Here we go – 2018! It often takes me a week or so to get accustomed to writing the new year on documents, but we’ll get there.
As we enter 2018, I realize that there are many among us looking forward to it, and the events that it will hold, with great anticipation. Perhaps there will be a high school or college graduation, a wedding, a baby on the way, a job change, or a new house. For others among us, the year 2018 may be filled with anxiety, dread, or fear. For most people, thoughts of 2018 stir up a combination of both anticipation and anxiety. In any case, the most important priority for us as we enter 2018, is to be firmly connected with the one who holds us, and who can guide us through all that the year has to offer.
Jesus encourages us in Matthew 6:33 to seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and that is exactly what we are going to do. I want to encourage you now to begin to plan to join the whole congregation for a 21-day season of prayer and fasting beginning January 6, 2018. You’ll be hearing more about this fast between now and then, but I wanted to write this article to help you prepare in order to get the most out of that time.
What is fasting?
Fasting is voluntarily abstaining from eating and/or drinking for a specific period of time for the purpose of drawing close to God. Be wise in your consideration of how you will fast, and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you in what you will do. Fasting is not to be a source of spiritual pride or to be seen as a way to “twist God’s arm.” It is not a hunger strike – it is a fast. Consider your personal health and livelihood as you consider the best way to fast. Many people may even want to consult their doctor as they consider the best way to fast.
Prepare for your fast.
Decide in advance how you will seek the Lord in this season of fasting. Here are a few options to consider:
- An absolute fast: There are multiple examples of this in scripture. This is the type of fasting Judah’s King Jehoshaphat called for when his country was confronted with invasion (2 Chronicles 20:3). The Lord defeated their enemies, and the men of Judah blessed the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:24–27). After the Babylonian captivity, the people returning to Jerusalem prayed and fasted, asking God for His protection on their journey (Ezra 8:21). This type of fasting should be entered into with caution and should only be practiced for a few days at a time.
- Partial fasts: This is the most common form of fasting and is sometimes referred to as a “Daniel Fast.” You can read about Daniel’s experience in Daniel 10:1-14. There are several variations of this fast that I’ll share with you.
- Fasting from all solid foods: You may decide to fast by drinking only water, juices, and broth.
- Fasting from specific foods: Like Daniel, you may decide to abstain from specific foods such as meat, sweets, bread, etc.
- Intermittent fasting: You may decide to fast specific meals during the day or specific days during the week.
Prepare your heart.
Remember that the primary goal of fasting is to seek the Lord and his ways. It is critical that you enter into a season of fasting with a humble and submitted heart, desiring God’s will to be fully done in your life.
From that foundation of submission, you may want to seek the Lord for specific insight or breakthrough in your life. Know why it is that you are fasting.
Prepare your environment.
There may be things that you want to prepare in your environment to remove distractions and temptation. You may want to remove specific apps from your phone as well as certain foods from your house. If you are married and/or have a family, please talk together about your plans so you can support one another in the process.
Prepare your schedule.
Since the primary goal of fasting is to seek and encounter the Lord, you’ll need to carve out additional time to be with him. Decide where and when you’ll get time with God, read his Word, pray, and just be silent before him. Create a time of undistracted time with him.
Prepare to process.
Finally, consider how you will process the work of God in your life during this time. You may decide to daily journal your experience, or you may want to set aside specific times with your spouse or a friend to talk as a way of making the most of God’s work in your life.
For some it may sound a bit odd to look forward to fasting. But I have enough experience with fasting to know that it is consistently a great time of fellowship with the Lord and often marks seasons of significant progress in our life with him. 2018 will be a great year – no matter what events it may hold – because we know who will be holding us through the entire year.
Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”