It is beyond doubt that the Bible, and people who are living a lifestyle of continual fasting and prayer today, can testify that this spiritual discipline, when done out of the right motives, can result in both a deepened relationship to God and to spiritual breakethroughs that He brings about for his kingdom.
Ever since the start of the Influx community in Norway 6-7 years ago, our desire has been to know God and walk in His ways! That longing is what is expressed in the first part of the Influx vision: “The Triune God in the centre” and in our corresponding understanding of church: “Christcentred church”. Furthermore, we believe that seeking Him first is the only foundation and cause for realising Jesus’ command to us, saying that we should make disciples of all the nations, which is in essence the second part of the Influx vision: “Back to Jerusalem”. So, to sum it up, it is all about God and his kingdom! And it is in this regard we touch upon the topic of fasting. We believe in fasting and prayer because God answers us by letting his Kingdom come!
Biblical fasting is both beautiful and powerful
When Jesus teaches on fasting in Mattew 6,17, He explains: “when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men 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“. What Jesus teaches us here is that the main thing with fasting from food is that you do it for God, not for the sake of being recognized by people. In that case it would be better not to fast at all.
Moving on from an individual perspective, we find both in the Old- and New Testament instances when a community or even a whole city or nation is fasting together, praying for God to intervene in their situation,- and God answers them! If you do a search in the bible, you will find that fasting is mentioned all through the Old Testament: in the books of Moses, in the historical writings, and in both the major and minor prophets. In the New Testament we find fasting to be a topic and discipline that Jesus both taught and practiced, as well as other people mentioned in the gospels, like Anna and John’s disciples. Also, people in the early church fasted, as seen in Acts. So why not encourage a culture of fasting and prayer in the Influx movement?!
“the main thing with fasting from food is that you do it for God, not for the sake of being recognized by people”
It is beyond doubt that the Bible, and people who are living a lifestyle of continual fasting and praying today, can testify that this spiritual discipline, when done out of the right motives, can result in both a deepened relationship to God and to spiritual breakethroughs that He brings about for his kingdom. And it is my conviction that this spiritual discipline is something very much needed in Norway and in the nations today, if we want to see His kingdom come. That being said, we would like to emphasize that this article about fasting is only an invitation, and it is about relating to God rather than opting for a magical formula. In reality, the value of fasting is being revealed as you start to practice it as an expression of personal devotion to the Lord.
If you would like to step into fasting as a devotion to God, we would like to encourage that. But if you feel like you have to fast in order to be good enough, or feel that fasting is a duty that you need to perform to please people, then don’t do it! With such motives, you will burden yourself. For it is the freedom of faith we have in Jesus Christ that is the most important thing, not the discipline of fasting in itself! Jesus says: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Mattew 9,13). Fasting is like an open door that you can choose to walk through. And if you choose to walk in, then do it for the Lord freely and willingly.
Rhythm of fasting in Influx: Tuesday & Friday
There are now some people who fast on two regular days a week in Influx as a network. These days are Monday night until Tuesday night and Thursday night until Friday night. Basically that means Tuesdays and Fridays. To provide an example of how to facilitate a good rhythm for a local church, we in Influx Bergen combine the rhythm of fasting with morning prayer meetings on Tuesdays and Fridays. This rhythm provides a simple rhythm for people to join in collectively and focus on prayer while fasting.
The idea of having this common rhythm is not to focus on who is fasting and who is not. Rather, it is more of an opportunity to join into a collective rhythm of fasting, knowing that you are not the only one doing it. We do it together! For those that would like to engage in such a lifestyle of fasting and prayer, one does not have to start by fasting two days a week. Rather take one step at a time and let the Lord guide you by freedom of heart. And if you need practical advice or want someone to walk with in this, get in touch with us on email or facebook, or seek advice from someone that has experience in your local church.
“this article about fasting is only an invitation, and it is about relating to God rather than opting for a magical formula”
Fasting in Jewish tradition and in the early church
Both in the Jewish tradition and in the early church it has been a common practice to fast and pray two days a week. The Jewish traditionally fasted on Mondays and Thursdays, while in the early church one would commonly fast Wednesdays and Fridays. The rhythm that we are introducing in Influx is really quite similar. We suggest to fast and pray on Tuesdays and Fridays. We would then, like in the Jewish tradition, have two and three days between the fasting days, while we share Friday as a day of fasting with the early church. The main idea here is not the specific days as such, but rather the fact that the rhythm we introduce in Influx is based on a well established and proven practice in both Jewish and early church tradition, remembering that we are ‘decendants’ of both. Such a historical foundation establishes us as part of an age-old tradition, as well as reminding us that this rhythm is not an irresponsible and immature idea suggested randomly from our side. Rather, it is a biblical and historical expression of devotion to God and to Christ. I personally believe that fasting and prayer plays an essential part in determining the course of our nations for the decades to come. That is why it intrigues me to imagine an evolving culture of fasting and prayer growing forth in Influx and beyond in the years to come.
Vision for fasting in Influx: Love God & Love People
The two-day rhythm of fasting and prayer that we are now establishing, is founded upon the double commandment of love in the Bible. “Love God & love people” is one of the values of Influx and it runs parallell to the twofold Influx vision: “The triune God in the centre” & “Back to Jerusalem”. As a basic structure, we accordingly focus our fasting and prayer Monday night to Tuesday night on our personal relationship to God, and on hearing from Him, receiving His love, studying his Word and spending time in worship. And then, from Thursday night to Friday night, we shift our main focus to fasting and praying for new disciples, growth in the churches and the network, and for the advance of the gospel to new areas, cities and nations.
How to fast?
Classic fasting is to abstain from eating food, while intensifying focus on prayer. Instead of eating, you drink a solid amount of water (some compliment with other types of drink if there is a special need for it) and you devote time for prayer and seeking God. This is not to say that you have to work so hard, but rather that you create space for prayer and devotion to the Lord. When fasting for a day or two, there are not many concerns in terms of your digestive system. Still, gradual transitions between eating and fasting are generally recommended, but is mainly important when ending an extended fast. If so, start very gradually with eating, so that your digestive system would get enough time to get going properly again. When fasting only one day at a time, there are really no essential concerns, only what feels pleasant for your stomach or not. Gradual transitions are generally more pleasant than abrupt ones.
“Let’s rejoice in God and in the freedom we have in Jesus Christ!”
To conclude: Let’s rejoice in God and in the freedom we have in Jesus Christ! The reason why I am repeating this is the fact that sometimes we drift into legalism and consequently looses our joy and freedom if we start to strive in our own strenght when embarking on something for the Lord. Let us therefore encourage one another to rejoice in this wonderful life of freedom that our God has given us! To Him be all the glory.
give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you
in Christ Jesus.”
(1. Tess 5, 16-18)