40 Days of fasting & Prayer

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important event in the history of the world. Many Christians spend some time leading up to Easter Sunday in inner reflection, self-sacrifice, denial and repentance. This year at Shiloh, we will be taking some time during the 40 days before Easter to remember Jesus’ life and death, and focus more on him and less on ourselves. We can fast, study our Bibles, and pray more intensively as we grow in our Walk with Christ!

Why Should I Fast?

As followers of Christ, we should take time to fast. Jesus did not say, “If you fast” but rather, "When you fast..." (Matthew 6:17). Jesus said, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast" (Matthew 9:15b). During Christ’s own 40 day fast in the wilderness, He said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4b). There are so many beneficial reasons for Christians to fast. We can connect with the Lord, grow in our relationship with God, focus on Him, and even learn how to rely on Him alone.

1. A Time to Connect with God

Fasting provides a way to grow in your faith and develop a deep connection with the Lord. You can show the Lord how you are submitting to him and repent for things you have done. “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster (Joel 2:12-13). Fasting is almost always combined with praying because when we give something up for a set time, we can exchange the time spent preparing a meal and eating with time spent talking and listening to Jesus.

2. A Time to Focus on God

Fasting is one way to show how God comes first in our lives. By saying “no” to certain things, we can also say “yes” to Christ. Give something up that is distracting you from the Lord and begin to hunger and thirst for what is good and true. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

3. A Time to Rely on God

Fasting provides a way to have dependence on God. We are blessed with easy access to food, running water, and so many blessings. When we intentionally deny ourselves from something we enjoy, we can be reminded how good God is to us. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

How Should I fast?

There are different ways to fast. A Biblical "total" fast is water only. A "partial" fast can also be very effective.  Daniel did a partial fast by eating “no delicacies, no meat or wine” for 21 days (Daniel 10:3). A "partial" fast could be giving up anything for a while. Deny yourself in some way that is significant to you and replace this time with devoted prayer and Bible reading.

The Bible does not require of Christians any specific times or amounts of fasting.

(Note: Before fasting from food, you should check with your Doctor.  Some people should not fast: pregnant women, those with certain medical conditions like Diabetes, etc..  Persons in these situations can substitute by giving up something else. We have provided some examples below of different ways you can fast over the next 40 days. 

Some Questions to ask when Considering How You Should Fast over the next 40 days:

  1. When I wake up on the morning after the fast, how will I be different?

  2. Is there a sin or habit that is getting in the way of my relationship with the Lord and how will I address it over the next 40 days?

  3. Is there anyone I need to pursue reconciliation with and/or ask forgiveness?

  4. What are some practical steps I can take to have time for daily contemplation?

  5. What spiritual discipline do I need to improve or want to try?

  6. Why am I giving this particular thing up over the next 40 days and how does giving it up draw me closer to the Lord?

  7. What Scripture verse am I going to repeat over and over when self-denial gets hard?

  8. Will it be necessary or helpful for me to share the nature of my fast with others or should I keep it private?

What should I fast from?

Here are a few ideas:

Do NOT try and do them all at once. Pick 1-2 things to fast from during this time. If you choose food, pick 1 or 2 spans of time over the next 40 days.

1. Eat Less - Fasting in Some Way from Food

  • Meat. Give up meat for 40 days or certain days during the week. Whatever it is, make it meaningful to you.

  • Soda. It’s not good for you anyway. Make water your only beverage for 40 days.

  • Pizza. Are you obsessed with it? Give it up.

  • Sugar. Too much sugar causes high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, liver disease and increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Enough said. 

  • Dairy. This means milk, cheese, lasagna, etc.

  • Your morning latte and all forms of caffeine. Save the money and give with your tithes and offerings or pick a Kingdom project to give to.

  • Replace one of your mealtimes with reading the Bible. 

  • Bread.

  • Gluten. Your body may be reacting negatively because of how much gluten you consume. This may be a great time to take your health seriously and give it up. 

  • Alcohol. Yes, wine is included in this category. ALL FORMS OF ALCOHOL. 

  • Snacks. Do you have something sugary you regularly eat between meals? Is it hindering your health?

  • Dining out. Any form of fast food and/or restaurants. Give up eating out for 40 days and donate the money you save to ... [fill in the blank].

  • Fast like Daniel (Dan. 10:3). Many people do the Daniel Fast by abstaining from meat, dairy, sugar, yeast, caffeine, and refined grains for 21 days.

  • Water Fast. Give up food and drink plenty of water for a selected number of days and become completely dependent on the Lord. (Here is a helpful guide)

2. Unplug - Fasting from Electronic Distractions

  • Electronics. Get off your game app and play a puzzle instead, or pick something else that doesn't have cords, screens or computer chips. 

  • TV, Netflix, Hulu. All forms of watching tv, movies or any of your shows. Are the shows you’re watching hindering your relationship with God or not? Have these forms of escape taken the place of any quality time with God, family and friends?

  • Family movie night. Trade watching movies or TV as a family for a game night or something else that requires in-person engagement.

  • Your phone. Instead of having it in your hand 24 hours a day, give it up. As soon as you get home from work, dock it somewhere in the house. Keep it out of your bedroom. Make a rule for everyone to leave their phones off at dinner, so you can all have a conversation instead. Just because it’s your only source of communication doesn’t mean you have to ignore phone calls. Tell your friends and family you are giving up your phone at 6 p.m. so they know how to get a hold of you. 

  • Social Media. All platforms. Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook. ALL. OF. IT. Is it taking precedence over time with Jesus, friends, and family? Is it making you feel insecure? It’s time.

  • Excessive video game playing. Your Fortnite account will still be there when the 40 days are over.

  • Music. All forms of music except worship music.

fasting can bring focus to other areas

In the place of what you have given up, pick 1-2 ideas to pursue during this time

1. Read More

Participate in the "Journeying with Jesus" YouVersion Reading Plan for the next 40 days.

Memorize a Bible Verse with the church each week. Grab a bookmark at Shiloh on February 26.

  • February 26 - James 1:2-3
  • March 5 - Galatians 2:20
  • March 12 - Matthew 22:37
  • March 19 - John 15:13
  • March 26 - 2 Corinthians 5:21
  • April 2 - Isaiah 53:4-5
  • April 9 - John 11:25

Find a Good Book to Read about your Faith. Exchange your light reading for something more contemplative, like a classic Christian book. 

  • Here are a few suggestions to get you started: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis; Knowing God by J.l. Packer; Desiring God by John Piper; The Reason for God by Tim Keller; The Confessions of St. Augustine by St. Augustine and John K. Ryan; Heaven by Randy Alcorn; More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell; Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan; Knowledge of the Holy - A.W. Tozer; Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon; What’s So Amazing About Grace? - Phillip Yancey; Systematic Theology - Wayne Grudem; The Death of Death - John Owen; The Chronicles of Narnia - C. S. Lewis; Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe; Book of Common Prayer (various editions starting in mid 16th Century); The Holiness of God - R. C. Sproul; The Cost of Discipleship - Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Boundaries - Henry Cloud; When People are Big and God is Small - Edward Welch; You Can Change - Tim Chester

2. Take Care of Your Body

  • Rest. Turn in early to get extra rest and maybe rise earlier for devotions and Bible readings.
  • Discipline. Instead, get up early to spend time with Jesus. Get up at 5 a.m. so it’s nothing but you, Jesus, a Bible, and a pen. 
  • Exercise. Make this the time to get healthy. Sacrifice the time in front of the TV to be active. Take care of the body God gave you. 
  • Give up transportation. Walk or bike to work.

3. Focus On Sexual Purity

  • Being sexually pure is something God truly wants for you. Let this be the beginning of your journey towards freedom from addiction, immorality, and pornography.

4. Bring Order to the Chaos

  • Clutter. Is something preventing you from being organized? Is it stealing your joy? Do a 40-day purge of excess stuff and donate it to Goodwill or a local thrift store.
  • Stuff. Are there things you had before you became a Christian that you need to get rid of? (this doesn’t include your spouse!)
  • Unwanted toys. If you've got games or toys for kids that everyone has outgrown in the closet or garage, consider donating them.

5. Spend Less

  • Online shopping. Spending too much time on Amazon? Do the delivery drivers know you by name? It may be a good time to take a break from Amazon.
  • Spending freeze for 40 days. Give up shopping other than the basic essentials.

6. Focus More On Relationships By Dealing With

  • Resentments. Is there anyone in your life that you harbor resentment toward? Now is a good time to let those feelings go and pursue forgiveness.
  • Conflict avoidance. It's never fun having a hard conversation with a coworker or family member, but avoidance only delays the pain.  
  • Forgetting to talk with loved ones. Send thank-you cards, or just a note to say you care.
  • Working too Much. As in working late or putting work in front of your health, your family, or even time with God.
  • Using words that don’t glorify God. 
  • Your hobby. Has your hobby taken too much time away from focusing on your relationships? Give up your hobby for 40 days.

Whatever God leads you to give up over the next 40 days, may it serve as a powerful decision to pursue more of God and less of self!