Becoming a Praying and Fasting Person | Matthew 6:16-18

A Praying Church

In the second week of A Praying Church, Timothy Ateek encouraged the body to pair prayer and fasting together to maximize enjoyment in Christ with a goal to develop a growing conviction that nothing is more important than fellowship with God.

Timothy "TA" AteekJan 21, 2024Matthew 6:16-18

In This Series (3)
Becoming a Praying Church | Matthew 21:12-13
Timothy "TA" AteekJan 28, 2024
Becoming a Praying and Fasting Person | Matthew 6:16-18
Timothy "TA" AteekJan 21, 2024
Becoming A Praying Person | Matthew 6:5-9
Timothy "TA" AteekJan 14, 2024


In the second week of A Praying Church, Timothy Ateek encouraged the body to pair prayer and fasting together to maximize enjoyment in Christ with a goal to develop a growing conviction that nothing is more important than fellowship with God.

Key Takeaways

Fasting, when paired with prayer, is about satisfaction in God rather than giving something up. In this message, we walk through Scripture that shows us that pairing prayer with fasting can maximize the enjoyment of prayer.

Definition: “Fasting is a Christian’s voluntary abstinence from something good for a predetermined amount of time and for a spiritual purpose” (Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life).

Three types of fasts to consider:

  • Normal fast: abstinence from everything except water for a predetermined amount of time and for a spiritual purpose.
  • Partial fast: abstinence from some foods for a predetermined amount of time and for a spiritual purpose (e.g., Daniel fast).
  • Alternative fast: abstinence from something other than food for a predetermined amount of time and for a spiritual purpose.

Seven reasons to fast this week:

  • Fast to intensify your prayers (Daniel 9:3)
  • Fast for clarity (Acts 4:23)
  • Fast because of your sin (Jonah 3:5-8)
  • Fast for God’s movement (Nehemiah 1:3-4)
  • Fast when facing persecution
  • Fast for victory in the midst of temptation
  • Fast as a display of love to God (Luke 2:36)

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  • What is the goal and reward of prayer and fasting? (Matthew 6: 6 and Matthew 6:18)
  • Would you commit to fasting this week? What is keeping you from it?
  • Would you consider fasting with your community group (e.g., decision, need, struggle)?
  • How serious are you about sin? Would you fast in order to find and experience more freedom from sin?
  • How could fasting increase your love for God and his Word? (Read Matthew 4:4)
  • Would you consider fasting for God’s movement at Watermark?
  • Join Watermark on our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting from February 1 – 21, 2024. Sign up for daily prayer prompts and find more resources at

Good morning, Watermark. How are we doing today? Good to see you. Welcome. If this is your first time ever with us, thanks for trusting us with your Sunday. I hope this place feels like home quickly. My name is Timothy Ateek, and I'm one of the pastors here. I'm really excited about this morning.

I know there are a lot of places in Dallas to get good Tex-Mex, but I am a sucker for Chuy's. The reason I'm a sucker for Chuy's is I have my order dialed in. I want to share it with you today, because it's probably going to change your lunch plans. You're welcome for this. My order at Chuy's revolves around Creamy J. If you don't know what that is, that's your fault. I'm really talking about creamy jalapeno ranch. It's sweet nectar. It's a gift from God to us.

Anytime I share my Chuy's order with people, it is wildly underwhelming to them, which is kind of hurtful, but I'm still going to share it with you today. When I go to Chuy's, I always order chicken enchiladas and ask them to hold the sauce. Then I ask for a side of avocados, and I layer the avocados on top of the enchiladas. Then I take a whole thing of Creamy J and dump it on top of it as the sauce. You should try it. It will change your life. All I ask is that you send me an email and say, "God bless you." That's all I ask.

So, here's the thing. You're like, "How does that have anything to do with anything spiritual?" Well, here's the deal. I didn't always have that order at Chuy's. There was a time where I would first order the Creamy J, and I would enjoy the Creamy J. Then after that I would eat chicken enchiladas. It wasn't until I was talking to one of my friends…

She was like, "Wait. Have you ever paired the two together?" I was like, "No, I haven't." She was like, "You have to try it. You've got to get a side of avocados. You've got to put that on. Then you've got to add the Creamy J to the chicken enchiladas. You have to pair the two together for maximum satisfaction." And that is what I have done.

Today, what I want to talk to you about… We're no longer talking about Tex-Mex. I want to talk to you about pairing two things together spiritually for maximum satisfaction. This morning, what I want to talk about is pairing prayer with fasting. We started a series last week that we're calling A Praying Church. Here at Watermark, we are committed to being a praying church. We draw a distinction between a church that prays and a praying church.

Our hope is that every person who calls this place home would have a growing conviction that there is nothing more important you can do than to pray. One of the reasons Jesus went to the cross and died for our sins and rose from the dead was to give us the privilege of praying. Jesus went and made a way when there was no way. He was crucified for all of our sins.

He made payment, and he conquered our sin victoriously to take us who were enemies and bring us near so we could enjoy communion with God. When we talk about prayer, we are talking about nothing less than that. We are talking about intimate connection and communion with the living God where you talk to him, he talks to you, and you experience his nearness.

What I'm talking about today is actually pairing prayer with fasting for maximum satisfaction. The reason I'm even going there is when you look at the Scriptures and study fasting, what you see is that people in the Scriptures who are praying people are also fasting people. I've lost some of you, because you're like, "There is no way you are telling me that fasting leads to greater satisfaction."

The reason you're skeptical right now is you think that when we talk about fasting we're just talking about not eating. That's called dieting. That's not spiritual fasting. Spiritual fasting isn't just about not eating. It's not about just giving something up. Fasting is a lot more about getting something than it is about giving something up. Pairing prayer and fasting together is so much more about satisfaction than it is about sacrifice.

I'm just telling you if you want to experience maximum intimacy with God… I'm telling you the key. It is to discover the joy of pairing prayer and fasting together. That's what leads to maximum satisfaction. So, today I want to talk about experiencing the joy of feeling full by going hungry. If you have a Bible, I want to invite you to turn with me today to Matthew, chapter 6. This is what Jesus has to say about fasting. Look at verse 16.

"And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

This is a famous teaching from Jesus on fasting. What I want you to notice is that Jesus' teaching on fasting comes right after his teaching on prayer. Last week we looked at Matthew 6:5-9. The verses in between that we didn't look at was Jesus' teaching on the Lord's Prayer. Jesus teaches on fasting right after he teaches on prayer, because we are supposed to pair prayer with fasting. So, that's what we want to talk about today.

What I really want you to notice is that Jesus' teaching on fasting actually mirrors his teaching on prayer. What am I talking about? Well, let me show you. Do you remember from last week how Jesus started his teaching on prayer? What did he say in verse 5? "And when you pray…" We established last week that Jesus doesn't say, "And if you pray…" He says, "When you pray," because Jesus assumes prayer will be a normal part of the Christian life. That is a normal aspect of the Christian life. Christians pray.

When Jesus talks about fasting, he starts his teaching on fasting in the exact same way. He says, "And when you fast…" He doesn't say, "And if you fast…" Jesus assumes fasting will be a normal and consistent aspect of the Christian life. When Jesus goes on in his teaching about prayer, he teaches us to not be hypocritical when we pray.

Remember what he said in verse 5 last week? "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward." We established last week that Jesus' point is "Hey, your best prayers shouldn't be prayed in public; they should be prayed in secret," because the goal of prayer is not to win other people's approval. The goal isn't to be seen by others; it's to be seen by God.

When Jesus teaches on fasting, he again teaches us to not be hypocritical. He follows the same model. He says in verse 16, "And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward." The wording is very similar.

In Jesus' time, the Pharisees would fast two times a week. Some people when they fasted would not shave. They wouldn't wash. They would walk around with ashes on their heads because they wanted people in public to look at them and be like, "Oh, they really love God. Oh, they're super-spiritual people. They're way more spiritual than I am. Those people really get it spiritually."

Jesus is like, "That's not the goal of fasting." Jesus actually encourages you to fast in a way that no one even knows you're fasting. Now, this is the key. If you're tuned out, welcome back. Do you remember what Jesus says the goal of prayer is? Listen again to the goal of prayer. Verse 6: "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

The goal of prayer is to be rewarded by God for it, but what is the reward for prayer? The reward is that God will give you more of himself. That is the most gracious and generous thing God could do for anyone in this room today. You might not believe that. You might hear that and be like, "No, there are a lot of other things God could give me today. More money sure would be nice. A better job…I'll take that. A different spouse. Why not?" But the best thing God could give you today is more of himself. That's the reward for prayer.

Now watch the reward for fasting. Verse 17: "But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret." The wording is the exact same. "And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." What's the reward for fasting? God will give you more of himself.

The goal of prayer and the goal of fasting are the exact same. Jesus teaches about fasting right after prayer because he expects us to pair prayer with fasting. The end result is the same. If you want to get more of God, pray. If you want to get more of God, fast. If you want to get the most of God, pair prayer with fasting. That's what Jesus is trying to drive us toward. So, if you want to experience maximum satisfaction, if you want to take a step toward intimacy with God, I promise you it will need to have to do with pairing prayer with fasting.

You might be sitting there and thinking, "Okay. You got me. At first I was skeptical. You started with Chuy's. That was a little bit weird. You're talking about maximum satisfaction combined with fasting. Not feeling it yet, but I'll bite. What does it mean to fast? What does that even look like? How do I even do it?" I would imagine a good number of people in the room, a good majority in here, have never experimented with fasting.

So, for the rest of my time here, my goal is to be as practical as possible in hopes that every person in this room, especially every person who calls this place their church home, would leave and fast this week. That's the goal. So, here's what I want to do. First, I just want to give credit where credit is due. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney was an instrumental book in helping me take a step toward greater enjoyment of fasting. I would commend that book to you. It was very important in helping me shape this message today.

Let me define fasting for you this way. Fasting is a Christian's voluntary abstinence from something good for a predetermined amount of time and for a spiritual purpose. Let's break that statement down really quickly. First, spiritual fasting is for Christians. Let's be clear. We're not talking about intermittent fasting just for the sake of dieting. Our end goal here is not to lose weight or increase our focus or to have more energy during the day. Our ultimate goal is to commune with the living God.

So, the fasting we're talking about is specifically for Christians, for people who have come to the realization that no one is born in a good place with God. No one is born right with God. Everyone is actually born an enemy of God. Everyone is born deserving eternal separation from God in hell. Yet if you're a Christian, what has happened is God in his kindness has allowed you to come to an understanding that when you could do nothing he did everything.

He has made a way through the provision of his perfect Son Jesus Christ who went to the cross and was crucified for all of our sin. He died so you wouldn't have to. He was punished in your place for all your rebellion against God. But he didn't just die; he rose from the dead as a demonstration that he had conquered all your rebellion against God.

By putting your faith in Jesus Christ, that doesn't just secure your eternity in heaven; it invites you into a secure relationship with God now where you can meet with him. You can commune with him. You can talk to him and he can talk to you. That's why fasting has purpose. It's a Christian's voluntary abstinence. It's not an obligation. It's voluntary. It's abstinence from something good. It's easy to abstain from something bad.

Abstinence from something good for a predetermined amount of time and (this is the key; don't miss it) for a spiritual purpose. The reason some people fast and get nothing out of it and don't want to ever do it again is they fast without a spiritual purpose, and that is just dieting. That's just not eating. The key to fasting is fasting for a spiritual purpose. I just want to identify for you three different types of fasts. The Bible speaks to several other fasts, but there are three I want to identify for you.

The first and most common is what we'll call a normal fast. A normal fast is abstinence from everything except water. We're just talking about abstinence from all food except water for a predetermined amount of time and for a spiritual purpose. A partial fast is abstinence from some foods for a predetermined amount of time and for a spiritual purpose. If you're familiar with the Daniel Fast, that's a partial fast. Some people might fast from sugar or coffee, heaven forbid.

The third type of fast is what we'll call an alternative fast. Some people don't even recognize this as a fast because it doesn't deal with food, but we'll go ahead and identify it as a type of fast. An alternative fast is abstinence from something other than food for a predetermined amount of time and for a spiritual purpose. You might fast from social media or TV or from your news outlet that all of your joy hinges upon. So, you might fast from something other than food.

In terms of how long to fast, in the Scriptures you see some people fast for part of a day or an entire day or a night. Some have fasted for 3 days, 7 days, 10 days, 14 days, 21 days, 40 days, and then for unspecified periods of time. I've experimented with all three fasts. The most common fast I do is the normal fast where I will fast from either one or two meals. Most common for me is to block off a seven-hour block, usually from about 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., where I go without food and just have water during that time.

I've also done a partial fast. I love sugar, so there have been times where I've fasted from dessert or soft drinks. I've also done an alternative fast at different points where I've fasted from social media or TV. The key to fasting, which I've already mentioned, but I just want to say it again in case you missed it… Fasting is pointless if you do not do it for a specific spiritual purpose.

The times that I have fasted and been miserable are the times when I have fasted without a spiritual purpose. When I fast without a spiritual purpose, I'm really just dieting. I'm just not eating, so time stands still. I'm just watching the clock all day, longing for the hour to strike when I can eat again. So, let me beg you. Do not try fasting until you have a specific spiritual purpose in mind.

This past Thursday, I woke up, and I was not planning to fast from lunch, yet I felt like the Lord was inviting me to fast from lunch. It was like, "Well, if you're going to teach on fasting, then you should probably fast before you teach on fasting." I'm just going to be honest with you. I did not want to fast. I kind of wrestled with God on it for a little bit, because food can be a comfort for me. I just didn't love the idea of being shaky when I was really trying to focus. Thursday is a big sermon prep day for me. So I began to make excuses. I didn't want to go without food.

Then, finally, if that's what the Lord wanted me to do, then I wanted to do it. For the time that I was wrestling with God, it's because I just saw it as not eating. It had been a month since I had last fasted. Here's the deal. If you don't do it regularly… I mean, think about all the food I ate throughout the holidays, and we just had birthdays in our house, so we've eaten a lot of food. The idea of not eating food just didn't sound nearly as enjoyable as all the food we had just eaten. I was just thinking about not eating.

Then, finally, the Lord began to show me why he wanted me to fast. First, the fact that I was wrestling with God about not eating for seven hours… That's a problem. What I needed was God to unhitch me from that attachment to the comfort of food. Secondly, I'm really expectant right now for what God is doing at Watermark. If you weren't here on the 7th, we reclarified what the win is for Watermark. If you weren't here, go back and listen to it. I'm very expectant for what God is doing in these days at this church.

So I felt like God was inviting me to fast and seek him on behalf of our church. Additionally, I have a friend who is having to make a big decision in life. He has invited Kat and me into praying with him and his wife. So I felt like the Lord was inviting me to fast on behalf of my friend. In addition to that, there's stuff going on with my boys that can cause anxiety at times, and I just thought, "You know what? This is a good thing to bring before the Lord."

So, God began to give me these spiritual purposes for fasting, and once I tapped into the spiritual purposes…I kid you not…everything changed. My attitude changed. I felt urgency in me to fast. I felt the weightiness and the importance of what I was doing. Honestly, time began to move. The hunger subsided. I honestly felt full, and I felt near to the Lord. I felt alert. I felt awake. I felt purposeful, because God was inviting me in to draw near to him and experience intimacy with him through fasting.

So, here's what I want. I want us to be a people who maximize satisfaction by pairing prayer with fasting. All I want to do now is I want to give you seven reasons to fast this week. These seven will go quickly, but I want to give you seven reasons to fast this week. If you've been here the last few weeks, what we've said is, starting February 1, we are kicking off 21 days of prayer and fasting.

The reason I want to give you these seven reasons… When we talk about 21 days of prayer and fasting, we're not necessarily talking about not eating for 21 days. It's going to look different for every person. Some of y'all are sitting there like, "TA, just tell me what you want me to do for 21 days." Okay. Well, here's what I want you to do. I want you to go ask God what he wants you to do regarding prayer and fasting for 21 days.

For some of you, you're going to meet with God, and you're going to sense that God wants you to fast from lunch once a week for three weeks. Others of you are going to meet with God, and you're going to sense that he wants you to do an alternative fast for the first week, a partial fast for the second week, and a normal fast for the third week.

Some of you might sense "God wants me to go without food for 21 days." People are going to be all over the spectrum here. The key is connection with God, not just to do what TA tells you to do. The goal is that over 21 days we would draw near to God together. That's why it's going to be important for you to know these seven reasons and to identify why you're fasting.

1. Fast to intensify your prayers. We see this in Daniel, chapter 9. It says, "Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes." Do you see it? Prayer is a key part of earnestly seeking the Lord. What fasting will do is it will intensify your prayers. It'll put heat on your prayers. I felt it this week on Thursday when I was fasting. My prayers were more desperate. They were more intense.

What happens is when you experience physical hunger, that physical hunger allows you to go deeper to spiritual hunger, and then you find yourself in a place where you're like, "God, I'm actually hungry for you to do something. I'm hungry for you to provide." It's like you're writing your prayers in all caps and bold to God. "God, I want you to move. I want to see you work. I want to experience your nearness. Draw me close to you." It intensifies your prayers.

2. Fast for clarity. Acts 14:23. What do we see Paul and Barnabas doing? It says, "And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed." Paul and Barnabas are having to make big decisions. They're having to decide who the leaders of the churches are going to be. How do they figure that out? By pairing prayer with fasting.

I just wonder if there's anyone in here who really needs God to provide some clarity in their life. There's a big question. There's a big uncertainty. There's a big unknown for you. Maybe you're wondering, "Is this the person I'm supposed to marry?" Maybe you're wondering, "Is now the time for me to make a career change?" Some of you might be wondering if God is calling you to uproot from Dallas and take the gospel to places in the world where it has yet to go.

Maybe it's a question about an aging parent. You need clarity from God. If that's the case, let me encourage you to fast. Do you know what fasting does? Fasting puts you in a posture where you're ready to listen, because when you feel that hunger… You know what? Your body is like a built-in alarm clock, reminding you to stop, to open your ears, to power down, to be still, and to know that he is God.

So, let's be clear. When we talk about fasting, the goal isn't for you to busy yourself so much that you don't think about being hungry, that you didn't have time for lunch anyway. That's not the goal. The goal is for you to meet with God, and the hunger reminds you to stop and listen. So, if you want clarity, I would encourage you to fast.

When we've had to make big decisions in our lives, whether it's moving or something major, we have fasted. As I shared, a friend of mine needs to make a big decision. I fasted on his behalf. That might be a great thing for you to do in your Community Groups. If there's an individual or a couple that is needing clarity from God, what would it look like for the entire group to fast from lunch for one meal this week on behalf of that person in your Community Group, that God would provide clarity?

I remember… This story was so amazing to me. I was listening to a woman talk about sharing the gospel in a country that is closed to the gospel, which means that in this particular country, just to be a Christian could get her arrested and even killed. Sharing the gospel would most certainly get her arrested or killed.

What she said is the way they would discern how they would share the gospel is that they would fast for two days. They would ask God, "What household do you want us to go to?" They would fast for two days, and they would get clarity from the Lord, and then they would go to that household and share the gospel. That is a major deal. Their lives were at stake and they were desperate for God to reveal the path, and it came through prayer and fasting.

3. Fast because of your sin. I want you to think about the story of Jonah in the Bible. When we think of Jonah, we just think it's a story about this guy who got swallowed by a fish and then spit back up by that fish. That's not the point of Jonah. The point of Jonah is what happens when he gets spit up from the fish. What does he do? Jonah goes and calls the Ninevites, a wicked people, to repentance. Look at their response in Nineveh in Jonah 3.

"And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, 'By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.'"

Do you see it? Their response to sin was to pair prayer with fasting. Do you know what fasting does? Fasting expresses how serious you are about your sin. When you fast because of your sin, what you're saying is, "God, I am hungry for change. I'm hungry for you to do something. I'm hungry for your forgiveness. I'm hungry for you to break the addiction. I'm hungry for wholeness instead of brokenness. God, I need you. I want you. Would you move in my life?"

Maybe you feel stuck in sin, and you've tried different things to break yourself free. Maybe this week you're going to fast from lunch one day just to say, "God, more than I need food, I need you to show up and do a miracle in my life." If you're here today and you don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ…

You were invited by a friend or you're just kind of exploring things. You're still in the midst of New Year's resolutions, trying to become a more spiritual person. You just heard me say that no one is born in a good place with God. Everyone is born an enemy of God, which means all of us are deserving of eternal separation from God in hell, yet God has done something so significant through his Son Jesus Christ who has made a way for us to be reconciled to God through faith.

If you've heard that, maybe this week you might fast and pray, "God, I want to know you. Would you reveal yourself to me? Would you help me understand what that guy TA was talking about? If that is true, if I am not right with you, and if I can't just get right with you by good behavior, if it is all about me realizing what you have done for me and not what I can do for you, then, God, help me get clarity on that. Help me deal with the sin that separates me from you."

4. Fast for God's movement. Fasting is one of the ways we can express concern for the work of God. Think about Nehemiah. What do we see Nehemiah doing in chapter 1? "And they said to me, 'The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.' As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven."

What does Nehemiah do? He fasts and prays. Why? Because he wants God to do a new work among the exiles in Israel. When we fast for God's movement, what we are saying is, "God, I am hungry for you to do something. God, I'm actually desperate for you to show up and do something that only you can do."

So, I just want to ask you. What are you desperate for God to do? What is it in your life that you're like, "God, if you could just please show up, if you could move, if you could do this, if you could have your way…" Maybe it's something in your life. It could be something in your roommate's life. It could be something in your spouse's life or one of your kids' lives. What are you desperate for God to show up and do?

I think about a time when I was going on a guys' weekend trip, and some of the guys, close friends, followers of Jesus, were living in active rebellion against God. They were in a season of life where they were putting their faith to the side and pursuing the things of the world. So, a friend and I… Our hearts were so burdened for our friends that we said, "Look. Until we meet up with them…" We were going to meet these guys out of town.

We just said, "Until we meet up with them at dinner, we're going to fast. We're going to fast for God's movement in their lives, that God would bring them back to himself, he would call them to repentance." So, what do you want to see God do? Maybe someone in your life needs healing. Maybe a marriage is broken. Maybe one of your kids isn't flourishing.

Maybe God is calling you this week to prayer and fasting. You might sit there and be like, "You know what? I'll try something else." Or "You know what? I'll just pray, but I won't fast." What if God is saying, "No, no, no. I am calling you to fast. How desperate are you for me to move? Are you really that hungry for me to move?"

I would ask that you would, even this week, pray and fast on behalf of Watermark and what God is doing in this church and for the vision we've rolled out and that God would have his way and this would be a year that is marked by the Spirit of God moving in such a way that the dead are raised to life, the lost are found, the broken are healed, and marriages are restored, all in the name of Jesus.

5. Fast when facing persecution. Some of you might be in situations right now where people don't respect your faith. It might be family members or coworkers who single you out, make fun of, or disrespect you for your faith. If that's the case, I'd encourage you to fast and pray that God would sustain you and preserve you. If that's not your situation, if life is pretty comfortable, I just want you to think about all of the Christians in the world who are being arrested, tortured, or killed for their faith. You can pray and fast for them this week.

6. Fast for victory in the midst of temptation. We know the story about Jesus fasting for 40 days and being tempted in the wilderness by the Devil. Sometimes when we teach this passage we teach the fact that Satan tempted Jesus because he was hungry. That's true. If you want to know when you're most susceptible to temptation, it's when you're tired and hungry. But often we leave out the fact that Jesus wasn't just fasting for those 40 days; he was feasting on intimacy with his Father.

Think about the last words he heard from his Father before he went into the wilderness. What were those words? "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." He went into the wilderness knowing the delight of his Father in him. So, he was able to endure temptation and resist temptation because of the intimacy he experienced with God.

So, maybe you this week are going to fast for victory in the midst of temptation because that intimacy with God is going to lead to victory in times of temptation. Maybe you're traveling for work. What would it look like for you to fast on the day of travel, just asking and begging the Lord that as you go into this work trip you would be a man or a woman of integrity, purity, and character, that you would be strong in conviction.

Maybe you think about the weekends, and you're like, "You know what? When I'm not going to work…" You get home during the weekend, and you just kind of relax. There's a natural tendency to be short with your roommates or short with your spouse or with your kids. If that's the case, what would it look like for you to fast on Thursday or Friday over lunch, saying, "God, I'm going into the weekend, and I want this to be a weekend that is marked by peace and joy and love toward the people I love. Would you help me? Help me to be filled with your Spirit this weekend, that when I'm tempted to be short I would be filled by your Spirit."

7. Fast as a display of love to God. Look at what we find Anna doing in Luke 2:36-37. "And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day."

How did she worship God? Through prayer and fasting. When you fast, do you know what you're declaring to Jesus? You're saying, "You're better. You're better. I delight in you way more than I delight in food. You're more satisfying than the finest of food and drink. You're more satisfying than social media. You're more satisfying than my favorite news outlet. You are more satisfying. You're better. I want more of you. I don't want to settle for less when you are offering me more." Fast as a display of love to God.

Just remember the gospel, the good news. In a sense, Jesus fasted from heaven. Jesus fasted from the privileges of being God. When he, the eternal Son, took on flesh in the person of Jesus, he was fully God and fully man, yet Philippians 2 tells us that he did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. While being God, he fasted from all of the privileges of being God. Why? So he could endure the cross, make payment for all of our rebellion, conquer our sin through his resurrection, and make a way for you and me into an intimate relationship with God where we have the privilege of drawing near to him through prayer and fasting.

Do you know what faith is? If you're not a Christian, let me just be clear what faith is. Faith is giving up the things in this world that cannot satisfy in order to take hold of the only one who can, Jesus Christ, the Bread of Life, the one who satisfies the deepest longings of our souls. So, this is the moment where I call the people of Watermark to make a decision from now to pair prayer with fasting this week.

I just want to ask you now. I don't want to just encourage you; I want to challenge you right now. Would you commit to fasting this week? Just ask God right now. "God, what day do you want me to fast?" Choose a day. Choose a reason or reasons that you're going to fast. Carve out a seven-hour period with only water. Look. If there are medical conditions that might make it difficult for you to fast, call your doctor. Talk to your doctor and get some help with this.

Then when you fast, I want to encourage you. Set a timer on your phone or your watch to go off every 30 minutes, and when it goes off, stop and allow the physical hunger you feel to translate into a spiritual hunger for God's nearness and his work in your life. I just want to be clear. You don't need to wait for a special calling from God to fast. He has already called us to fast. Jesus said, "And when you fast…"

Do you know how our Enemy wants to work? He wants to work through excuses. Even right now when I say, "Hey, would you commit to fasting this week?" some of you are already like, "No, it's not a good week. Man, I've got a lot going on. No, man, I can't do that. I don't want to be hungry when I've got this meeting or that." Remember, fasting isn't about just not eating. It's so much more about getting something than it is about giving something up. So, would you just push back on those excuses, all of the reasons you can't fast or shouldn't fast?

Would you push back on the fear you might feel, realizing that fear is just made out of papier-mâché, that if you push on it, it'll collapse in the name of Jesus, and that there's actually more joy waiting for you in prayer and fasting than there is hunger? Would you just take a step? Prayer and fasting is so much more about satisfaction than it is about sacrifice. So, my hope and prayer for every person in this room is that by pairing prayer with fasting you would know the joy of feeling full when going hungry. Let's pray together.

Lord, I pray that you would help us take a step. God, I would imagine there is fear in this room of what that's going to feel like to miss lunch or to miss breakfast and lunch. I thank you that you are waiting for us and that there is true satisfaction to be found, Lord, better than any combo at Chuy's. God, help us to take a step. Help me to take a step, Lord. God, prepare us, as a church, for 21 days.

Lord, I don't want to just be a pastor who prescribes exactly what people need to do, because that removes you from the equation. God, would you have your way in each individual's life so the 21 days can look different for everyone? But the thing that should look the same is that we all seek you to discern what you want us to do, Lord. I pray for more joy this week. I pray for more intimacy. I pray for more satisfaction in you. I pray that there would be thousands of people at Watermark this week who say, "I never knew fasting could be this sweet." Have your way, God. We need you.

About 'A Praying Church'

There is no greater joy than connecting with God through prayer.