At the beginning of each year, my church participates in a 21-day period of fasting and prayer. This year’s theme is “21 Days of Purpose,” an opportunity to focus on the vision and purpose God has for each of us.
Initially, my emphasis was always on the fasting part of the season. What to eat. What not to eat. Managing my irritability and symptoms with very little time on reflecting on God’s guidance for my life through the devotionals.
Over the years, I have since come to appreciate this time of fellowship with other believers. Regardless of your beliefs, taking the time at the beginning of the year to meditate on the people, goals, and tasks that are most important to you is always good practice. We have all perfected the art of busy and wear so many hats, that having quiet time to reflect is often rare.
Finding time for reflection
I invite you to join me during these 21 days. Here are some suggestions that I have found most helpful over the years:
- Wake 30 minute early to spend time in prayer and/or reflection. Devotion must be a daily exercise to fully reap the benefits of a more spiritual relationship with God. Starting your morning in prayer helps set the tone for the rest of the day.
- Share your thoughts with others or write them down in a journal. I still find encouragement in the journals I have completed over the years. Just like when we were in school, writing down your thoughts helps drive a deeper understanding of your feelings, the scriptures and God’s responses back to you during this time.
- Open your heart and mind to the ordinary not just the extraordinary. Every day won’t be thunder rolls or skies opening with revelations. Sometimes, this period may even feel like nothing has changed. Trust me: He hears you. The discipline it takes to do this for 21 days helps lay the foundation for the long-run. The same way we don’t always see immediate results with a new exercise program doesn’t mean it isn’t working. Every day, you are building a deeper love and awareness for Him.
Guide me until I’m sure, I open up my heart. So show me how to do things your wayYolanda adams: open my heart
The purpose of the Daniel Fast
If you choose, the second part of this season of prayer and fasting is the fasting. I have gotten into several debates with colleagues over the year as to whether participation in the Daniel Fast is necessary to achieve the benefits above and is there really such a thing in the Bible. First, the fast is optional. I choose to participate as another test of spiritual discipline. For all the blessings I have received, giving up meat for 21 days is a small sacrifice (although the lack of bread has brought me to my knees on occasion).
To answer the second point, there is scripture reference to support a fast in the book of Daniel. Two references in particular lay the foundation for the diet:
- “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables [pulses] to eat and water to drink.” Daniel 1:12
- “In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.” Daniel 10:12-13
So basically, we are going vegan for 21 days. I have had to trick my mind into focusing on what I can have versus what I can’t (trust me – the can’t list is long), but we can do this.
Other Ways to Fast
I know you might be thinking “I am all for reflection, meditating and prayer, but the Daniel Fast doesn’t sound for me.” That’s okay. There are other things to fast from. Where else are you spending your time that would be a sacrifice to give up for 21 days? Social media. TV watching, procrastination are all good examples of ways to ‘fast’ during this season.
We Got This!
Here’s to a reset to start the New Year. To opening our hearts to God’s purpose for our lives and ways we can truly leverage our gifts, talents and skills to help others. Isn’t that what creating an immeasurably great life is all about?
Title Musical Nod: Open My Heart (Yolanda Adams)