New Year Kicks Off with Prayer and Fasting Across Church of God

 In All Church of God, CHOG

By Carl Stagner

What better time to seek the Lord and his wisdom than at the beginning of a new year? After all, the noisy Christmas season has concluded, school is back in session, and the calendar may offer some breathing room—well, at least for a few days! Instead of waiting until forty days before Easter or postponing such vital, spiritually focused activities until circumstance demands it, Church of God congregations across the country have opted to set aside an early season for prayer and fasting. Framing the start of a new year with intentionally spiritual disciplines is already offering heaven’s perspective on vision and direction for churches from coast to coast.

First Church of God in Toledo, Ohio, is one example. Their twenty-one days of prayer and fasting has placed a special emphasis on consecration, taking place on Wednesdays in the sanctuary and online. Nightly prayer is included as an option via conference call. Appropriate disclaimers have been offered, such as consulting one’s doctors regarding healthy fasting, and remembering to continue taking prescription medicine.

In Lodi, California, a Church of God congregation called Vintage Church started fasting a week into 2024, providing the congregation with guided weekly “prayer points.” Unity, clarity, mission, wisdom, repentance, leadership, and vocation were all cited as specific areas of prayer focus during the first week; Ephesians 4:15’s call to spiritual growth in Christ was given as Scriptural support.

CrossPath Church, one of our congregations in Johnson City, Tennessee, also opted for a three-week period of collective prayer and fasting. “We’re so excited to see what God will do in these days,” they explain. “…Let’s pray that our hearts and minds are prepared to receive what God has to show us over the next three weeks. …Ask God to soften your heart. Ask him to reveal himself to you over the next three weeks. As you seek him, his Word tells you will find him. (Jeremiah 29:13). Regarding the fasting portion of the churchwide emphasis, the Daniel Fast was chosen as a primary recommendation, but other types of fasts were welcomed.

Arvada, Colorado, is home to a Church of God congregation that did things a bit differently—Altitude Church decided to get a jumpstart on their prayer and fasting before the new year even began. One of their social media posts explained their desire to fast intentionally during Advent: “As believers, fasting is a practice to connect with God on a deeper level through prayer. When we put aside our need/desire for food, we channel that hunger and energy towards our heavenly Father, who is capable of filling us with so much more.”

The late, great Dr. James Earl Massey would certainly agree. His critically acclaimed book, Spiritual Disciplines: A Believer’s Openings to the Grace of God, has entire chapters devoted to prayer and fasting, respectively. On page sixty-six and sixty-seven, he writes, “Fasting is important in Christian experience because it deepens within the whole self a sense of one’s dependence upon the strength of God. Fasting is more than an act of abstinence. It is an affirmative act; it is a way of waiting on God; it is an act of surrender. Fasting tends to induce within us an awareness of the spiritual dimension of life…Fasting expands the consciousness, permitting us to learn from wider dimensions of life as God knows and wills it for us. Certain areas of understanding and experience lie beyond our usual awareness; fasting is a calculated attempt to release ourselves into a sensitive awareness of those areas… Granted, the inward dynamics of the act can be discussed in terms of psychology. The validity of the act can be defended in terms of biblical tradition. But the spiritual value of the act can be understood only in terms of personal experience.”

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