Why I’ll be fasting for our country on the 21st of each month.

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Some weeks ago my friend David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, invited me to join him and a coalition of other Christian leaders in fasting and prayer on the 21st of each of month.

Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision-makers to help end hunger at home and abroad. Given the priorities of President Trump and Congress, David and his colleagues believe unprecedented action must be taken on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable. 

Because the risk of hunger is increased by a wide range of policy decisions, Bread for the World addresses a broad range of issues, including: agriculture and trade, the federal budget, tax credits, incarceration and hunger, global nutrition, immigration reform, international food aid, climate change and health care. 

As well as offering education related to these issues, Bread suggests concrete ways to take action: writing letters and emails, making phone calls, and visiting our members of Congress. 

As people of faith, Bread for the World leaders believe advocacy efforts must be strengthened and sustained through spiritual practices that deepen our commitment to ending hunger, poverty and injustice, and to sustained prayer for key decision-makers.

That’s why they initiated #ForSuchATime, a campaign of fasting, prayer and advocacy grounded in the Biblical story of Esther.  As Esther called the Jewish people to fast and pray in the days leading up to her advocacy with the king on behalf of her vulnerable people, so #ForSuchATime calls us to fast and pray. 

The campaign was launched with a three-day fast beginning May 21, and will continue on the 21st of each month throughout the duration of the 115th Congress.  The 21st day of the month was chosen because 90% of SNAP (food stamp) benefits are used up by then, making the last week of each month the hungriest week in America. 

Several weeks ago, David invited me to join #ForSuchATime and to encourage others to join. I did not take David’s invitation lightly. Knowing the campaign will run through the end of 2018, I did not want to make a commitment I wasn’t prepared to keep for the long term. 

I also knew that promoting the campaign would mean speaking more explicitly about my conviction that political advocacy is a vital part of Christian discipleship, as well as about my ongoing disagreement with the direction of our President and Congress. Based on past experience, I could imagine how many critical emails I would receive. So I hesitated.

Then #Charlottesville.  I woke last Saturday morning to the news of what had happened on Friday night and I knew the only appropriate response—for me, anyway—was fasting and prayer. It was an easy decision, actually, since I was too sick to my stomach to eat and the only outlet I had for the deep grief I felt was prayerful lament. So, really, fasting and prayer was less of a choice than a necessity. 

As the week has progressed, it has become increasing clear that joining #ForSuchATime is also less of a choice than a necessity.  I need to join with a community of people committed to fasting, prayer and action on behalf of the vulnerable in our country and throughout the world. 

So on Monday—the 21st day of August—I’ll enter into the spiritual discipline of the #ForSuchATime campaign. I’ll fast and pray regarding concerns suggested by my friends at Bread for the World, and regarding other concerns that have become priorities to me during this past week. 

I’ll fast and pray for those facing the risk of physical hunger and for those making decisions that impact them. 

I’ll fast and pray for increasing bipartisan condemnation of sinful and selfish attitudes and policies, and increasing bipartisan support for policies that support and protect the vulnerable. 

I’ll fast and pray about the hunger of spirit in our country—about the undernourished hearts and minds filled with ideologies that believe racism is okay, that white supremacy is justified, that differences of race, religion, culture, or sexual orientation offer licenses to hate. 

I’ll fast and pray that my own heart will be broken ever more deeply for the vulnerable and marginalized.

I’ll fast and pray that more Americans will adopt a consistent ethic of life that includes but is not limited to protecting the unborn. 

I’ll fast and pray for my friends in the US and globally who are refugees, immigrants, undocumented, unwelcome, fearful, facing famine, discriminated against, desperate, hungry, lonely. 

I’ll fast and pray for women I’ve met in the Congo who are victims of horrific rape as a weapon of war, for displaced women I’ve met in Iraq who have been brutalized by ISIS, for Israeli and Palestinian women I’ve met working daily for reconciliation and peace in the Holy Land. 

I’ll fast and pray for persecuted Christians and for victims of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. 

I’ll fast and pray for Chicago, confessing that I’ve poured much passion, energy and time into people and places around the globe, and very little passion, energy and time into the city right next door, the city I blindly drive through on my way to somewhere else. 

I’ll fast and pray for bridge-builders, and for those who are so weary they can’t find the energy to try to build another bridge.

I’ll fast and pray as an act of solidarity with the hungry, as a lament, as a necessary jolt to my comfortable way of living. 

I’ll fast and pray for boldness and discernment. 

I’ll devote the day to learning from voices new to me, and determining what actions I can and should take, either politically or personally.

I’ll end the day with the prayer that has so often changed the trajectory of my life: God, what is mine to do?

Why am I writing this? Because I hope:

• that many of you will join the #ForSuchATime movement.
• that you’ll go to www.bread.org/fast to learn more.
• that you’ll spend the 21st day of each month—or some other day—in fasting and prayer for the vulnerable.
• that you’ll earnestly and consistently pray prayers and determine actions shaped by the unique passion God has given you for our brothers and sisters facing hardship and threat.
• that you’ll learn more about advocacy as a part of Christian discipleshipby reading Advocating for Justice: An Evangelical Vision for Transforming Systems and Structures. 

During the last week, I’ve been disheartened and grieved by much that I’ve heard on the news and read on Twitter and in blogs. But I’ve also been encouraged and inspired by so many people—men and women, young and old, people of diverse faiths and those who claim no faith, white people and people of color—who are earnestly and articulately humbling themselves, confessing sin, breaking their silence, offering and receiving forgiveness and grace, and committing to a better way

Clearly, there is great need and great potential for transformation in our hearts and minds, in our personal relationships, in our leaders, in our policies, in our country. I want to be part of that transformation—through fasting, prayer, and action. Will you join me?

Lynne Hybels