The 21 Day Fast has unfortunately become a fad it seems. I struggled with this greatly in 2009 as we prepared for our fast at the church. What started off as a sincere movement based on an interpretation of scripture in the book of Daniel, turned into the newest, coolest thing to do in church and with your friends. Before I go any further, I would just like to add that these are my opinions and they aren't necessarily absolute.
The first time I heard of a 21 Day Fast was from Jentezen Franklin's church in Gainesville, GA. The premise was to follow what would be called a "Daniel Fast." This fast takes its premise from Daniel chapters 1 and 10. In Daniel 1, the Hebrew slaves were to eat the meat and drink the wine of the king as ordered by the king. Yet Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego refused and instead requested to eat only vegetables and drink water. They did this for 10 days and were inspected to see if they were as healthy as the others who were eating the king's choice and they were healthier. So they were allowed to continue their choice. The other scripture in Daniel 10 actually deals with a 21 day fast that Daniel went on that turned into 24. Daniel was praying and seeking God and made up his mind that he would fast 21 days to see the hand of God move. Daniel said he ate no meat or breads and drank no wine. He actually says that it wasn't until the 24th day that God answered. As you may can see, the premise of the "Daniel Fast" has some merit, but it is contrived from several different scriptures and not entirely congruent.
Having said that, to fast as Daniel did is certainly a fast. My issue is not necessarily with that type of fast as much as it is the proverbial temple tables that have been set up. Numerous books have been written and sold on the subject. Numerous websites exist all with their special stores. "Daniel Fast" cookbooks exist so that participants can eat foods that are like the foods they crave but meet the fasting requirements. And in all of these things, it is my humble opinion that we've lost the purpose of fasting to begin with.
Let's look at what a fast really is. Many will fast TV, internet, Facebook, and even shopping. The truth of the matter is, there's no such thing as a fast that incorporates these items or habits. The word fast mentioned in both the Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek / Aramaic is always translated "to do without food." So a fast in the most Biblical sense always requires the participant to do without food. The only other time the Bible mentions giving up anything for prayer and drawing close to God is when spouses choose to abstain from sexual relations for a short period of time. Paul however warns in Corinthians that it should not be a long time so as not to incite the flames of lust. Technically speaking, a fast is either legitimized by food or sex. You choose!
A fast can be done privately or corporately and there are examples and guidelines for both. The most prominent example of guidelines for private fasts were given by Jesus in Matthew 6:5, 16. Jesus makes it clear that a private fast should remain just that . . . private. There is nothing wrong with confiding in a few individuals you have confidence in to be praying for you as you enter a fast. However, a private fast is not something to bring notoriety or to show publicly for attention or fame. In a private fast, God calls the individual to fast for something specific or to simply draw closer to Him. God ordains what is to be fasted to the individual and the length of time.
Corporate fasts are also Biblical. Most of these are seen in the Old Testament, yet we see an example in Mark 2 where John the Baptist's disciples were said to be fasting together. Corporate fasts in the OT were almost always called by a prophet or a king. In Mark 2, the fasts were obviously called by John the Baptist as he led his disciples. In our day, a corporate fast would be called by a pastor or overseer. On a more personal note, a husband may choose to call a fast for his family after much prayer and conversation with his wife. Corporate fasts operate much the same as the private fast in regards to not publicizing individual efforts for glory and recognition. However as it is a corporate fast, those involved in the corporate call obviously know of the fasting and generally who is participating and possibly what they are fasting. In this sense, the corporate body becomes one unified body fasting and seeking God. The corporate fasts of Israel in the OT resulted in miraculous victories over their enemies and deliverance from pestilences and plagues. A church that will call a corporate fast and do it together in unity can and should expect the hand of God to move on their benefit. Fasting is not bribing God. It is however declaring that God is the sustenance that we need more than physical food or any other thing in this life.
Fasting then can truly be done one of three ways. The first type of fast spoken of in the Bible is a total fast. Moses was one of the first recorded in the Bible as doing this type of fast. This fast lasts for three days and involves not eating or drinking anything. This fast must only be started after definitively hearing from God as going three days without water will lead a person to extreme dehydration. The second type of fast is the standard complete fast. This of course means to go without any food for a period of time. The most extreme fasts have lasted 40 days with examples from scripture and even modern day examples as well. Jesus of course did a 40 day fast before beginning His ministry on earth. In this sense, we understand that a fast is a set up for an endowing of power from on high. The third type is the modified fast. This fast includes fasting food but not all foods. In this case, a person may do a "Daniel Fast" and only eat vegetables and drink water for a number of days. The individual may also fast a meal or two everyday for a specific number of days as well. Simply giving up a food item or choosing to go without teas or sodas would not constitute the Biblical examples of fasting. Again, fasting is a declaration that God's Spirit, Word, and power will be the sustenance we need instead of food. Merely refusing to drink tea or refusing to eat potato chips for a certain amount of days is more a diet than a fast. The struggle in those areas will not be a spiritual and physical battle but rather a mental and habitual battle. Refusing to eat food items that your doctor probably would tell you are bad for you and to stay away from anyway would not constitute fasting. The modified fast is usually recommended for those with medical conditions that require eating. Yet as the original intent of fasting is to rely on God for all sustenance and substance, we must be willing to listen to Him and follow His leading regardless of situations or conditions in our lives.
In short, fasting is a sacrifice and obedience at the same time. Jesus said in Matthew 6 that "when" we fast, not "if" we fast, we should not be as the Pharisees. When John the Baptist's disciples wanted to know why Jesus' disciples were not fasting, Jesus replied that there was no need to fast while the bridegroom was present, but after He was taken away, the fasting would begin. We are reminded in scripture of the disciples who had been healing people and delivering people finding a demoniac that they were unable to deliver. When Jesus delivered the young man, He questioned the disciples faith. When they asked later why they had failed in that one instance, Jesus famously replied, "These things only come out from prayer and fasting." The truth is, there are some breakthroughs in our lives that we will never witness until we fast. There are some things that will never take place unless we fast. We can be satisfied with the "little dab will do ya" and forsake the depth of the anointing and presence of the Spirit, but doing so will compromise God's perfect plan for our lives and our churches.
So with all that said, Free Point will start its annual 21 day fasting period this Sunday after service and will end it Sunday, January 29th with a great meal that evening with church family at 6 PM. We are going to fast for souls to be saved. Our community needs revival. Marriages need to be fixed. Children need to be saved and made to feel the love of Christ. Hurts need to be healed. We're going to fast for miracles and healing. Jesus said that He was giving the disciples power in Mark 16 to heal the sick and defeat the enemy. We're fasting to see this verse fulfilled now and continually. We're fasting for vision and provision. We're believing God to accomplish that which He has started in our church and community and we're believing God to open doors and move on individuals and in other areas to provide for all that He has promised and entrusted us with. The battle rages against God's people in these last days and we're closing more churches than we're opening. We're losing a whole generation and our country is turning away from God. If there was ever a time that the church needed an "Awakening," the time is now. I'm calling all who will, and especially our church family and partners, to prayerfully consider joining us in unity and agreement in this 21 day fast for all that has been listed here as well as for your own needs and situations. Above all, join the fast to do that which a fast is supposed to do, that is, draw us closer to God and to know Him in a greater way. We don't merely fast to get something from God. We fast that we may know the One who has already given everything in the gift of His Son, Jesus.
Join us in Free Point's 21 Day Fast and believe for the Awakening and believe for the impossible!