An invitation: In light of the COVID-19 pandemic I am inviting the New Hope Church family to set aside Wednesdays as a day of fasting and prayer during which we seek God’s mercy for these uncertain and grievous days. -Pastor Matthew
Responding to an existential threat from an approaching army, one ancient monarch, Jehoshaphat, called his people to “fast throughout all” the land (2 Chron. 20:3). So the people came from far and wide “to seek the LORD” (2 Chron. 20:4). Indeed, King Jehoshaphat told them to turn to God, saying, “If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or plague, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you [O LORD]–for your name is in this house–and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save” (2 Chron. 20:9). In the midst of a great crisis, a fast was proclaimed so that people could cry out to God for mercy.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make its way across the globe, taking lives, endangering livelihoods, and forcing isolation, King Jehoshaphat’s proclamation during those ancient days takes on new importance. Consider what Dallas Willard penned about fasting:
Fasting confirms our utter dependence upon God by finding in him a source of sustenance beyond food. Through it, we learn by experience that God’s word to us is a life substance, that it is not food (“bread”) alone that gives life, but also the words that proceed from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). We learn that we too have meat to eat that the world does not know about (John 4:32, 34). Fasting unto our Lord is therefore feasting—feasting on him and on doing his will. (The Spirit of the Disciplines, p. 166)
Elsewhere, John R. W. Stott has written,
We are not to humble ourselves before God only in penitence for past sin, however, but also in dependence on him for future mercy. The evidence is plain that special enterprises need special prayer, and that special prayer may well involve fasting. (The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, p.137)
These words help us to understand the benefit of fasting, but a common concern arises about how to fast. Perhaps the following, intended for a full-day’s fast and adapted from our friends at The Moody Church in Chicago, will prove helpful:
The evening before, eat a light dinner. Spend time in personal confession and yieldedness to God. Abstain from TV and other input that would divert you from having a special meeting with God.
The day of the fast, drink water, coffee, or juices but abstain from food.
In the morning, resolve to focus on two or three promises from God (e.g. Psalm 145:18; Jeremiah 33:3; John 15:7). Ask God to show you sin in your life that needs to be confessed and forsaken.
Add to the above promises your own concerns for you and your family, our church, our nation, and the world. Give particular attention to the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread physical, mental, economic, and relational impact it is having. Plead with God to be merciful.
Continue with your regular activities throughout the day, using your hunger as a reminder to love and trust God with the burdens on your heart. Pray silently as you work. If asked why you are not eating, simply say that you have chosen to fast on this day.
In the evening, join with other believers to affirm your own desperation to see God answer prayer.
The next morning, ask yourself:
What did I learn yesterday?
What sins were revealed to me?
What burdens were taken from my shoulders and transferred to God?
What do I now believe more fervently for my church, family or community?
What do I see more clearly than before?
What is the next step in my walk with God?
Please note: if you are unable to fast for health reasons, you are encouraged to do the above while maintaining your regular eating schedule. Fasting itself has no special merit in God’s sight but is an added means of revealing who we are in God’s presence.
Often my own routine finds me pursuing something similar to this a couple times a week with a light meal in the evening with my family. There are a variety of ways to approach it. The key is intentionality and dependency and a posture of prayer and humility. Give serious consideration to what fits your scenario the best.
I love hearing stories regarding how God is on the move in people’s lives. Feel free click on the Envelope at the top of the page to let me know how God has met you in the midst your own fasting experience.