2019 Easter Prayer and Fasting Guide

Creation to the Cross

March 31st — April 20th

It’s All About Jesus

In John chapter five, Jesus is accused of Law-breaking. The Scribes and Pharisees begin to persecute Him, starting a public trial that lasts through chapter eight. They hope to kill Him. But Jesus defends Himself vigorously, and then He turns the tables on His accusers.

“You study the Scriptures diligently because
you think that in them you have eternal life.
These are the very Scriptures that testify about
me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

The word translated “Scriptures” literally means writings and refers to what we would call the Old Testament. By appealing to the ancient Hebrew writings as a witness, Jesus does something remarkable. He gives us an interpretive key to understand this seemingly odd, and sometimes baffling, collection of stories and poetry.

They are about Him. This 21-day devotional is designed to do two things. First, to unite us in prayer and fasting as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection this Easter. Second, to help us see the divine preparation for His coming in the arc of God’s salvific history. The entire story has one focal point, one purpose. It points people to Jesus. Let us pray that our lives will do the same.

Week 1, Mar. 31-Apr. 6

DAY 1: Birds and Fish

Read Genesis 1:20-25

The separation of livestock, birds, and fish is a clue. God uses birds to provide in the Old Testament. During the Exodus, quail arrive and sustain the people of Israel. Ravens feed Elijah by the brook. Something changes after the arrival of Jesus though. God uses fish to provide for His people’s physical needs. Jesus feeds the multitudes with just a handful of fish and a few loaves. Peter finds a coin in a fish’s mouth to pay taxes owed to Caesar. Jesus calls His disciples from among fishermen, telling them to cast their nets “on the other side.” This division between birds and fish brackets a third category: the livestock of the land. And livestock point to a spotless lamb, a redeeming sacrifice.

Respond + Pray: Consider the extraordinary sovereignty of God and how this tip of the hat shows us that He had a plan all along. Write a prayer giving thanks to God, for His provision. Also, intercede for someone you know who needs Jesus.

Day 2: Sacrifice and Skins

Read Genesis 2:25, 3:6-7 and 3:21

Created to feel no shame, Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness after sinning. They tried sewing fig leaves together, but those would not do. Hebrews 9:22 says, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” A sacrifice is required to atone for sin, and God Himself provides it, making garments of skin for Adam and Eve. But this is only temporary. So, God provides the ultimate atoning sacrifice in Christ— “...the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). 

Respond + Pray: Take a few minutes to thank God for providing the sacrifice that covers your shame. Journal your thoughts and pray for those burdened by their own sin, by name if possible. Ask that they may find Christ, who will cover them.

Day 3: Melchizedek

Read Genesis 14:18-20

This mysterious figure from an obscure passage in Genesis becomes points to a system built on faith and relationship. A system that would come into its fullness in Jesus. The savior, who the children of Israel were waiting for, did not come from a tribe of priests but from Judah, a tribe of warriors. Yet, He was not a warrior in the way the people of His day expected but rather was the promised priest who would bring them into a relationship with God that was far closer than they could have imagined— not by way of ancestral lineage but rather through faith. Let us read the words below from Hebrews and consider our access to God and the unexpected and powerful ways we might encounter Him.

Hebrews 7:16-19 ...one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to His ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

Respond + Pray: Record your thoughts about God granting you access to Himself in Christ. Think about what it means to you that Jesus, as the perfect Priest, offered the perfect sacrifice which gave you entrance into God’s family. Pray for those who need to see His sacrifice as the supreme declaration of God’s love. 

Day 4: Killing His Son

Read Genesis 22:9-12

Abraham had advanced to old age before receiving the son he
was promised years beforehand. Isaac represented Abraham’s great hope, his family name being passed on and his lineage continuing. Yet God asked Abraham to sacrifice that which was most precious to him — his only son. While God provides a ram caught in the thicket so that Isaac’s life is spared, He does not spare His own Son’s life. Jesus, like Isaac, was an only son born of divine intervention. He also carried wood to the same mountain and was bound there. Hebrews 11:17-19 tells us that Abraham had great faith all along. He believed that even if God called him to slay his son, that same God would bring Isaac back to life and fulfill His promise to make of Abraham a great nation.

Respond + Pray: Imagine sacrificing something extremely precious to you, then spend some time in prayer thanking God for His willingness to sacrifice His only Son. Also, pray for those who hold on to things they believe are precious but who have never laid hold of Jesus. Journal your thoughts after praying.

Day 5: The Flood

Read 1 Peter 3:20-22

Out with the old and in with the new life! What a powerful reminder
the story of Noah and his Ark are — that God makes a way of salvation in the midst of brokenness and darkness run wild. The Ark is a model of our spiritual renewal in baptism, life from the inside bursting forth like those saved within the Ark. With it comes the washing and renewal of the water, like the great reset and rebirth accomplished by the flood. The rebirth of new life symbolizes our own regeneration by the Spirit as we are united to Jesus by faith in His death and Resurrection. The public sacrament of water baptism is an outward declaration of that inward change.

Respond + Pray: Take time today to reflect and give thanks for the new life we have in Christ. Write a prayer of thanks for your own water baptism and what it symbolizes. If you’ve never been baptized, consider doing so at Easter and pray for those who will follow Jesus into the waters of baptism this Easter.

Day 6: Sold into Slavery

Read Genesis 37:25-28

Egypt represents bondage and suffering, a place where God will demonstrate His sovereign commitment to save and provide for the people He loves. As the story unfolds, Joseph rises from slavery to become chief under Pharaoh, ruling Egypt and saving the children of Israel. This includes his brothers, the very ones that sold him into bondage. Shortly after His birth, Jesus fled with His family to Egypt in order to escape King Herod. (Matthew 2:13-15) How extraordinary that the savior of humanity would go to Egypt under terrible circumstances only to return and bring about ultimate salvation, leading His people in the last Exodus. This is what the prophet Hosea spoke about in Hosea 11:1 when he said, “Out of Egypt
I will call my Son…”

Respond + Pray: Consider the difficult circumstances of your life, the injustices, and the fears. Surrender those to the Lord’s sovereignty knowing He can and will bring great things from great difficulty. Write a prayer of deliverance for yourself, and pray for those who also need a release from bondage.

Day 7: Slaughter of the Innocent

Read Exodus 1:22, 2:1-3

The book of Exodus offers a wonderful preview of the life, ministry, and death of Jesus. This story looks at the birth of Moses — a deliverer chosen by God — and parents who believed the Lord had a plan for the life of their son. It shows the evil of the Enemy and the foolishness of a Pharaoh’s heart, who planned to murder the Hebrew baby boys. King Herod tried the same thing during the time of Jesus.
His aim was to cut off the future of the Hebrew people, eliminating all chance of a deliverer. We can hear the echoes of Moses’ story as an evil king in league with the Enemy tries to destroy hope, freedom, and salvation for all humanity — including you.

Respond + Pray: Despite opposition, our God reigns. In His faithfulness, He made and still makes, a way to set the captives free and save us all. How has God been faithful to you, personally and specifically? Journal your thoughts about that. How can you pray for someone who needs to see God as a faithful King who reigns?

Week 2, Apr. 7-13

Day 8: Passover

Read: Exodus 12:5-7, 13-14, and 46

The night before Israel began their Exodus from Egypt, each Israelite family sacrificed an unblemished lamb or goat and spread its blood on the door frames of their homes. The Angel of Death passed over those homes, yet struck the homes of the Egyptians. Jesus, the lamb without defect sacrificed for us, is foreshadowed in this story. 1 Peter 1:18-19 tells us, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” John 19:36 reads, “These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of His bones will be broken,...” Just like the Passover lamb.

Respond + Pray: Reflect on Jesus as the spotless Lamb of God. Thank Him for resisting temptation and living a sinless life so that by His blood you could be redeemed. Record your thoughts and offer a prayer of thanks.

Day 9: Exodus

Read: Deuteronomy 8:2 and Luke 4:1-2

In many ways, the life of Christ parallels the history of the Israelites. Israel wandered in the desert for forty years before crossing the Jordan River into the promised land. In a similar way, Jesus underwent forty days of testing in the desert and then was baptized before beginning His earthly ministry. The Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt moved them from a place of physical slavery to one of freedom. Jesus’ “exodus” was about bringing people from slavery of the soul to a place of freedom in every sense, giving them spiritual, physical, mental, and social shalom.

Respond + Pray: Contemplate the profound freedom and peace that Jesus offers. Look for areas in your life where you need to be released from some sort of bondage. Ask God to set you free from what is holding you captive, and celebrate the areas in which His life has freed you already. Journal your thoughts.

Day 10: Lifted Up

Read: Numbers 21:4-9

The children of Israel are traveling through a barren and deadly place where poisonous snakes are killing the people as a result of their sin. The Lord tells Moses to lift up a symbol of God’s hope and power. Those that looked to it, looked to the Lord and lived. The people are delivered from sin and death because they believe God’s promise to them. We see the parallel in the gospel of John which declares: the Son of Man, Jesus, must be lifted up. (John 3:14) Let us lift up the name and truth of Jesus and what He accomplished on the Cross and in His Resurrection.

Respond + Pray: Remember that no matter what we have done or what we face, when we look at Jesus lifted up, we have eternal life and hope in Him. Write a letter to God thanking Him for His life and hope in you. Pray that those who need Jesus will see Him lifted up this Easter.

Day 11: Manna

Read: Exodus 16:14–15

Manna literally means “What is it?” The Hebrew people refused
to recognize this blessing as bread, and stubbornly called it manna, even after they had been explicitly told what it was. In doing so, they were refusing to acknowledge what Moses had revealed about the substance.

This foreshadowed the response that Jesus, the True Bread from Heaven (John 6), would have from His people. He was despised in the same manner as manna, especially in the nation’s refusal to recognize Him as the promised Bread from Heaven. After Jesus proclaimed Himself to be this, John records that, “Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven” and they went on to say, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” (John 6:41-42). In other words, they refused to call Jesus what He had declared Himself to be and continued calling Him “What is it?”

Respond + Pray: Jesus is our savior, healer, baptizer in the Holy Spirit, and soon coming King! Praise Him for who He has revealed Himself to be and journal your thoughts about that. Please also pray that many truly name Him as their savior for the first time this Easter.

Day 12: Living Water

Read: Exodus 17:1-7

When the Israelites complained that the Lord had brought them out of Egypt only to die of thirst, God provided water despite their grumbling. Centuries later, Jesus was at the Feast of Tabernacles commemorating Israel’s years spent living in temporary homes as they wandered. John 7:37-39 says, “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this, He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.”

Respond + Pray: Jesus went a step beyond quenching our natural thirst and promised the Holy Spirit. Pray today for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Easter. Thank Him and journal your thoughts about the Spirit as a gift from God to you.

Day 13: A Priestly Garment

Read: Exodus 28:15-21

What could seem like an antiquated and obscure passage is, in fact, a great clue that helps us grasp God’s love for us. We hold a place of great affection in the heart of Jesus our Redeemer. The precious piece of jewelry described in the passage above was created for the high priest to wear when he went into The Most Holy Place to minister before the Lord. The item he wore reminded the priest of that which was most important to God. It was the priest’s duty to care for and bear the weight of God’s people, His children. This symbol shows us how precious we are to Christ, who is our high priest. He cares for us and bears our burdens, ever making intercession before the throne of God on our behalf.

Respond + Pray: Remember that you are a jewel on the breastplate of Jesus, your High Priest. It is your name that is carefully carved upon a rare and expensive jewel, paid for by the blood of Jesus. Write a prayer expressing how you feel about that, and pray for someone who needs God’s love.

Day 14: Atonement

Read: Hebrews 9:1-3 and 6-7

The Day of Atonement was the pinnacle of Israel’s sacrificial system (See Leviticus 16). After describing the function of this day, Hebrews 9 tells us that Jesus is the superior high priest, the one to whom all past priests point. Jesus could identify with the people in His humanity, so He was able to offer a sacrifice on their behalf. However, unlike a priest in the Aaronic line, Jesus did not need to make an offering for Himself. He is not just the sinless high priest but the spotless lamb as well. So, Jesus’ sacrifice need not be repeated and His priesthood is unending.

Respond + Pray: Journal your thanks to the Lord that His sacrifice was sufficient for all time, and that it is by His action, atonement for your sin is made once and for all. Pray that many would receive His forgiveness this Easter.

Week 3, Apr. 14-20

Day 15: Kinsman Redeemer

Read: Ruth 4:8-10

In the story of Ruth, Boaz illustrates the “chesed” or loving kindness that Jesus has for His people. Boaz is Ruth’s kinsman- redeemer. He sacrificially provides the necessary means for Naomi and Ruth to be redeemed from a life of poverty and to be restored to their community. Just as Boaz intervened on behalf of Ruth—who was a foreigner with no right to Israel’s promises—the Father sacrificed His Son, providing the necessary means to restore Jew and Gentile alike from a life of spiritual poverty. Jesus is the ultimate kinsman redeemer, who goes to great lengths to redeem His bride — the Church.

Respond + Pray: Think about what it means for you to be redeemed. How has your life changed? How has Jesus restored you? After recording your answer, pray that this same kind of a kinsman-redeemer restoration would happen for someone else this Easter.

Day 16: Crossing the Jordan

Read: Joshua 3:14-17

At the end of forty long years wandering the desert, God led Joshua and the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. They did so while witnessing a miracle that assured them of God’s Presence. Jesus entered those same waters at His baptism, He emerges and leads us not into a new physical space, but into the promised inheritance — eternal life in God’s Kingdom, entering the joy of our Master’s rest.

Respond + PrayThink about what it means to have new life with Christ. What “land” is God calling you into? What “waters” might you need to cross? What do you need to leave behind in order to receive what God has for you? Pray for freedom for yourself and others, and journal your prayer.

Day 17: Obscurity

Read: 1 Samuel 16:11-13

Between the time David was anointed and when he became king, at least fifteen years passed. Although he knew would become the next king of Israel, he spent years tending sheep, serving Saul, fighting battles, and writing Psalms before he ever sat on the throne. Jesus also spent the better part of His life in obscurity before He became a public figure. Luke 2 says that after Jesus stayed in the temple for three days at the age of twelve, He returned home with His parents and “was obedient to them,” and that He “grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” It is not until the wedding at Cana, after approximately eighteen years in obscurity, that Jesus performs His first miracle.

Respond + Pray: Consider what it would look like for you to labor in obscurity, and to spiritually prepare for what God has called you to be—a person of prayer, not just action. Pray and ask God to convict you of changes you might need make. Pray a similar prayer for others too. Journal your thoughts.

Day 18: The King’s Table

Read: 2 Samuel 9:2-13

In ancient Israel, disability made one a shameful social outcast. Such people were considered to be cursed by God. In addition, it would have been normal and accepted for a king to kill any remaining descendants of the prior dynasty who might lay claim to the throne. Instead, David honors Jonathan’s sole heir, Mephibosheth, who was lame in both feet. This is a beautiful picture of Jesus, who extends to us — those who were once His enemies and estranged from God — an invitation to dine at His table.

Respond + Pray: Read Luke 14:15-24 and Revelation 19:6-9. Contemplate what it means to be invited to the feast and journal your thoughts. Pray that many would accept their invitation to dine at the King’s table.

Day 19: Elijah and Moses

Read: Malachi 4:2-6 and Matthew17:1-3

God speaks about how to recognize the Savior of the World when prophet Malachi writes about the Law of Moses and the prophet Elijah. This comes to the fruition on the mount of transfiguration where we read about Moses and Elijah speaking to Jesus. A bright cloud then encases them, showing Jesus to be the fullness of the Law (Moses) and the fullness of the Prophets (Elijah). Peter breaks in, saying they must honor this. But God interrupts him, telling those with Jesus that the honor is already present by revealing His glory while Jesus fulfills this prophecy.

Respond + Pray: Let us look today on the fullness of Jesus, the justice of the Law, the wisdom of prophecy, and the sacrifice of the Son who saves us. Pray a prayer of gratitude and journal your response as you consider all that is fulfilled in Jesus.

Day 20: A Faithful Husband

Read: Hosea 2:19-20 and Revelation 21:1-3

The prophet Hosea was a faithful husband married to an adulterous wife, yet he dealt tenderly with her, pursuing her in the midst of her sin. Just as Hosea’s wife was unfaithful, so Israel was to God. Despite her unfaithfulness, God inspires Hosea to write, predicting that He will redeem His adulterous bride. In the New Testament, the church is called the bride of Christ. As Revelation 21:2 reads above, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” God is always true to His word, and our faith is not in our faithfulness, but in His.

Respond + Pray: Reflect on how you have seen God’s grace in your life — the faults He has chosen to overlook, the sin He has washed away, the forgiveness He has extended—and give thanks. Pray for hearts full of thankfulness to be birthed in our church. Journal your thoughts and prayers.

Day 21: The Sign of Jonah

Read: Matthew 12:39-40

Jonah spent three days and nights interred in a huge fish,
after which he was spat out onto dry ground. Jesus spent three days and nights interred in the heart of the earth. Jonah was preserved for three days and miraculously delivered from his presumed grave. Jesus was also delivered from death on the third day and miraculously freed when the angel moved the stone. Coincidence? No. Jonah’s life and ministry foreshadowed that of Jesus Christ. Consider his birth. Jonah was born in Galilee; in Gath-Hepher in the tribal territory of Zebulun. This town is very close to Nazareth, where Jesus was reared. One of the criticisms of Jesus during His ministry was that the Messiah could not possibly come from Galilee. The Jews of Judea were very prejudiced against their hillbilly brothers up in Galilee.

In fact, God had prophesied through Isaiah over seven centuries before; “In the past He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future, He will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan”. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time and on forever.” (Isaiah 9:1,7)

Respond + Pray: Remember that no matter what we have done or what we face, when we look to Jesus, we have eternal life and hope in Him. Write a letter to God thanking Him for His life and hope in you. Pray that those who need Jesus will see Him lifted up this Easter.

Why Fast?

There are many benefits to fasting. Among them are an increased spiritual sensitivity, a heightened hunger for God, a focused intensity as you contend for God’s best, seeing the bonds of stubborn sin broken, and experiencing a passion for evangelism. It’s especially helpful when you have a major decision to make because it promises to make you more attuned to God’s Spirit.

Instructions on Fasting

Here are three kinds of fasts found in the Bible. Here’s an example of each, and how to go about doing them:

The Partial Fast—like John the Baptist, who fasted from certain foods in favor of locusts and honey. (Matthew 3:4) You simply fast something selective, like a type of food.

The Normal Fast—The 40 days Jesus fasted, for example. No mention is made of whether He fasted from water, though it is possible. A normal fast is one where you eat no food and drink only water. Following the fast, Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit. (Mark 4:1–4, and Luke 4:14–15) Lots of people regularly fast for 1–3 days and find that it’s not difficult for short periods of time if their health is good.

The Total Fast—like Moses on the Mountain of God. (Exodus 34:28) You don’t eat or drink anything during this fast, including water (In Moses’ case it may have been a sunup to sundown fast each day, or a supernatural occurrence because of its duration.) Only do a total fast for a short time, maybe 8–12 hours, and only if your care provider confirms you’re healthy enough to do so. 

Jesus told His disciples to keep their fasts a matter between themselves and God. Apparently, it was not uncommon for those who were fasting to draw attention to themselves, seeking recognition from men. Jesus instructs His disciples not to do that, but to look their best while drawing no attention to their fast. (Matthew 6:16)

Biblical Examples

There are examples of fasting throughout the Bible, but let’s look at some instances in the New Testament. Anna fasted and prayed at the temple and was able to discern the importance of Jesus when He was presented by Mary and Joseph. (Luke 2:36–38)

In a parable about two men coming to pray, Jesus shows that ritual holiness, like prayer, fasting and tithing, can become prideful exercises that give men a false sense of security in their relationship with God. (Luke 18:12)

In the Book of Acts, fasting was used as a means of receiving direction from the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13:1–3) 

It’s also recorded that prayer and fasting are part of the way Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for the churches that they planted. (Acts 14:23)

Fasting should not become a means of fulfilling a vow to God or of drawing attention to yourself. This does not honor God. A fast should be done with a proper heart toward God. Fasting is a sacrifice to God where you give up food, or something else, in order to devote your energy to prayer.

A practical approach

If you have a medical condition that could make it unsafe to stop eating for an extended time, check with your healthcare provider before fasting. You can fast food and drink as mentioned above, or if your health doesn’t allow for that, you can abstain from something else like social media. Other options might include television, ESPN, or video games. Here’s how to fast, or abstain:

1. Decide what to fast, or what you’re abstaining from, and record it here.

2. Commit to a length of time for your fast. Write it down here.

3. Use the time you gain from fasting to be with God in prayer.

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