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About this series
Cultivating a Lifestyle that Makes Room for God
We all do life in rhythms. Getting up for the day, meals, school, work, church... there are rhythms we live in. In this series, Chip introduces the idea of living in sacred rhythms. He tells us there's a specific way to arrange our lives that will cultivate practices and help us grow in intimate relationship with Jesus. Chip's son, Ryan Ingram, unpacks the specifics of how to live life in Sacred Rhythms.More from this series
Esther was queen in Persia and she was facing intense opposition. She was facing this moment of all of her people being eradicated. And she is put in a position to do something and, yet, it would cost her her life if it doesn’t go well.
And so, listen in Esther chapter 4, verse 16 what she says to her uncle Mordecai, “Go gather together all the Jews who are in Susa and first… fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days.” This is known as an absolute fast where you fast from water and food.
And I just want to say right here, you should never do it more than three days and it should always be done in the most dire of situations. We only see this a couple times in the Bible, but it is serious. Fasting from food you can live for a month without food, by the way. You’re not starving even until thirty days after not eating, especially in America. But it is dangerous to fast from water for over three days, okay?
But she does this absolute fast. They are in a dire situation. “And I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go before the king, even though it’s against the law,” and I love her surrender, “and if I perish, I perish. But we are going to seek the heart of God together and ask for His favor.”
Maybe you’re facing intense opposition. Maybe it’s at work. And you have a boss or a co-worker that is just against you. Maybe there’s literally an evil person in your life. It could be even in your family.
Are you experiencing injustice? Maybe you’re undergoing spiritual opposition. Maybe there’s physical opposition. If you’re having any of this, I would encourage you: perhaps step into the rhythm of fasting and see God begin to work in situations where it feels impossible and beyond you.
Five areas that we might consider fasting: a big decision, opposition. Third area is the preparation of ministry. If you’re preparing for a ministry of some kind. We know that Jesus actually fasted for forty days before He ever did any ministry. The apostle Paul and Barnabas were hanging out at a church. They are fasting and pray together. We see this in Acts a couple different times where before any new ministry action took place, they would fast and pray.
We see in Acts 13:3, it says, “While they were worshipping the Lord and” – what? “fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them.’ So after they fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
Has God given you a vision of what could be and should be? Has God placed something that’s in your heart?
I would encourage you, maybe you would take twenty-four hours and fast and pray and ask God to really begin to use you in that way, in that role, to bring about supernatural good. If you’re stepping into a new role, maybe going on a mission trip.
I have a friend that fasted and prayed before the birth of his kids. Each one of his kids, because did you realize that’s a new ministry role in your life as well? Maybe you are starting a new job. And you understand that we all are ministers of the gospel and you are a minister at your workplace. And so, your work is actually a ministry. And so, every new job is a new ministry position because you have been called there to be the light of the world. And so, then, you’re going to go, “Hey, I’m stepping into this and as I step into it, I’m going to fast and pray for the favor of God and for my workplace and the people there, that they would experience Him and come to know Him.”
Five areas: big decision, intense opposition, preparation for ministry. Fourth area is a physical expression of sorrow and mourning. This is actually how we see fasting in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, most often is this expression of mourning and sorrow. And this is a way that is pretty foreign to us in America. One way of expression of sorrow and mourning is is your heart heavy or burdened over your own sin? It’s an expression of confession and repentance.
Back to Nehemiah, they get done rebuilding the walls and they gather everyone together and now notice what happens. It says, “On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth, putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors.
An expression of mourning over your sin. Oh gosh. We think so little of it and excuse it, and yet, it sent Jesus to the cross because we needed to be saved.
Is your heart heavy? Is there habitual sin in your life that it’s just a constant flow of your life that you have allowed in and you are going, I don’t want this to be a part of me anymore and I’m grieved and I’m mourning and I long for You to do something in my life. And so you fast because it’s serious.
Would you consider that? And for some, you’re like, I’m not there. Would you even consider for God to give you the grace to feel the burden of your sin? When I pray prayers like that, I pray it this way, God, would You be as thorough as You need to be but as gentle as You can be? I want You to be as thorough, and He doesn’t show us all of our junk because we would just be overwhelmed and a mess and we would just be like, “I can’t even move forward in life.”
In His grace, He keeps all of our brokenness somewhat shielded from us. But show me those areas so I can be right with You.
Maybe you’d consider fasting as a physical expression of sorrow, mourning when it comes to circumstances. A crying out for God’s will and deliverance. Daniel, the prophet, he is in Babylon, exiled. And he gets this vision of what is to come with the kingdom.
And it’s a bad, troubling vision. And he is grieved. And it says, “At that time,” Daniel writes, “I mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food, no meat or wine touched my lips, and I fasted for three weeks, until three weeks were over.” And in Daniel’s story, we get what we call the Daniel Fast.
Maybe you need to fast because there is sorrow and grief. Maybe it’s personally. Maybe it’s death that is going on. The death of a relationship. Loss. You’re just hurting for the needs of the world. Like when you feel the weight of what is happening in our country and happening all around the world, that you just go, Man, I am grieved. And I’m just going to allow the physical expression of fasting to be part of the way I respond and express my grief to God.
And inviting Him, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done here, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Finally, as we close on the when and why to pray… fast: in times of great need. Like, is there a need in your life? It’s kind of like the catch-all one here. Do you need something from God?
Ezra is leading the people out of bondage, out of exile, back to Jerusalem. They are on this journey. There’s a whole caravan of people. And he realizes: we need God’s protection. And so they literally stop and he says, “There by the Ahava Canal I proclaimed a fast so that we might humble ourselves before God and ask Him for a safe journey for us and our children and with all our possessions.
Some, you’re going, I’m stepping out and I need God. I need some protection! Okay! Would you fast? Maybe it’s around your health. Maybe it’s with a job. Maybe you need provision. Maybe it’s in your marriage. I need God to show up in our marriage! Would you fast? Maybe it’s with your kids. Would you fast? Would you take a season of fasting?
This last fall, we had the Comers come, Phil and Diane Comer, and they did a parenting conference and it was awesome, fantastic. And their intentional parenting. And I love this. They had a daughter that was dating a guy that was no good. And as parents, and I now am in, I have kids that are in the teenage stage, so I understand this a little bit more.
But as parents, we know that if we try to tell our kids not to do something or try to push them away from a guy specifically, or a gal, it’s only going to make them want them more, right?
And so, sometimes we can feel like our hands are tied. Well, what do you do when you don’t know what to do? Fast. And what they did is they instituted together as a couple, fasting Friday, where they fasted and engaged in the sacred rhythm of fasting. They fasted every, single Friday for this daughter of theirs and for this guy to be gone. And God answered their prayer in that.
You’ve got to keep it real. Got to keep it real. When do you do when you don’t know what to do? Engage in the rhythm of fasting. Fasting is setting aside something to intensely focus after God.
Well, then how do we actually go about doing it? Let me just give you four steps really for you to engage in this rhythm of fasting. First way that we fast is we first have to prepare ourselves spiritually. You’ve got to do some spiritual preparation.
And here’s what this looks like. Examine your motives. Why are you fasting? Remember what Jesus said? He was talking all about our motives and why we fast. Examine your motives. And for some, you’re going, Well, I have this tension in my heart, because I know if I fast, I might lose weight. That’s okay. That’s a secondary issue and it’s okay. You’re like, okay, that’s going to be a benefit. People do this as a health, just intermittent fasting.
But would you go, Okay, I know that might be a temptation, but I am going to make this fast about You. Centered on God. And I am going to begin to align my life with You.
How do we prepare spiritually? First, examine your motive and then is there any area in your life that you have unconfessed sin? The Scripture tells us that sin blocks our prayers. And before you get into that, you just go, I’m going to get clean with God. I’m going to ask the Spirit of God to examine my heart.
And then, finally, ask God to powerfully work during that time. Invite Him to speak to you during the time that you fast.
So, the first thing we are going to do when we fast, we are going to do some preparation work. We are going to prepare our hearts spiritually. Then we are going to set aside a specific time and reason. Set aside a specific amount of time, whether it’s a twenty-four hour fast. Maybe it’s a three-day fast. For some, you’re like, Hey, I want to do a Jesus fast. Forty days. That’s fantastic.
Start small. Start with twenty-four hours. For those who do want to do a long fast, you would love to do that, one, I would encourage you – do research on it. You want to actually incorporate juices and different things into your diet over that time. Also, you need to talk to your physician and make sure your body is healthy to do and undergo something like that.
But we are going to, then, set aside a specific time – how long is it? And reason.
And thirdly, be attentive to God.
This is not just about going hungry! What did you do? Not eat. That’s just called not eating. Fasting is setting aside eating, specifically, to focus intensely on God. So, would you be attentive to God? Would you pray during the time you normally would eat? Would you allow those pangs of hunger to remind you of your need for God? To remind you of the brokenness of our world? To remind you to bring before God those that are actually around you when you feel those pangs of hunger?
That you would be attentive to God. And we spiritually prepared ourselves in this, we set aside a time, and then we are just keeping company with God, even throughout the whole day. It doesn’t have to be you’re sitting at your desk and I’m like, I’m fasting and so I’m going to pray and I’m going to sit here. You can sit normally like this and just have a conversation with God and no one really knows.
So, you can do it at work. You can do it in your car. Beautiful part about the car is with everybody with the Bluetooth, you no longer look crazy when you talk to God in the car. Right? I used to look so crazy in the car. I’m not going to lie. Before Bluetooth and before all that stuff, you’re just driving and you see someone just talking and, like, who are they…? They are insane!
Now, you don’t look insane! You can pray out loud all the way driving in your commute to work. But would you be attentive to God throughout the day?
And then, finally, be aware of the enemy’s attacks. As you draw near to God, you will experience opposition. Be aware of the slanderer. That’s one of the names for the devil: slanderer. He wants to put you down. Thoughts of guilt and condemnation that come.
Be aware of any distractions or discouragement. Here’s what I find when I pray and I don’t prepare spiritually for it and go through this process when I have done it in the past. Those days are the busiest days of my life. And I find myself just running through the whole day. And so, you be aware of the enemy’s attacks, even to the point of noticing, Wow, it got ramped up and it’s super busy. I can be busy and pray though, so I’m going to be attentive to Him. I’m not going to allow my busyness to push out my attentiveness to God.
Alright. So then, for some, you’re thinking about, Well, who can actually fast from food? Let me just go through that and just talk about this, because I think it’s important, because I don’t want some of you to step into this where physically you shouldn’t.
People who are physically too thin or emaciated. Those who are prone to anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders. Those who suffer weakness or anemia. If you have tumors, bleeding ulcers, cancer, blood diseases, heart disease; if you suffer chronic problems with kidney, liver, lungs, heart. Other important organs.
If you take insulin or diabetes, blood pressure problems, hyperglycemia. Now, most people, no, okay hang on here. For many of us, we are self-diagnosed hyperglycemic. Just a word of caution there. I’m hyperglycemic. Okay, are you really? Or did…okay, anyway. Never mind.
Women who are pregnant and nursing, please, please don’t fast from food in that regard. Well, what can I do? One good way that you can join us is do a media fast. We do a media fast every so often in our home.
And so, part of that media fast helps us out to know, it just allows us to be more attentive. So, we say no to social media, to TV, and to movies. I remember the first time we really did this as a married couple and my wife saying, we did a thirty-day media fast. And after about a week, she’s like, “I hear God better.” And so, you’re like, “I can’t fast from food,” but you can fast from the media and you take that same twenty-four hour period and join with this, okay?
What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Jesus invites us into the rhythm of fasting.