The leadership of my church has called a 21 day fast this month, it’s the same every January. This is well known in many churches, to call a 21 day fast the first month of the new year, have the congregation along with the leadership fast with the purpose of the coming year when it comes to the body. Renewal, strength, purity, holiness, evangelism, growth, finances and bold leadership.
So, how are we to fast? This is very different than a personal fast although it’s still very personal. We are seeking God as a body so we are all connected in this 21 days of fasting. In the word it says for us to fast in secret, don’t boast, don’t let others know, don’t make a show of it…. of course it is talking about “personal” fasting and this is very right. But many times in the Bible they were called to a community fast, to join together and seek God.
When we are in a corporate fast we need to share what the Lord is doing in our lives, what he is speaking about the body life of our church, where we are in Scripture. I personally believe that God will speak to a body that is in unity and seeking His face together, if you hear what he is saying to individuals you will find a common thread running through each testimony. It’s important to share what is happening during this time. It’s important to have specific area’s that we are fasting about.
There are always people within the church that will say “I’m not fasting unless the Lord tells me to” and bottom line that is NOT scriptural at all and it’s rebellion. They need to be taught. Fasting is a lost discipline within the church. I have often thought of the amazing power of a church if the entire body understood, embraced and followed through on a fast.
Here are some reasons why to fast in the church…..
Fasting was seen as an inportant part in deciding how to go about the work of the church. In Acts 13:1-3 we find that the church was “worshiping and fasting” when the Holy Spirit instructed them to set aside Paul and Barnabas for the work of God. In similar fashion, we find that elders were decided upon in Lystra in conjunction with prayer and fasting in Acts 14. It seems fitting that when decisions for the early church were to be made, and guidance from God was sought after, fasting was involved.
TO EXPRESS REPENTANCE
Whenever a genuine and passionate cry for repentance is offered up by God’s people it is usually evidenced by a time of fasting. That is, fasting outwardly portrays the subjective emotions of the repentant believer. A proper example is found in Daniel 9 where Daniel prays a beautiful prayer of repentance on behalf of Israel. Here is a sample of that prayer from Daniel 9:
“Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land…To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.”
TO UNITE GOD’S PEOPLE IN WORSHIP TO GOD
When corporate fasting is described in the Bible it usually places focus on a unified single-mindedness toward the holiness of God. Fasting expressed in a practical way, the desire to acknowledge the folly of man and the perfection and power of Yahweh. In Nehemiah 9 following the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, the people of God assembled together and participated in a corporate fast (9:1). Later on the text describes that upon reading the Law of God, the people confessed their sins and worshiped God (9:3). The early church also connected worship to God with fasting in Acts 13:2. Fasting therefore, appeared to be a response to God’s perfect holiness. It’s as if those we read in the Bible saw fasting as a declaration of their total dependence on God’s provision and grace.
So, how does all of this apply to the church today? While fasting seemed routine in the Bible, does it have any relevance in the today’s church? I think it does. I believe fasting draws our attention away from the cares and desires of the flesh and points us to the purpose of our existence, to glorify God.
It is so easy for us in today’s culture to lose sight of the mission and purpose of the church. Fasting, as a unified body, helps direct us back to that purpose, to reestablish the reason we were called out in the first place. It outwardly portrays the subjective emotions of the repentant believer, and places focus on a unified single-mindedness toward the holiness of God.
Embrace the fast that has been called and let’s set this city on fire.