40 Days of Prayer and Fasting: Introduction

Thank you for joining us as we fast and pray together over the next 40 days. We are asking and expecting the Lord to work in a powerful way both in and through our church. 

Fasting can be a confusing and maybe even overwhelming concept. That’s why we’ve provided you with this guide to help walk you through the next 40 days.


In his excellent book on spiritual disciplines, Donald Whitney offers the following definition of fasting: “Fasting is when we hunger for God—for a fresh encounter with God, for God to answer a prayer, for God to save someone, for God to work powerfully in our church, for God to guide us or protect us—more than we hunger for the food God made us to live on.”

Essentially, fasting is giving up something of significance (usually food) for the purpose of more fully devoting ourselves to God through prayer and other spiritual disciplines.


Many of us are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. But chances are we’re not quite as familiar with what Jesus says next: “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites…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” (Matthew 6:16-18).

Do you see what is implied here? Jesus expects his followers to fast! Just like prayer, reading Scripture, and worship, fasting is a spiritual discipline that should be consistently practiced by followers of Jesus. But not only did Jesus teach on fasting, he practiced it! In Matthew 4, we read that Jesus fasted for forty days and nights prior to being tempted in the desert. 

In short, we fast because Jesus himself fasted and expects his followers to do the same.


In Scripture, fasting is generally understood as abstaining from food. While abstaining from food is the primary method of fasting, the concept of fasting can take a variety of forms. As we begin our 40 days of prayer and fast, here are some considerations of things to fast from:

  • Food (i.e., one meal per day for 40 days)
  • Social media
  • Television and other forms of media
  • Sleep (waking up earlier/staying up later to spend more time in prayer)

The important thing to remember is that the goal of fasting is not just to “do without” something.

The goal of fasting is to give something up in order to more fully devote our time and attention to prayer and worship. Donald Whitney reminds us, “Fasting must always have a spiritual purpose—a God-centered purpose, not a self-centered one.”


“Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people.”

Joel 2:15-16

This passage in Joel gives us a picture of a congregation that has been called together to fast and pray. The purpose of these 40 days of prayer and fasting is that we would likewise be united as a congregation for the purpose of praying and fasting together.

These 40 days of prayer and fasting will be divided into six week-long segments. Each week will have a corresponding prayer focus. This serves to not only help you pray over the course of 40 days, but also to unite our church in praying toward the same end. 

As we progress through the next 40 days, it is most helpful to think in terms of concentric circles. We’ll begin in week one by praying for ourselves and continuing praying “outward” until we finish with a week of praying for the nations.

In this guide, you’ll find a brief introduction to set up each of the next six weeks. Each week will include a brief devotion as well as suggestions for how to pray and act in accordance to our prayer focus for that particular week. 

This guide is meant to be a resource to help you as you fast and pray—but it is certainly not the only guide you have over the next 40 days. As you fast and pray, be mindful of your ultimate Guide, the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). Respond to Him as leads and guides you over the next 40 days and beyond.

Download the full guide as a pdf here.

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