One of the greatest ways we grow in our faith is in community. Twice a year, every January and August, our church comes together for something we call Pray First. We set aside 21 days to seek the Lord together through prayer and fasting.
Prayer and fasting are connected all throughout scripture. Barnabas and Saul were commissioned by God as they prayed and fasted. It was during a time of prayer and fasting that Daniel pleaded with God for guidance. The ten commandments were written as Moses fasted and prayed. As we study scripture, we can see these disciplines for what they truly are: an invitation to more.
But more of what? The heart of prayer and fasting is not to get something from God, but to get to know him.
In his time on earth, Jesus often withdrew from the crowd to pray. He recognized the importance of connecting with God before he continued with the crowd. In Mark 6, Jesus says to the disciples, “Come away with me. Let us go alone to a quiet place and rest for a while.” Jesus is always extending an invitation for us to come away with him — choosing to pray and fast is saying yes to the invitation to more. These disciplines sync our spirit to his, take us deeper into the throne room of heaven, and draw us closer to his presence — and it’s in his presence that we find everything we need.
We want prayer and fasting to be woven into the rhythm of our church. We want people to discover the “more” that awaits us as we walk this journey with Jesus. Leading people well in these disciplines requires intentionality in two areas: empowering people through impactful programming and equipping people with creative resources.
EMPOWER THROUGH PROGRAMMING
We host weekly prayer gatherings over the duration of Pray First and are intentional with how we program each gathering.
Our teams begin meeting several weeks before Pray First to start planning. We tailor the programming to help meet the needs of our church community. If there are certain prayer requests that are repeatedly coming to our pastoral and prayer team, we make sure to highlight those topics in our prayer gatherings and create space for people to receive the prayer they need.
Every prayer gathering will include worship, an encouragement on prayer or fasting, and individual and corporate prayer. With that in mind, Pray First is an opportunity to program differently than a Sunday service. Sunday services are generally geared toward people who don’t know the Lord yet, while Pray First gatherings are centered around growing in the practice of prayer. This gives some flexibility to flip the script with what each gathering looks like. One might include an anointing service, the next might have communion, and another might have a time of extended worship. We incorporate moments of stillness in God’s presence and guided reflections of scripture. We take time to pray individually, pray corporately, and pray over each other.
During a prayer gathering, we are less focused on making sure we hit every scheduled mark and aim to follow wherever the Holy Spirit leads. If we feel led to linger in a moment or move in a different direction than planned, we will. Wherever God goes is where we want to be, too.
EQUIP WITH RESOURCES
Our creative team works to support the pastoral vision of Pray First through different creative elements like guided meditations, social media resources, and a Pray First website with additional resources and readings. These elements bring:
1. Guiding language. Our words have weight. Using consistent language gives a clear vision for people to understand the purpose of prayer and fasting. Language is the bedrock of our creative executions — it’s what we use to anchor art, graphics, and web visuals. It’s great to lean into abstract art direction in other moments of our year, but with Pray First, we understand there is power in our clarity. The more we can put language to what prayer and fasting is, the more we see engagement in our community. There is power in our participation.
2. Practical handles. Each week of 21 Days has a theme and each day has a topic. This structure allows people to rally around specific focuses as we intercede together. We aim to keep these topics at the forefront of all art — in graphics, web design, social posts, screens, etc.
3. Engaged community. Creative platforms allow people to gather digitally to connect and build community. One of the resources we provide each Pray First season is a resource site. Included here are four key components:
Gatherings — A calendar for weekly corporate gatherings with an opportunity to collect guest RSVPs
Daily Topics — A visual layout of Pray First weekly themes and daily topics
Guiding Language — Clear value statements on why we pray and why we fast
Resources — Sermons, meditations, Bible plans, blog posts, and additional readings.
We always want to resource people along the way. As we create clear pathways for people to join the journey, we believe God will continue to show up and do what only he can through 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting.