40 Days of Discipline


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 15 – Fasting

On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. (Nehemiah, 9:1, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Today is dedicated to fasting.  I encourage you to sacrifice at least one meal and spend extra dedicated time focusing on God.  If you are considering a food fast, please take your health into account.

Fasting, of course, is not a bargaining chip to get what we want from God.  Instead, God has elected to use this Discipline as a means of changing our circumstances, and more importantly as a means of changing us. 

Requests:

  • Please be sure to dedicate time for worship and prayer.
  • In the first comment to this post some suggested matters for prayer will be listed.  Please consider sharing other prayer requests or any relevant words of encouragement.


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40 Days of Discipline:  Day 14 – Fasting

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1 – 3, New International Version)

Theme:  The Local Church

Context:

Thanks for all your helpful comments during our review of prayer! Today, we turn to the Discipline of Fasting. The attitude of local churches towards this discipline varies significantly.  We recognize and respect that not all local churches view this discipline as a priority.  However, in our 40-day journey we consider fasting a valuable Discipline.  We will again begin by considering some questions about the role of fasting in your local church. 

Please note that tomorrow, we will continue our tradition of engaging jointly in a day of fasting.   

Questions:

  1. Does your local church teach biblical principles about fasting?
  2. If fasting is encouraged, is corporate fasting ever organized?
  3. If fasting is not encouraged, is there an explanation for why it isn’t?
  4. Are the leaders of your church committed to fasting in their personal lives?

Your Feedback:

As mentioned in the context we are respectful of different views and our aim is not to criticize churches.  Instead of commenting on a particular church, we would love to hear your personal views on local churches fasting together.  All views are truly welcomed. 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 15 – Fasting

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:1 – 3)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

Today is dedicated to Fasting.  I encourage you to sacrifice at least one meal and spend extra dedicated time focusing on God.  If you are considering a food fast, please take your health into account.

In today’s passage, the Holy Spirit provided very clear directions to the prophets and teachers while they were worshipping and fasting.  As we consider our roles in advancing God’s kingdom, we too need clarity. 

Fasting, of course, is not a bargaining chip to get what we want from God.  Instead, God has elected to use this Discipline as a means of changing our circumstances, and more importantly as a means of changing us. 

Please prayerfully read the passage above. During your time of fasting, ask God for increased clarity with regards to the ways He wants you to participate in the advancement of His kingdom.     

Requests:

  • Please don’t just sacrifice meals without dedicating time for worship and prayer.
  • Please consider sharing any relevant words of encouragement that come to your mind as you fast.
  • Finally, if you feel led, please share any thoughts on how God has called or is calling you to service.


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 14 – Fasting

15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”  17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions. (Esther 4:15 – 17)

Theme:  If not You, then Who?

Today we turn our attention to the Discipline of Fasting.  Tomorrow we will hold our annual day of fasting for all who are able and willing to give up at least one meal and dedicate extra time to focusing on God. 

In the Old Testament book of Esther, the Jews are facing annihilation unless King Xerxes changes a decree he was advised to enact.  Mordecai, Queen Esther’s father by adoption, wants Queen Esther to use her influence with King Xerxes to cancel the decree.  Queen Esther is reluctant to approach the King without invitation because this could result in a death sentence for her.  Mordecai tells her she can’t remain silent and asks her, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”  A paraphrase of Mordecai’s question could be, if not you, then who?

Our passage for today picks the story up after Queen Esther concludes that she has to follow Mordecai’s instructions, and her response illustrates the importance of fasting.  There are lessons for us as we answer God’s call on our lives and confront inevitable challenges.

Please read the passage above and answer the question below.

Question

What were Esther’s challenges and why do you believe fasting was an appropriate response? 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 15 – Fasting

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:16 – 18)

 

Today is dedicated to Fasting.  I encourage you to make a significant sacrifice (e.g. at least two meals or no social media).  As a reminder, if you are considering a food fast, please take your health into account.

Please prayerfully read the passage above and consider following the instructions below.

Instructions

  • Prepare a prayer list that includes world events, governments, people who are suffering, unsaved people in your sphere of influence, and missionaries you know.
  • Make your prayer requests as specific as possible.
  • Spend time at the start of the day asking God to prepare your heart and mind for the day of fasting.
  • Spend quality time worshipping God and praying throughout the day.
  • Finally, if you feel led, please share words of encouragement during your day of fasting.

 

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 14 – Fasting

6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?  Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (Isaiah 58:6 – 10)

 

Today we commence our reflections on the Discipline of Fasting.  As mentioned earlier this week, tomorrow we will fast together.  Most of us will do a food fast but some may elect another kind of fast (e.g., social media).  As always, you should take your health into account if you are considering a food fast.

As we focus on fasting, it is important to remember that our motivation matters.  Fasting is not a magic wand that gets us what we want regardless of what we believe or do.  Interestingly, our passage today makes a strong link between our attitude towards the world and God’s view of our fast.

Please prayerfully read the passage above and consider the question below.

 

Question

The passage above lists several actions that God points to as being consistent with the fast He has “chosen”.  What is God’s prescription for our attitude towards the world?

 

 


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 15 – Fasting

3So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.  4I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.  6We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. (Daniel 9:3 – 6)

 

Today we continue our focus on the Discipline of Fasting. Please consider a food fast for at least a portion of the day if you have no health concerns. Alternatively, you might want to go on a non-food fast by giving up something that consumes a lot of your attention/energy (e.g., social media) for at least a portion of the day.

During your time of fasting, spend as much time as you can in prayer and in God’s word, and focus especially on God’s glory (declaring it, experiencing more of it and praying for others to experience it through Jesus).  The passage above from Daniel should serve as inspiration.

 

Reflections:

Please post your comments at the end of your fast and share what you can about your experience.


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 14 – Fasting

4Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: 5“Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?  6And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves? (Zechariah 7:4 – 6)

 

Today we turn our attention to the Discipline of Fasting.  Often, people fast when they want to get a special prayer answered.  Of course, the Bible does support fasting for special requests and for other objectives such as humility.  If we deeply consider the Biblical basis for fasting though, we come back to the question God asked in the passage above from Zechariah: “was it really for me that you fasted?”.  Like every other Discipline, Fasting must ultimately be for God’s glory.

Before we get to our question today, I want to give you a heads up that tomorrow will be dedicated to actually fasting (i.e., not just theory). You should of course only participate in a food fast as your health allows.  I am raising this today since the blog is read at varying times of the day around the world.

Bringing our focus back to today, please prayerfully reflect on the passage above and consider the following question.

 

Question:

When you fast (food fast or otherwise), what do you usually focus on and why?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 15 – Fasting

3Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it?  Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’  “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.  You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. (Isaiah 58:3 – 4)

 

There is a risk with all the Disciplines that we end up viewing them as brownie points earners so we can get what we want from God.  We might be especially susceptible to this in the case of Fasting because we could be seduced into seeing this Discipline as a kind of magic wand to increase the odds of prayers being answered.  Today’s passage provides a clear message on the Biblical mindset we should adopt with regards to fasting.  We can forget about fasting if we aren’t committed to being who God wants us to be.

Please prayerfully reflect on the words of passage above.

 

Something to think about:

What is the attitude that God wants us to adopt when we practice Fasting?


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40 Days of Discipline: Day 14 – Fasting

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18)

 

Today we turn our attention to the Discipline of Fasting.  For a variety of reasons this Discipline is one of the least understood.  If you would like to read about the Discipline, I encourage you to visit the Disciplines tab on our www.40daysofdiscipline.com website.

The passage above assumes fasting is a part of our lives (“When you fast”).  It also clearly admonishes us to avoid practicing this Discipline as a self-righteous act.   In the context of our identity, an interesting dynamic potentially emerges as we consider Fasting: Self Denial ==> God Discovery ==> Self Discovery.

Please prayerfully reflect on the words of Jesus above.

 

Something to think about:

How might the practice of fasting sharpen your understanding of who God wants you to be?