I hesitated to even share this information publicly, because Jesus encourages us to keep our prayers and fasting private, not a banner we wave for all to see. And yet, we see throughout Scripture how the disciplines and courage of the saints is recorded to edify and exhort the Church to keep on keeping on with Christ. I know for me personally, I feel inspired and motivated to join in with more spiritual disciplines when I hear of other sisters and brothers who are doing so. Their joyful striving energizes me. So, this is for you (if you want), but mostly it’s for me to look back and remember.
Internationally, the Global Upper Room ministry spent 10 days in 120 different places praying, fasting, worshipping, and repenting. Joining with other brothers and sisters in various countries across the globe, we prayed and surrendered idols and addictions and sought the face of God. What would He have us join Him in? Even though we all faced some challenges, the time together as a family before God brought sweet discussion, humble prayers, and devoted time to look at our Abba Father and His ways.
DAY 1: Whether from my blood type, my unstable blood sugar issues, or my German roots, giving up meat was more challenging than I anticipated. Despite eating beans and some nut butter and whole grains, I felt weak, light-headed and developed a headache that progressively got worse throughout the day. By dinner time, I was in bed, upset with myself and my weakness. Desperately wanting to honor the Lord with the Daniel Fast, I asked Him, “How am I supposed to complete this purposeful time focused on you if I am in bed, distracted by pounding pain?”
When I came upstairs and sat on the couch, I shared my heart with my mom and husband, and Aaron humbly and boldly prayed over me. My mom used reflexology on my feet and encouraged me, “You don’t have to be legalistic about this. God knows your heart. You need to be able to care for your children as well.”
Using my husband’s prayers and my mom’s servant hands, He poured His mercy over me and took my pain from an 8 to a 1 in a matter of minutes. It’s not that He had to alleviate the pain or even that I deserved it. Even if I had to suffer through a week and a half of misery, He would still be faithful and good. God owes me nothing; I owe Him everything.
There’s a passage in Daniel where three Jewish refugees under Babylonian rule refuse to bow down to a golden statute and are threatened with death by fire. They know God can rescue them, but “even if He doesn’t,” they won’t turn away from Him and worship an idol. “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not worried about what will happen to us. 17 If we are thrown into the flaming furnace, our God is able to deliver us; and he will deliver us out of your hand, Your Majesty. 18 But if he doesn’t, please understand, sir, that even then we will never under any circumstance serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have erected'” (Daniel 3, TBL).
Many Christians erroneously believe that being a follower means complete protection from danger, disappointment, or disaster, but the opposite is actually true. Jesus told us that in this life we’d have hardship, but to be of good cheer anyway, because one day He is coming back (the story’s ending has already been written) and He has overcome it all. Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego still got thrown into the fire, but Jesus met them there and brought them back out. [Read the story in Daniel 3].
DAY 2: Prayer is a powerful gift by which God equips His children to hear His voice. Speaking to the Lord is important, but listening is even more vital. His words are the ones that change us for the better; not visa versa. And if we really want to find improvement in our home, our jobs, our relationships, our decisions, our future, then we have to surrender all to Him, because His plans are higher and better than ours. As Ms. Clara says in the Kendrick Brother film, War Room, “If we want real victory in our lives, we have to surrender all.”
DAY 3: The Lord sees us and sympathizes with our weakness. He knows we are frail, dust, a quickly-withering flower. It’s we the people who confuse our status. We act like gods who are capable of conquering anything–even death. We act like if we just do x, y, z, then we will avoid financial struggle, relational hardship, rebellious children, and even illness. We act like we can hide from a virus, old age, and loneliness. As my mom said, “It’s the spirit of Babel. We can conquer and become like the gods.”
Here’s the merciful gift: God doesn’t expect us to reach high status. He knows what we are capable of, because He created us. He wants us to remain humbly dependent on Him.
DAY 4: Jesus is lovely–altogether beautiful. And not in the sense of beauty as a faltering exterior or a deceptive mask. Scripture tells us that Satan often masquerades as an angel of light and we can gaze on him with envy and even wide-eyed attraction. Sin itself wouldn’t be so alluring if it wasn’t appealing (at least at the beginning anyway).
But in Christ, his beauty runs core deep. From the surface all the way through shines pure light and glory. Nothing repulsive or ugly resides in Him. And because His beauty isn’t superficial or deceptive, WE CAN–AND SHOULD–TRUST Him. Goodness and beauty run parallel. Faithful is our good God.
Community and friendship rests over us like a warm blanket, gifting us with compassion, understanding, and strength in the midst of turmoil.
DAY 6: Repentance demonstrates the best aspect of our humanity–our ability to choose to humble ourselves before God and acknowledge that we were wrong. Then He so mercifully forgives us. Thursday, I had a precious moment with a child who had been deceiving me about an aspect of schoolwork. When I confronted him, he didn’t bristle and turn hard or stubborn (as he often will when his sin faces him head on), but he immediately repented with tears in his eyes, confessing what I already knew to be true. He then prayed and asked God to forgive his choices.
DAY 7: I am far more prideful and judgmental than I thought possible. When, oh, when will I learn to see people with more tenderness? I can work so hard to be diligent and purposeful that I lose my humility to understand others and their approach to life. Yes, work is good. Avoid wasting time; our existence here is so brief anyway, but don’t put pride in your accomplishments. And be willing to reroute where God is directing. The question should be: “Am I doing what you want me to do right now, Lord?”
DAY 8: We waste so much time talking about things that have no significance–no eternal weight. And for what end? These distractions push and pull us in a myriad of directions, but He who promised is faithful and His words are the words of life.
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
70 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, […]?” (John 6)
DAY 9: He chose us. Knowing our sin. Knowing we’d fail. Knowing our wandering hearts toward idolatry and fear and mistrust. He chose us and He isn’t rejecting us because we mess it up (because, no surprise to Him, He already knows what we are going to say or do or think in our hearts). And when He calls us, He doesn’t turn us away; He is faithful, even when we are not.
DAY 10: My meager sacrifices are nothing compared to what He has done on our behalf.
Even though the feasting begins today, there’s much I want to keep well beyond this focused time of fasting and prayer. I loved our nightly Scripture reading and prayer time together. I loved the absence of mindless TV and the higher emphasis put on the thoughts and purposes of God. I loved the creative time and the worshipful spirit. Aaron and I have talked about how we’d like to adopt some weekly and yearly changes to our family rhythms. If you haven’t taken some time lately to hit the reset button on your life, I’d encourage you to do so. It doesn’t have to be as drastic or lengthy (or maybe you would choose something more intense and focused than we did), but we all need spiritual sabbaticals where we step away from the noise and really listen.