1st Thursday: A Call to Prayer and Fasting
FAQ's about First Thursdays
What are we seeking?
We are seeking nothing less than clarity from God about our mission and purpose, power to live holy lives, opportunities to testify to the Gospel of grace, to share the love of Christ in tangible ways, and the courage to invite persons to commit their lives to Christ and become part of Christ's holy Church. (Cabinet Address, 2010 Annual Conference)
What is fasting?
Throughout Scripture fasting refers to abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. Its primary focus is upon God, and only secondarily upon the food we forgo. The normal means of fasting
involved abstaining from all food, solid or liquid, but not water.
Why should one fast?
In Scripture, fasting has two primary purposes: (1) personal or national repentance for sin, and (2) to prepare oneself inwardly for receiving the necessary strength and grace to complete a mission of faithful service in God’s name. Also, fasting expresses a hunger for God, a desire to deepen the spiritual life, an aid in personal and communal discernment, and a way to strengthen the connection with the Body of Christ. Group fasting can be a wonderful and powerful thing provided there is a prepared people who are of one mind in these matters.
What is the connection between prayer and fasting?
Fasting intensifies the focus of prayer. Jesus told his disciples that some spiritual accomplishments were possible only by linking prayer with fasting. For Wesley, fasting was a way to deepen the experience of prayer.
What are some scriptural references to fasting?
Exodus 24 and 34, 1 Kings 19, Matthew 4, Zech. 8:19, Luke 18:12, Matthew 6:16, Matthew 9:15, Luke 2:37, Isaiah 58, Esther 4:16, Daniel 10:3; Leviticus 223:27, Joel 2:15, 2 Chronicles 20:1-4, Ezra 8:21-23.
I can't fast from food. Are there other ways to fast?
If you cannot fast from food, then fast from:
- Constant media stimulation
- Packaged, processed foods
- Needless shopping and conspicuous consumption
- Judging others, and ourselves
- An over-packed schedule
I'm a beginner. How can I "ease" my way into fasting?
For beginners, start with a partial fast: a restriction of diet but not total abstinence. Restrict your intake to fresh fruit juices. Limit your fast to not more than 24 hours.
Juice fast recommendation: fresh fruit and vegetable juices, herbal tea, vegetable broth, frozen fruit popsicles. Drink at least a gallon a day plus water. For this kind of fast, acidic juices like orange, grapefruit, and tomato may be too acidic and therefore bother one’s digestive system.
Are there some helpful, practical hints?
1. Prepare spiritually before fasting: ask for God’s help. Remind yourself that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and food is God’s gift.
2. Do not practice fasting if sick, traveling, or under unusual stress.
3. If possible, reduce your normal activity while fasting.
4. Avoid heavy physical labor.
5. During a normal fast (all food and beverages) drink only water, but plenty of it!
6. Check with your physician for guidelines, especially if you are pregnant, diabetic, on medication, have chronic disease, unwell, or have an eating disorder.
7. Get extra rest the night before and after.
8. The day before, refrain from caffeine, sugar, red meat, poultry, nicotine and alchol.
9. Decide who you will tell that you are fasting (Matt. 6:16-18)
10. Fill the time you would be preparing or eating food with prayer and meditation. Sing hymns, take a prayer walk, search the Scriptures.
11. Avoid television with all its tempting food ads and distractions.
12. Avoid chewing gum or eating hard candy because they release digestive enzymes that can make you hungrier.
13. When breaking your fast, eat a small healthy meal.
Is there a Wesleyan pattern for prayer and fasting?
A day of fasting for John Wesley began after the evening meal the day before his fast day until the evening meal on the day of his fast. During this time he did not take solid food but fasted and focused much of his time in prayer.
Who is invited to participate in the "First Thursdays" prayer and fasting?
Anyone seeking spiritual revival! All United Methodists in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference (140,000 strong!) are invited to discover the spiritual power in this regular discipline that Jesus commended, the early church practiced, and John Wesley followed for more than half a century. All desiring to join the movement of God’s Spirit in our area are invited. All seeking to grow in love of God and neighbor and deepen the spiritual life in community with other United Methodist Christians are invited. Pastors and local churches are encouraged to invite entire communities to join with us as we begin this adventure with God!