40 for 2020: Forty Days of Prayer and Fasting

Election Day 2020 is officially 40 days from today.
It is clear that there is much at stake.

Just in the last couple weeks, we have seen Donald Trump suggest that there might not be a peaceful transfer of power at the end of this election. We have seen our president pass an Executive Order that “combats race and sex stereotyping” by banning federal employees from trainings that talk about white privilege or sexism, as well as propose a commission that would “reinstate patriotic education curriculum” in America by counteracting education about the legacy of slavery and racism in our country. We have seen him speak about the racehorse theory and “good genes” (to a mostly white crowd in Minnesota), ideas that embrace eugenics and tout white superiority. We have heard news about covid-19 death numbers hitting over 200,000, while recordings of Trump have been released showing that he explicitly downplayed the severity of covid-19 in February, despite knowing its risk.

We have seen police arrest 127 protestors who are outraged about murder, while actual murderers are only charged with endangering the walls and neighbors around them and not killing Breonna Taylor.

We have heard testimony of the terrors of ICE, including forced hysterectomies, and individuals being detained by ICE after serving their full prison sentence, stripped from their families and taken across the country to be detained. We have seen Trump end protections for over 330,000 migrants by revoking TPS (temporary protective status), and seen concrete efforts to undermine and end asylum in this country.

We have seen they hypocrisy of many Republicans, who swore in 2016 that Supreme court justices should not be confirmed during an election year, now clearly flip-flop, with less than two months until the election. We have even heard some predict a coming Civil War, while a white evangelical pastor, Rick Joyner, has actually called Christians to take up arms to prepare for a coming war by forming militias.

If you’re not feeling concerned, you’re not paying attention.

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In response to the concern that I, and other friends have been feeling, I have organized 40 days of prayer and fasting leading up to the election, which begins today (September 24th). What begin as a small commitment among friends has grown, as many Christians from all around the country feel the gravity of this moment, as well as a collective desire to gain spiritual clarity about how to respond to all that’s going on.

By fasting, we remove sources of distraction, and are paying greater attention to what God might be saying and doing in this time. The discipline of fasting is also connected with lament, repentance, mourning, a recognition of our places of ache and lack. As the year 2020 brings about a clearer vision of what America actually is, how the Church has failed, and who we need to be, fasting helps us fuel some of the frustration, outrage, grief, and even paralysis into spiritual activity.

As we feel hunger in our bodies, we acknowledge the hunger in our spirits as well. We long for the realm of God to break in and break through.

Similarly, prayer in these times is not a passive act. It is not a way to abdicate our responsibility as human beings or a way to avoid the suffering around us. Instead, prayer fuels our resistance. Prayer pushes us to take a true and honest look- at ourselves, our communities, our nation, and our world- and leads us to grief and confession. To declare that things are not okay. To cry out for help and intervention. To pursue a renewed imagination.

Prayer allows us to assert all of who we are in God’s presence, freely and fully. And by feeling permission to assert ourselves, we receive the grace to abandon ourselves to God’s will, trusting and yielding to God.

During these 40 days of prayer and fasting, I hope that the space of fasting and prayer will allow us to battle temptations toward numbness, apathy, and overwhelm. I hope that our prayers are marked by lament and repentance that leads us to hope and resistance. And I desperately pray that we would begin to see change, not just in the circumstances around us, but within ourselves as well.

If you’d like to join yourself with the community, I encourage you to do the following:

  1. Sign Up: Take a minute to fill out this form to let me know you are participating and why you are interested. This helps me keep track of where people are joining in from.
  2. Consider if you want to fast: Take some time to read through this introductory document, and use the reflection questions at the end to especially consider if you want to fast. Note that you don’t have to participate in a food fast specifically, and that there are others who are engaging by fasting other things (social media, TV time, shopping, working after certain hours, using their phone only at limited times, etc.)
  3. Take up a daily prayer practice: Consider when and how you would like to engage in more intentional prayer. Try to establish a regular time and space or rhythm for prayer. I have also created a daily prayer guide that many are using to guide prayer for specific areas of concern, based on the day of the week. Feel free to follow along and use the guide if helpful.
  4. Connect with others: Find a prayer partner that you can check in regularly with about how you’re doing, what you’re praying for, and what God is revealing to you through prayer. If you’re interested, you are welcome to join this Facebook group as a place of connection as well.
  5. Discern actions beyond prayer and fasting: I hope that as we align our bodies and spirits more with God’s vision and will, that we will be able to move our bodies into action as well, whether that be donating, protesting, phone banking, writing letters, hosting conversations, advocating, etc. Let prayer be the first step that leads you to greater action.

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Be joyful in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12: 9–12)

Co-Pastor @bethelcommunitysl | Director of Advocacy @fphayward | pastor, activist, writer | married to @eubanksme | co-author of @lentenlament | she/her

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