden life. While you say no to your outer life, which is usually quite loud, you can say yes to your inner life— an inner life where you welcome Jesus to feed you, refresh you, and reset you.
Question: what time during the day will you assign to spending time with Jesus and working through this book?
Here is where you take out your journal. You will do two things in this journal. First, write out each day of your 21-day fast the things Jesus is leading you to do or not do. Devote an entire page or two, whatever is needed, to capture those commitments necessary to let Jesus lead you in this fast.
Imagine you are starting on January 8th. You would begin by writing at the top of the page, "Prayer and Fasting Commitments.” Then, at the top-left side of the page, you would write down the date: January 8, 2018. Next to the date you might write something like, “Committed to read this book from 6:30 a.m. to 6:50 a.m., every morning for the next three weeks.”
Each day you will likely write a new commitment; so each day you will want to date your new commitment.
You may find it interesting to write down these commitments instead of keeping them in your head. To retrace where Jesus has taken you at the end of the twenty-one days might prove fascinating.
Give yourself a couple of pages for all of this, and then at the top of another page, write the date again: January 8, 2018. Next, take a moment to write out a prayer asking Jesus to empower you, by His Spirit, to exercise self-control over the next twenty-one days to spend extra time with Him. Continue this pattern of writing a daily commitment and a prayer for the twenty-one days.
You have made a commitment to move closer to Jesus, and that commitment will be attacked. You will go through times of discouragement, and some days will not seem as productive as others. You might even fail to keep your commitment a time or two. Know this: satan will seek to keep you side-railed, off-track, distracted, discouraged, and disillusioned. You will need the help of the Holy Spirit. Pray and ask for His help. Use your journal to record your prayer. The Holy Spirit will do an amazing work as you fast; He will empower you to finish, no matter what.
Example of Your Journal
Prayer and Fasting Commitment
Couple of Pages Later