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Every year our entire congregation at Free Chapel participates in a 21-day fast. The reason we fast corporately at the beginning of the year is based on principles that have been adapted from Bob Rogers' book, 101 Reasons to Fast.

There are three reasons starting the year with a fast is a good practice. First, by doing so, you set the course for the rest of the year. Just as beginning your day with prayer sets the course for the rest of the day and covers anything that may happen, the same is true of beginning the year with a fast.

You set the course for the entire year by what you do with those first few days of each new year. You can carry that even further to give God the first part of every day, the first day of every week, the first portion of every dollar and the first consideration in every decision.

Second, blessings will happen for you and your family throughout the year because you fasted in January. Even in April, June and August and into November when you have Thanksgiving goodies on your mind, blessings will still be finding their way to you because of your sacrifice to the Lord at the beginning of the year.

In fact, around Thanksgiving one year I got a call to go to the bank. When I arrived, a man and his wife met me and said, "Here is $1 million for the building program."

I had forgotten about the fast we had done 10 months before, but God hadn't. He sent us not only someone with a $1 million gift but also people with a $500,000 gift, a $250,000 gift and a $50,000 gift, as well as cumulative millions that came in regular gifts all in that same year.

This third point is so powerful. When you fast at the beginning of the year and pray, you release the principle found in Matthew 6:33: "‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you'" (NKJV, emphasis added). If you seek Him first in the year, get ready for all these "things" to be added to your life throughout the rest of the year!

What Is Fasting?

In addition to knowing why you should fast, you must know what the practice is. Because there are so many misconceptions about fasting, I first want to clarify what biblical fasting is not. Fasting is not merely going without food for a period of time. That is dieting—maybe even starving-but fasting it is not.

Nor is fasting something done only by fanatics. I really want to drive that point home. Fasting is not to be done only by religious monks alone in a cave somewhere. The practice of fasting is not limited to ministers or for special occasions.

Stated simply, biblical fasting is refraining from food for a spiritual purpose. Fasting has always been a normal part of a relationship with God. As expressed by the impassioned plea of David in Psalm 42, fasting brings one into a deeper, more intimate and powerful relationship with God.

When you eliminate food from your diet for a number of days, your spirit becomes uncluttered by the things of this world and amazingly sensitive to the things of God. As David stated, "Deep calls unto deep" (Ps. 42:7).

David was fasting. His hunger and thirst for God were greater than his natural desire for food. As a result, he reached a point at which he could cry out from the depths of his spirit to the depths of God, even in his trial.

After you've experienced even a glimpse of that kind of intimacy with our God-our Father, the holy creator of the universe-and the countless rewards and blessings that follow, your whole perspective will change. You will soon realize that fasting is a secret source of power that is overlooked by many.

Why Fast?

During the years that Jesus walked this earth, He devoted time to teaching His disciples the principles of the kingdom of God, principles that conflict with those of this world. In the Beatitudes, specifically in Matthew 6, Jesus provided the pattern by which each of us is to live as a child of God. That pattern addressed three specific duties of a Christian: giving, praying and fasting.

Jesus said, "When you give" and "When you pray" and "When you fast." He made it clear that fasting, like giving and praying, was a normal part of Christian life. As much attention should be given to fasting as is devoted to giving and to praying.

Solomon, when writing the books of wisdom for Israel, made the point that a cord, or rope, braided with three strands is not easily broken (see Eccl. 4:12). Likewise, when giving, praying and fasting are practiced together by a believer, they combine to create a type of threefold cord that is not easily broken.

In fact, as I'll show you in a moment, Jesus took it even further by saying, "‘Nothing will be impossible'" (Matt. 17:20).

Could we be missing our greatest breakthroughs because we fail to fast? Remember the thirtyfold, sixtyfold and hundredfold return Jesus spoke of? (See Mark 4:8,20.)

Look at it this way: When you pray, you can release that thirtyfold return, but when both prayer and giving are part of your life, I believe that releases the sixtyfold blessing. But when all three-giving, praying and fasting-are part of your life, that hundredfold return can be released!

If that's the case, you have to wonder what blessings are not being released. What answers to prayer are not getting through? What bondages are not being broken because we fail to fast?

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