Ed: More liturgical traditions have fasted on Good Friday for centuries, but evangelicals less so. Why do you think it’s important to do so now?
Walter: The call to fast on Good Friday is most importantly a call to identify with our Lord. In the Garden of Gethsemane, while his disciples slept, Jesus fasted from sleep and prayed for strength to face the cross and fulfill God’s plan of salvation: “Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:39–45).
Then, during the crucifixion itself, as he was denied food and experienced horrific suffering on our behalf, Jesus did not spend the time complaining. He turned deprivation into a time of prayer: “My God, My God…Father, forgive them…Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
Jesus prepared for the first Good Friday with prayer and fasting, and he endured Good Friday with prayer and fasting.
While some of today’s evangelicals may not be as practiced in fasting, our evangelical predecessors fasted regularly to deepen their spiritual vitality. John Wesley, for instance, fasted on Fridays and called others to do so as well.
Given the crisis that we face today and the example of Jesus himself, the call to pray and fast on this Good Friday is a powerful moment to humble ourselves before God and to intercede for the communities, nation and world that he loves so much.
Ed: What are some resources you and the NAE might suggest for such a day?
Walter: Denominations and church networks are producing a wealth of resources. Please check your denominational website. The NAE website has compiled many of those resources at NAE.net/goodfridayprayer.
Ed: Take us through Good Friday. We have mealtimes now free—how might we fill that day with prayer?
Walter: Let me suggest just a few ideas. First, prepare before Good Friday how you will spend the three mealtimes. Each session should include reading the Bible and praying. Possible suggestions for the meals include: breakfast: Matthew 6:16–18; lunch: Daniel 9 (see Biblical Model for Corporate Fasting based on Daniel 9), and dinner: 2 Chronicles 7:13–16.
Use hunger cues throughout the day to drive you back to prayer and your need for God. Please note, if medical conditions prevent you from fasting, you can fast from something else, like reading the news or watching TV. Still schedule blocks of time for prayer.
Consider praying with other people, whether in your household or over the phone or video conferencing.
Ed: What are some things for which we can be praying?
Walter: Here are a few ideas:
- Come acknowledging God for who he is and praising him.
- Make sure to confess your own sin.
- Use scripture passages to form your thoughts and prayers.
- Use the newspaper to direct your prayers but not to form your soul.
- Use available prayer lists addressing the pandemic (see NAE.net/goodfridayprayer).
Ed: How did the idea of a Day of Prayer & Fasting on Good Friday develop?
Walter: The answer has two parts. First, I believe that the Holy Spirit is prompting people. God is creating the yearning to pray; he is deepening our compassion for those who are suffering. He is calling us to depend upon him. Second, conversations with a number of church leaders converged quickly on this idea. It was a beautiful moment of collaboration that “seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.”