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  • Writer's pictureGrace A. Johnson

twenty-one days

For several years now, a great many churches have been doing 21 days of prayer and fasting from January 1st to January 21st, in honor of Daniel’s 21-day fast in Daniel 10:2-3 and to ring in the new year with submission to God. Now, Daniel’s fast included fasting from delicacies, meat, wine, and anointment—but during this modern-day fast, participants are encouraged to fast whatever they feel led to, whether that’s alcohol and meat or desserts and soda or social media. Whatever God’s calling them to give up, to set aside for Him to have precedence in that area of their life.

In January 2023, I decided to take a shot at fasting for the first time literally in my life. Naturally, I didn’t give up any kind of food, but something that had been heavy on my heart for a few months prior: music.

And when the fast was over, I shared my thoughts on Instagram.

For the last several months, I've felt slightly convicted about the music I listen to. Which might seem a little silly if you knew I just listen to a strange mixture of indie/alt rock/pop from the early 2000s that's completely clean. Some of the songs are old Jeremy Camp songs or '90s youth group hits. Some of the songs have Christian messages because the artists are Christians.
But the songs that don't…don't. And my spirit shrank away from that even when my flesh didn't see how it was “that bad" when I could've been listening to nasty rap or modern pop, when my flesh was afraid to give those songs up and listen to just CCM.
So sometime around Christmas, when I was just listening to carols, I decided I would fast from my music (namely, fast from Spotify) until Jan. 21st.
And here's the crazy thing. Even though I missed those songs I loved, my heart softened to the Lord's prodding and chiseling. My fear went away. God actually brought worship songs to me that I enjoy and began to surround me with good, Christian music.
If you're like me, when you think of fasting, you think of torture and misery, of how you'll jump right back into your old habits once the fast is over, of how pointless it seems, of how it's "not for you." But fasting is for everyone in some form, some time, or another. And when you willing give up something, you give God room to work. You let go of your defenses and let Him have His way in that area of your life. And He WILL change you. He WILL soften you. You WON'T come out of that time the same.
And that's the point.
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’" - Isaiah 58:6-9

And if you’re curious, no. I didn’t fall back into my “old habits” and tune back into those old secular songs as the year progressed. But I did bring back my music fast in January of this year, with some different results in mind.

After filling the last four months slap-full of music (I always had it playing at work to keep me from going insane + Christmas requires constantly listening), I had grand visions of cutting off music (or Spotify, really, since of course I can’t eliminate music from my life entirely) with words (the brunt of what I listen to) until January 21st…and filling up my mind, the atmosphere, with prayer. I even made an instrumental prayer playlist to help, so that instead of wanting to sing along or analyze the lyrics, I could focus on just praying.

On top of that, I wanted to reduce my time spent on social media and make more time for prayer. I even printed out 21 days of prayer prompts/scriptures to read and journal.

Did I do that?

Yes and no.

The truth is, I didn’t spend hours in deep prayer like I’d imagined. My mind still felt so cluttered (although certainly not as much as usual, praise the Lord!), and there always seemed to be something that filled up the time and space I’d made.

But I did do a lot of things I didn’t think I could—I limited my daily doom-scrolling through reels to literally twice in 21 days; I stayed off of YouTube Shorts for the most part (y’all, all the political commentary that pops up on my feed just DEPRESSES ME); I set timers on my social media apps to limit my time on them each day; I even wrote SONGS, which never happens; and I journaled a prayer every. single. night.  

I certainly felt less depressed and more fulfilled in these last 21 days—even though things have been crazy busy and I still haven’t caught up on work.

And just like I wrote last January, God softened my heart. He started chiseling and working on me until I had the desire to give up things to spend more time with Him. I hope to keep up prayer-journaling every night and I intend to keep on those timers and keep off reels/shorts. I pray that every day my mind will be renewed and refreshed more and more, and I’ll become more and more focused on and invested in communing with God.

And I plan on fasting from Instagram entirely during Lent. (I’ll still post and check DMs, but no scrolling to procrastinate, distract, or just pass the time.) Maybe one day I’ll get around to fasting some sort of food (Lord know I need to; I’ve got thirty extra pounds of fat just begging to be burned in the fiery furnace of hunger), but until then, I want to focus more on intentional prayer and time with God, on filling my mind with the things above, on turning to Him in every moment, every situation, and on cultivating healthier habits, for my mind and spirit.

This January’s fast didn’t have the obvious results of last January’s or Lent last year—but I don’t really think it’s about results and goals. Daniel didn’t fast those foods and drinks for the effect it would have on his body and the weight he would lose. He fasted because God called him to it, and that is obedience, and obedience in and of itself is the greatest achievement in the Christian life. My desire should be not to better myself or check off boxes, but to simply obey God, respond to His call, make room for Him to have His way with me. And if I can do that, it doesn’t matter if it’s perfect or just so. Just that it’s done. And every day is another chance to do better, even without the label of a “fast.” You see, it’s not the music or the media that’s the issue—it’s me and the choices I make. Fasting should make me aware of the wrong choices I’m making and stir within me the desire to obey and submit to God—which is exactly what prayer does. Hand in hand, the two make a willing heart within the believer, and a willing, penitent heart that seeks to know God and obey His word is all He asks for.

All of that to say, if you’ve never fasted before, I recommend you do. Ask the Lord to reveal His will to you and show you what you need to give up. Even if it’s a silly, insignificant thing like music, just being obedient and reaching for God instead of that thing is something amazing. And something we can only do with His help.

If you don’t know where to start, pray. Read the Bible. Check out my post about fasting/quiet time from Lent last year. Shoot me an email and we’ll talk. It doesn’t matter if you have zero clue what you’re doing (me 99% of the time). What matters is that you’re willing.

And in case you ever want to give a music fast a try (I HIGHLY recommend it, specifically if you feel like music or certain songs/artists have taken up too big a chunk of your heart), check out my instrumental prayer playlist below. 😉

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