There are moments in your life that change everything. One of those moments came for our family during a trip to Kenya.
In February 2016, Sydney and I began a friendship with a couple named Muriithi and Carol Wanjau and their three amazing children. I could fill an entire book with stories about this incredible family, but for the sake of time and space, I’ll share just one. The Wanjaus have been positioned by God in Nairobi, Kenya, and they lead one of the most amazing networks of churches we have ever seen. Our friendship with this family began that year when we spent several weeks with them and many of their global leaders who had gathered in Nairobi for a time of training and fellowship.
Sydney and I were blown away by what we saw during our time there with our Kenyan brothers and sisters. Their love for God, their passion for reaching the lost, and their commitment to living holy, counter-cultural lives were just a few of the things that blessed our hearts and challenged our thinking in ways we never expected. To top it off, the prayer life of our Kenyan brothers and sisters impacted me in a profound way.
One day, as Sydney and I were riding to the store with Carol, we were picking her brain about the spiritual vibrancy of their church network. We wanted to know why the Christians in their circle seemed to be so alive for Jesus. She was quick to remind us that there are no “silver bullets” when it comes to spiritual development, but she went on to share an important spiritual rhythm that has transformed their churches and community for the better. I will never forget what she said:
“Dave and Sydney, much of what you see here is the simple result of prayer and fasting. We consistently practice the communal act of self-denial [fasting] so we will have the strength and clarity that is needed to live faithfully for Jesus in a culture that is obsessed with self-gratification.”
That moment in the car with Carol is when many of the puzzle pieces began to click in our hearts. Little did we know that our family had arrived in Kenya on the last day of a month-long fast that the Wanjaus and their churches lean into every January. In fact, they spend nearly three months out of every year devoted to the Lord in prayer and fasting. Young and old, male and female, rich and poor, children and adults—all who are willing and able—commit themselves to a full-throttled pursuit of God above everything else through prayer and fasting.
The result of that devotion is inspiring to say the least.
I remember leaving Kenya thinking to myself, If that is the kind of faith that prayer and fasting can help produce, then why have I given such little attention to this particular dimension of life with God?
I’m convinced there are times when God will use someone else’s life to ignite something wonderful and new inside us. Like a match in the hand of God, their life becomes the spark for igniting a new season of wonder and growth deep within us. I often thank God for our friends in Kenya and the way he used them to ignite a hunger for prayer and fasting in our family and church.
As I look back over the scope of Christian history, I realize that what we saw in Kenya was not an exception to the rule.
In fact, more often than not, it is the rule.
You would be hard-pressed to find any significant movement of God across human history that was not first preceded by a group of faithful men and women committed to the Lord in prayer and fasting.
I’m convinced that the future revival for which we were created is something we cannot acquire through strategic planning, relevant programs, or clever preaching alone. No, the revival we long for can only be acquired through sacrificial praying.
And not just the casual, half-hearted “pray when it’s convenient” praying to which so many of us have grown accustomed.
This kind of future is only realized when the people of God become so collectively homesick for the kingdom of Heaven that we exchange our time, our comforts, our lives, and even our eating habits for more time in the presence of God.
That is why fasting is so important.
Our family came back from our time in Kenya with a deep longing to see our church become a church committed to Jesus through prayer and fasting. In our zeal, we made lots of mistakes as we sought to help our church family connect with God this way. But God is gracious, and what once felt like an impossible longing is slowly but surely becoming our present reality.
Currently, our church family tithes our year in prayer and fasting. In other words, we give at least ten percent of each year to a communal pursuit of God through prayer and fasting. As we mentioned earlier, this is by no means a “spiritual silver bullet,” but we have seen God do more in the last few years than we could have ever asked or imagined. And not just in our church, but in churches all across the city and far beyond.
Earlier this year, more than 400 churches across our city joined with us for 30 days of prayer and fasting, as together we prayed for every person in our city by name. It was truly remarkable, and we are convinced that God is just getting started!
We are convinced that nothing will stir up a deeper hunger for God quite like an extended season of prayer and fasting. You don’t have to travel to Kenya or even Nashville to get a glimpse of this life changing reality. Simply fix your eyes on Jesus, and the incredible witness of Christian history, and then take your next step. Start small and stick with it. We are convinced you will be blown away by all that God will do in you and through you for his glory, your joy, and the good of those around you!
To learn more about our story, and to discover practical ways you can help your church create a culture of prayer and fasting, check out our book Revival Starts Here.