More info about 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer for 2021 (#digital)
Beginning on June 17 we are going to be engaging in 21 days of prayer and fasting, as we seek to pursue more of God in our lives. On Sundays we will be going through a series called “The Pursuit of God,” which will be all about learning to passionately pursue His Presence. So often our hunger for God can get stifled or drowned out by so much other noise. For that reason, we are going to do this time of prayer and fasting a little different than some we have done in the past, and are inviting our whole church to be part of a “digital fast.” For some people, your digital engagement may be so small that it is not worth fasting from! And if that is you, you are more than welcome to participate through a more ‘traditional’ fasting from food in some way. The goal of any time of prayer and fasting is simply to take a break from otherwise good things in our lives in order to create space to pursue God’s Presence.
You may be wondering how to be part of a digital fast when so much of your life, including your work, requires digital technology. This time of prayer and fasting is about stepping back from the recreational use of technology and screens in our lives, the noise that so often clutters our lives. There are many different ways you can participate, but at the end of the day, it is about every individual asking themselves and asking God honestly, “God, what in my life has the most potential right now to be keeping me from drawing near to you? Pursuing your Presence? Hearing your voice? Keeping me from depending on you?” And when you feel you have a clear idea of what that is, our encouragement is to consider ‘fasting’ from that for the 21 days. Here are some suggestions for how to do this or different kinds of digital fasts you could do.
Choosing a Digital Fast
To begin with, there are a few basic categories that most of our recreational digital usage falls into:
- Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Tic Toc, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc.)
- Streaming services: Netflix, Disney +, YouTube, Kayo
- Television: old school TV watching!
- Mobile Phone entertainment: games, apps, surfing the internet
- Internet: surfing, scrolling, generally using for entertainment purposes
Every person is different in which of these categories may appeal to them or be their preferred digital recreation use, or which take up the most time in their life. Our encouragement is to consider the following options for a digital fast:
- Full digital fast: This could look like choosing to disconnect from all recreational / discretionary use of technology.
- Partial fast: This could be choosing one or two of the categories above, which are most prominent in your life, and limiting your usage for the 21 days. That limiting could be fasting entirely from it for 21 days, or limiting to specific time limits each day, or limiting to certain days or times of the week. The key is choosing to limit in such a way that you ‘feel’ it, and when you feel the ‘hunger’ for that particular activity, you are able to redirect that hunger towards God. That can be as simple as a prayer to say “God, more than I want to see what’s happening on social media, I want to hunger for you!” It is a redirection that also allows you to take the time you would ordinarily spend on that activity, and use that space in some way to pursue God instead.
Your fasting may look completely different to another person’s, but the important part is simply for all of us to join together in one spirit before the Lord, choosing to pursue Him. We know that as we seek Him above all else, He will draw near to us and accomplish His purposes in our lives.
What is a fast?
Fasting is a time we voluntarily abstain from otherwise good and necessary things like food in order to focus on what is even more important – the things of God. Fasting is one very concrete way that we humble ourselves before the Lord, acknowledging our dependence upon Him above all else. The point of fasting is to remove something that can become a substitute for God in your life in order to focus more fully on Him, and to awaken a deeper hunger for God in your life. As John Piper puts it, “And the aim of fasting is that we come to rely less on food and more on God.” While fasting has traditionally been focused on fasting from food, we felt this year to emphasise a fast from digital technology (recreational use).
Why are we doing this fast?
This time of fasting and prayer is about cultivating a spiritual hunger and thirst for the things of God. It is to create space to passionately pursue His Presence, especially as we get ready for a time of meeting with Him and with one another at our Imagine conference.
How can I be involved?
Choose a fast that will allow you to stir up a hunger for God in your own life; a fast that will allow you to shift your focus from something upon which you currently rely, in order to more fully rely on God. It’s a time to take a break from something good in your life in order to make more room for God in your life.
What should my fast look like?
We are encouraging a digital fast, whereby you choose some recreational digital expression to fast from in order to more deeply pursue the Presence of God. If you are a person for whom digital or media related tools play a very small role in your life, you may prefer to choose a traditional fast from food instead. Whatever you choose, the goal is to be able to say to God, “As much as I want ______, I want your Presence even more! As much as I hunger for ____, even more I want to hunger for You!”
What is the goal?
The goal is to remove something that dulls our hunger for God, that interferes with our ability to hear His voice, that crowds out space in our lives to pursue His Presence, in order to more fully seek Him. By doing this, we are creating space for more of Him in our lives!
Why choose a digital fast?
Digital technologies, especially those related to mobile phones which are constantly with us, have become an increasingly intrusive part of modern life. While mobile phones, computers, tablets, the internet and all of its opportunities have enriched our lives in amazing ways, they also contain in themselves a unique capacity to distract us from what we as followers of Jesus believe matters most: the Presence of God in our lives and His Word to us. Fasting from food has been a core spiritual habit throughout history because of how it allows a person to shift their focus from what they hunger for physically into a increased capacity to hunger for God. Food is not a bad thing, but we can sometimes become overly consumed by food. Likewise, the nature of life for us today is one that has become increasingly dominated by a hunger for digital outlets of all kinds; from social media to binge watching shows to surfing the internet, research shows that digital technology usage has radically changed the shape of our lives. Most of these digital technologies tend to be designed specifically to foster addiction. By choosing to limit our usage, or fast from specific technologies that are otherwise good, we will create more space in our lives to pursue God and His Presence.