This morning Ann and I began the Daniel Fast. We are as excited as a hobo with a ham sandwich, which is kind of a weird analogy since we are on a fast that does not allow bread or ham! Anyway, we fully anticipate feasting on God’s love and God’s way! We just want to know Him better and to understand how the Daniel fast fits as a tool to shape us into the very image of Jesus Christ.
So, this morning we cracked open our iPhones to Daniel, chapter 10, and read it in the English Standard Version (ESV) and New Living Translation (NLT). Talk about a Golden Globe Award moment! Daniel 10 reads like a Steven Spielberg science fiction such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind or Jurassic Park! You don’t believe me? Read it yourself! Basically, Daniel caught a glimpse of the battle between good and evil supernatural powers. Daniel was so frightened by the vision, he lost his speech, but the messenger’s touch restored it. Daniel felt weak and helpless, but the messenger’s words strengthened him.
But, get this, although God sent a messenger to Daniel, a powerful spiritual being detained the messenger for three weeks! Now, at time, Daniel had no idea this battle between good and evil was taking place in the heavenlies. God had not opened the curtain yet. But that didn’t matter to Daniel; he simply dropped to his knees and faithfully continued praying and fasting. God’s messenger eventually arrived, assisted by Michael, the archangel, and the messenger explained to Daniel what had transpired. Long story short: Don’t expect God’s answers to come too easily or too quickly. Prayer many be challenged by evil forces, so pray fervently and pray earnestly. Then expect God to answer at the right time!
I’ll blog more soon, but I have to bolt! Oh, BTW: Ann and I tapped into a great website to help us with the Daniel Fast: Daniel-fast.com. Check it out! Finally, the pastoral letter and fasting instructions that we had at church this weekend are attached below.
A Pastoral Letter to the River of Life Family—January 2020
Dear River of Lifer,
As we walk into 2020, let’s do so with the boldness and confidence of Joshua and Caleb, who looked at the giants in the land and rather than cowering like the other ten spies came back proclaiming, “By way of God’s power, we can take them!” Church, that’s the attitude we need as we enter 2020. Even though our “cultural giant” is seeking to devour our hearts and the hearts of our children, if we lock arms as a church, bend our knees and call out to God, He will restore His church, our families and our nation. It’s not too late!
As a church, let’s do our part! Let’s be unified in pursuing church health by praying for a fresh releasing of the Holy Spirit, a supernatural love for each other and a determination to be equipped to fight the good fight. This is going to mean intentional living! This is going to require that we spur one another to living with a Kingdom mindset! Are you in?
Ann and I invite you to join us in a 21-day Daniel fast from January 6-26 to kick-start the new year. Daniel, amid a great spiritual battle wrote, “At that time, I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips.” And please know, for Daniel, the fast led to spiritual victory in the heavenly realms where the real battle is raging. Read Daniel chapter ten…it’s crazy! Will you consider joining us?
Please know the idea of fasting has nothing to do with manipulating God or getting Him to love us more. God cannot be manipulated, and we can do nothing to make Him love us more than He already does; His love for us is complete and final. The idea of fasting is surrendering to God with the purpose of getting more of Him! More of His love that is readily available. More of His voice which is never silent. Any takers?
As we step into a new decade lets be known as a praying church; a church with worn knees, open ears and obedient feet, hearing the voice of God and following His lead! Let’s seek God’s Kingdom first! Let’s truly help people find and follow Jesus!
On the Victory Side,
PS: Following this letter, you will find details and information including a definition, explanation and guidelines of fasting and prayer.
Definition of Fasting
According to Millard J. Erickson’s Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology, “Biblical fasting is the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function of eating food for the purpose of intense spiritual activity.” For Ann and me the idea of fasting is to replace physical food with spiritual food. To hunger and thirst for His righteousness rather than rather than hunger and thirst for our favorite food and drink! In addition, when Ann and I are super hungry, probably during normal breakfast, lunch or dinner times, we also plan to put our phones and other electronic devices away so as not to be distracted from hearing God’s voice and following His lead.
Not a New Law
Please know the motivation of fasting is not to place a new “law” or “regulation” on the River of Life family; rather we celebrate the wonderful and liberating truth that the Christian’s acceptability to God is based on His love, grace and mercy in Christ Jesus. Paul makes this very clear in Romans 8:1-4.
Therefore, know that fasting (or any other human effort) is not a means of salvation, nor is it a penance to earn God’s love or forgiveness. With thanksgiving to God that we are under God’s grace, we urge you to fast and pray, not as a means whereby we can experience God’s approval and favor, nor as a spiritual “gimmick” to manipulate God for our purposes, but rather as way to seek God’s Kingdom first; to fully surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. As you fast, it is our prayer that you will experience His grace and power in a new and fresh way!
Three Types of Fasting
There are three types of fasting illustrated in biblical examples. The first type is the “Normal Fast.” The Normal Fast is defined as going without food but drinking fluids, such as water, various juices, etc. This type of fast could last for up to forty days.
The second kind of fast in the “Complete Fast,” during which no food nor fluids are ingested. Obviously, this fast should last no more than a few days. Examples of this type of fast in the Scriptures can be found in Acts 9:9; Ezra 10:6 and Esther 4:16.
The third type of fast is the “Partial Fast,” which is a Normal Fast that is on occasion interrupted because of health restrictions or social obligations. A biblical example of this type of fast can be found in Daniel’s life in Daniel 10:3. Though less demanding than a Normal Fast, the Partial Fast is a legitimate form of fasting and is to be respected, as illustrated by Daniel’s action that resulted in great victory over the powers of Satan.
Biblical Examples of Fasting
The biblical record of fasting reads like a “Who’s Who” of Scripture. Some examples of fasting in the Scriptures include:
- Abraham’s servant when he was seeking a bride for Isaac.
- Moses on Mount Sinai.
- Hannah when she prayed for a child.
- David on several occasions.
- Ezra when he was mourning Israel’s faithlessness to God.
- Nehemiah when he was preparing his return trip to Israel from the Babylonian captivity.
- Esther when God’s people were threatened with extermination.
- Daniel on several occasions.
- The people of Nineveh, and their animals, when confronted with God’s coming judgment.
- Jesus when He began His public ministry.
- Paul at the point of his conversion.
- The Christians at Antioch when they sent Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journey.
- Paul and others when they appointed elders & pastors in various churches, they planted
The Purposes of Fasting
Like other spiritual disciplines, fasting should not be practiced as some legalistic way to gain God’s favor. Instead, fasting is a way for us to develop our intimacy with God. By way of fasting and praying we better understand the nature of God’s authority, power and lordship over our lives. Some additional purposes of fasting include:
- Seeking God intensely when there is a great or urgent need. An example of this can be found in Ezra 8:22-23.
- Developing a deeper intimacy with God. Examples of this are found in Isaiah 58:1-12 and Zechariah 8: 18-23. The goal of this purpose of fasting is the development of a Deeper Life of knowing and following the Lord Jesus. This category includes fasting as an act of repentance for sin.
- Seeking God for revival and the special anointing of the Holy Spirit. A wonderful Biblical example can be found in the passages of Joel 1:13-14; 2:12-15; and 2:28-32.
- Bringing deliverance to those in bondage, whether spiritual, emotional, sexual, chemical, or any other kind of bondage or spiritual oppression.A biblical example of this is found in Mark 9:14-29. That God responds to fasting to bring deliverance to those in bondage is vividly seen in Isaiah 58:6.
- Seeking God’s wisdom and guidance. This is illustrated by the Church in Antioch as they were deliberating whom to send on the first missionary journey. As Acts 13:1-3 records, out of such prayer and fasting they selected Paul and Barnabas.
A Spirit of Humility: The Key to Fasting
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus calls us to fast with a spirit of humility, rejecting the spiritual arrogance and hypocrisy so characteristic of the Pharisees (Mt. 6:16-18). Boasting of one’s fasting, drawing attention to the fact that one is fasting, and a competitive spirit of wanting to fast more than others, are all attitudes completely inconsistent with the instructions of Jesus. Instead, our Lord instructed that our fasting should be obvious “only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Mt. 6:18).
The humility expressed through fasting saturates and energizes our petitions with a special and unusual intensity. The teaching of Jesus in Matthew 6:16-18 places it as a spiritual discipline along with financial stewardship and prayer.
Jesus on Fasting
Though the New Testament does not specifically require that we fast, or set special times when we must fast, Jesus certainly assumes that we will fast, for He says to His disciples, “And when you fast” (Mt. 6:16). Moreover, Jesus also says, “The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Mt. 9:15). He is the Bridegroom, we are His disciples, and during this present church age He has been “taken” away from us until the day he returns. Most western Christians do not fast, but, if we were willing to fast more regularly—even for one or two meals—we might be surprised how much more spiritual power and strength we would have in our lives and in our church.
How to Pray During the Fast
The best way to begin is to ask the Holy Spirit how to pray during your fast! Seriously, sit still, get in a quiet space and ask God to direct you in prayer.
Another great way to pray during a fast is praying the “Disciples Prayer” in Matthew 6:9-15. According to Matthew 6:9 Jesus gave us a pattern for prayer! Ann and I suggest simply reading the verses, aloud, back to God as a prayer. Then sit back and listen to what the Holy Spirit says and how He guides. Meditate on the verse’s day and night!
Another good model is the A.C.T.S model (Adoration, Confessing, Thanksgiving and Supplication). Spend the first part of your prayer adorning God for who He is! “God, I adorn and worship You for Your love…for Your peace…for Your patience! Then move into a silent time of confession. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal sins that have been hidden. After confessing go into a time of thanksgiving. “God, thank you for my parents…my spouse…my friends…my job.” Then close by praying for others. Remember, as you go through the A.C.T.S model to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you for what to pray!
Clearly, fasting can have significant health implications for an individual. We urge thoughtful caution before beginning a fast. Many should seek a physician’s counsel. For many, health considerations may permit participation in a Partial Fast, only, if at all, especially if prescription medications are being taken or a chronic condition exists. Good stewardship of the physical care of our bodies is a clear biblical mandate, as well as obvious common sense.
A Suggested Guide to an Hour of Prayer
The following is a suggested guide on how to spend an hour in prayer in place of eating. Each of these segments is intended to be approximately five minutes in duration.
- Give praise to the Lord for Who He is.
- Waiting and listening to the “still small voice” of God.
- Confession of sin as the Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin.
- Reading scripture.
- Worship by singing or listening to Christian music, or by personal meditation of your heart.
- Thanksgiving to the Lord for His goodness and provision in your life.
- Intercession for individuals in the Grace Church family.
- Intercession for God’s wisdom and guidance for our church as we make decisions about our future in a spirit that seeks to be faithful to the Lord in responding to His work in the continuous growth of our church family.
- Intercession for others, such as friends, relatives, etc.
- Personal petitions. What does the Lord need to do in your life?
- Waiting and listening for the Lord
- Close giving praise and worship to the Lord.
Suggestions for a One Day Normal Fast
A one-day Normal Fast means that you do not eat food for one twenty-four period. You do, however, drink plenty of water of other fluids during that time.
Fasting is a private experience. However, if you live with other people, in kindness, you may wish to inform them of your decision to fast.
If you drink coffee, tea or soft drinks with caffeine in them, you may experience headaches during your day of fasting. This is a natural occurrence.
If you have health issues related to food, such as diabetes, you should check with your physician first. A partial fast may be the best form of fasting for you. Remember, self-denial is a matter of the heart before God.
Determine to spend the time you would normally be eating in solitude for the purpose of worship and intercessory prayer. Consider this schedule:
Morning time: Begin with personal worship, praise and personal heart preparation through reading Scripture and prayer. Begin with confession of sin and listening to God in His Word and silence.
Noon time: Use this time to intercede for the Church and ministries you are concerned about.
Supper time: Use this time to intercede for your family, for friends and other personal issues.
If you can’t fast for an entire day, you may want to try doing it for one meal a week or one meal a day. In any case use the time made available by not eating for prayer.
Like the first time you prayed out loud or shared your Christian testimony, fasting may seem to be difficult at first. Do not be discouraged. God will honor your step of obedient faith as each of us in the River of Life family seek to put God’s Kingdom first!