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Brian Key

Brian Key

Season of Prayer & Fasting

fasting blog

Over the last couple of weeks, you have heard from our pastors about a burden from God to engage in a season of fasting and pursuit of God. There hasn’t been much by way of publicity or promotion because we don’t want this to be about a hashtag, but about hearts yearning for and pursuing God himself. And this isn’t some corporate fast where we are all doing the same thing. Instead, we want to extend an invitation to join us in a zealous pursuit of God, and give you the freedom to decide what you need to or want to abstain from in order to make room for that pursuit in your life.

For many of us, the idea of fasting is just that—an idea. It falls on the list of “good things that I should do, but will do when I get around to it,” like going to the gym, creating a budget, or cleaning the basement. For others, the idea of fasting is merely tied to the idea of abstinence, or a duty to perform by the spiritual elite.

But Jesus seemed to have other ideas about the necessity of fasting for his followers. In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus discusses the discipline of fasting as a part of the normal rhythm of life for his disciples. He starts off in v. 16, saying, “And when you fast…” When, not if. When.

In the context, Jesus talks about fasting alongside giving and praying as practices that will mark his disciples’ lives. The goal of giving and praying seems pretty simple—taking care of the needs of the poor, and pouring out our hearts to our father for his provision, protection, and the glory of his name. But what is the goal of fasting?

THE Goal of Fasting

When we fast we deny ourselves the proximate pleasures of this world, and seek pleasure in the presence of God. We focus not on the meals that we miss, but on the one who is the true bread that comes down from heaven who promises “whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). During a fast, we pursue God himself and declare our dependence on his sustaining power.

Fasting, then, is at its core about a focused pursuit of God and the goal is not simply abstaining from food (or other things), but to enjoy God and experience his presence and power in new ways. In his new book, Practicing the Power, Sam Storms says that “fasting is feasting on God, drawing deeply upon his presence, depending wholly on his power, enjoying his goodness, gazing on his beauty, and trusting him to do for us what we could never remotely expect to do on our own.”

Our Prayer for this Season

We have tons of things that we are praying for in this season. We are praying that God provides for a number of staff needs, alongside a growing number of invitations that our leaders are sensing from the Lord in this season. But our goal isn’t merely to cry out to God to meet our needs. We want to seek his face and experience his presence and power in new ways. Here’s how I’m praying for our church in this season:

  • I am praying that God deepens our affections for him and our walks with him.
  • I am praying that we press into the presence of God so much that we have the kind of relationship where he speaks to us “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).
  • I am praying that we experience the power of the Spirit and the outpouring of the gifts he gives to build us up and advance the gospel.
  • I am praying that God renews our commitment to see the redemptive realities of the kingdom of Jesus spread into every corner of this city.
  • I am praying that our baptismal waters are filled with people who have come to faith as a result of our prayers and witness in this season.
  • I am praying that God opens our eyes to see the needs around us and gives us the courage to take big risks to increase flourishing in the lives our families, friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens of this city.
  • How you Can Participate

    A fast can take on a number of different forms. Some may choose to fast from food or drink. Others may choose to fast from social media or other activities. To consider what you need to abstain from during this season, it may be helpful to consider the question, “What do you feel a compulsion to run toward or reach for when you are bored and need comfort?” By the way, if it is sin, to lay that down isn’t a “fast.” That’s called repentance and obedience.

    Or maybe you could ask it another way: What in your life, if you abstained from it for a season would create a sense of hunger in you that God could use to draw you in to feast on him in new ways?

    And, it is critical to remember that where you create space in your life to feel your dependence through abstinence, be sure to fill that space with pursuit of God. Storms says, “Fasting is about spiritual indulgence! It is not a giving up of food (or some activity) for it’s own sake. It is about giving up food for Christ’s sake. We are always driven to fast because we hunger for something more than food. This means that fasting is motivated by the prospect of pleasure. The heart that fasts cries out, ‘This I want more than the pleasure of food.’”

    What is God inviting you to abstain from so that you can pursue him in this season? What might God produce in this church family in this season as we pursue him together? What might God do in our city and this world as we seek his face and pray for his kingdom to break into every corner where sin tries to resist it?

    Let’s seek God with restless abandon in this season and not just talk about being satisfied in him but actually find him to be as satisfying as he promises to be.

    Resources for Fasting

    Books

  • A Hunger for God by John Piper
  • Practicing the Power by Sam Storms – Not a book on fasting primarily, but on cultivating the work of the Spirit in your life. The chapter on fasting is phenomenal.
  • Habits of Grace by David Mathis – A great book on how to cultivate spiritual disciplines in your life in ways that focus more on the grace to be experienced through the discipline than the disciplines themselves.
  • Articles

  • Fasting for Beginners by David Mathis – Great steps and guidelines for you if this is your first time fasting.
  • Recommended Resources for Fasting from Desiring God
  • Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. King by Responding to His Exhortation

    Today is a national celebration of the life, work, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For many people, today is just another day off, but let me encourage you to engage today prayerfully reflecting on the life of a man whose prophetic voice and presence still echo almost 50 years after his assassination.

    LETTER FROM A BIRMINGHAM JAIL

    Each year as I commemorate this holiday, I go back to reread Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” I will do so later today and I invite you to do the same.

    King’s letter, written in April 1963, is a response to a letter from white clergymen in Birmingham urging him to slow down, calling the civil rights demonstrations there “unwise and untimely.”

    In King’s letter, he expresses that he longed to see white Christians calling for justice as loudly as people of color (many of whom were brothers and sisters in Christ, and all of whom are created in the image of God, with inherent dignity and worth, and therefore, deserving of righteousness and justice in their relationships with their fellow man).

    King says (in part):

    “In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevances and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of the mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, “Those are social issues with which the gospel has no concern.”


    “The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanctions of things as they are.”

    WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE FOR US TO RESPOND?

    Sadly, the critique within this letter has a haunting timelessness and timeliness for the church in a world that still wonders what the church has to say to issues of racial injustice, and the fruits of racial injustice that have had broad sweeping effects.

    As a predominantly white church in the middle of a city that has a history of racial injustice, with whole sections of our city still reeling from the effects of the racialization in our city, we cannot be silent. We cannot stand on the sideline. We cannot be content with pious irrelevancies. As a church committed to seeing the gospel of the kingdom advance, we have to live in light of Jesus’ proclamation of his own mission and align ourselves accordingly:

    The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)

    For us to flesh out our mission “to cultivate communities of transformed disciples who live for the glory of God and the good of the city” we have to be a people who are prompted by the word of God to live as agents of reconciliation and renewal, bearing fruit of the kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim and inaugurate.

    Let me encourage you to read Dr. King’s letter today. Pray with me that God gives us eyes to see where and how he is inviting you individually, and our church family corporately to step toward the healing of racial injustice, as well as the long-standing effects of racial injustice in our city. Let’s commit together not just to let these thoughts affect our thinking today, but shape how we live out the mission that God has called us to for decades to come.

    I love all of you and am honored to serve with you as we seek to advance the gospel of the kingdom together in our city.