Prayer & Fasting Guide


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Prayer & Fasting Guide

Introduction The start of a brand new year is an incredible time to begin to recalibrate the rhythms of our spiritual life. Prayer and fasting are two of the most powerful methods the Lord has given us for humbling our hearts and making us aware of our dependence. Focusing on prayer and fasting as spiritual disciplines is not a novel invention. In fact, most Christians are aware that it is normative for the life of the believer to be marked by prayer, and while fasting is not as common, even popular culture is pointing to fasting as a health benefit. So, why would we as a church build a sermon series and create resources, ultimately expend our attention on pointing to something that Christians already know about? We believe the biggest challenge for believers is not an ignorance about the importance of prayer, but rather a wonder if the practices of prayer, and by extension fasting, are effective. If you have ever asked the questions- How do I do this? Is this working? Or do I have permission to be this honest with the Lord? This guide is for you. Our hope over the next 31 days is that you will read the Psalms as a guide to the heart of how those who came before us called out and responded to the Lord.

Included in this guide: Understanding Prayer................................................................................................................. 3-4 Understanding Fasting............................................................................................................... 5-6 Understanding the Psalms..........................................................................................................7-8 31-Day Reading Plan & Devotional Questions......................................................................... 9-40 Resources on Prayer & Fasting.....................................................................................................41

Understanding Prayer While there are a plethora of definitions for prayer, pause for just a moment to ponder thisthe Sovereign God of the universe wants to hear from you. In His plan, He has made your communication with him valuable. The writer of Hebrews would say because of Christ, we have a high priest who sympathizes with our weakness, has experienced and overcome our temptations, and who has now given us confident access to mercy and grace in our time of need. Prayer is the expression of this dependence and access at work.1

Tips and Tools for Prayer As much as our prayer and devotion are shaped by the Scripture, here are some tools that may help make these times more fruitful: Plan to pray. This may sound overly simple or overly mechanical, but one of the greatest challenges to consistent prayer is the assumption that it will just happen. While our battle is not just against flesh or blood, there are natural components that can improve the frequency and consistency of prayer.

• S  chedule time in your calendar for prayer as if it were an appointment. Try to make this time as consistent from day-to-day as possible. Some find the mornings to be best, while others will find later in the day more accessible. The time doesn’t matter as much as the ability to honor the commitment to be there.



• D  evelop a prayer list. Often prayer can be hindered just because of a lack of direction during prayer. Bring a list with you. Paul Miller mentions the use of note cards in his book A Praying Life. D.A. Carson describes a folder system in his book Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation. There are apps such as Echo Prayer and Prayer Notes that can create prayer lists on your device. Tools like Operation World or Voice of the Martyrs can also help you intentionally pray for the nations. Regardless of the tool, it is beneficial to have a plan of what you will bring before the Lord in the time you scheduled.

1. Hebrews 4.14-16

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• P  ray the Scriptures. One of the great lessons of prayer has been the ability to speak to the Lord about what He has already proclaimed. His Word will shape your request to be in line with His will.

Develop a prayer partnership. Why pray alone? One of the most formative tools for improving prayer can be hearing peers and mentors pursue the Lord. Who could you ask to join you during your scheduled times of prayer- a member of your community group, a roommate, a family member? Also, who is someone that seems to have a greater maturity and consistency in prayer than you? Consider asking them if you could join them during a time when they are in prayer. Minimize distractions that can cause mental drift while you pray. It always seems that the tyranny of the to-do list becomes most gripping during times of devotion to the Lord. Part of a plan for prayer is preparation for inevitable distractions.

• C  onsider listening to music. Some may find that music helps them focus during times of prayer. Songs with lyrics may be too distracting, but try using instrumental music. This may also help drown out any distracting ambient noises in your surroundings.



• B  ring a journal. You may find that during prayer a thought will pass through your mind that needs to be captured- the need to contact a friend for who you have been praying for or something the Lord is speaking through His Word that you need to examine more closely. Write it down and keep praying.



• F  ight digital distractions. It is probably unhelpful and unwise to scroll through your news feed on Facebook as your prayer list. The temptation to watch the next tasty one-minute recipe video is too strong. Fight the temptation. Turn-off all distracting notifications. Be ruthless- put your phone in another room, if the temptation to text, email, or refresh is too great.

Pray until you have prayed.2 This is an old Puritan saying that simply means push past the awkwardness of beginning. With any discipline, the initial stages are the hardest part. Be sure to balance this. Persist through the initial difficulty until you are enjoying hearing from and talking to the Lord. * * * Additional resources on prayer are included on page 41 of this guide.

2. C  arson, D. A.. A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers (Kindle Location 482). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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Understanding Fasting While fasting is prevalent throughout the Scriptures, many current day believers are less familiar with this spiritual discipline. It may be easier to start by explaining what fasting is not. Fasting is not a method to demand the Lord’s attention or His compliance with our desires because we are withholding from something we enjoy. Fasting is a declaration of dependence. While we have the capacity to partake in things we need or want, fasting is an admission that we long for something only the Lord can provide. It is a catalyst to posture our hearts to experience more of the Lord.

Types of Fast Complete Fast – This fast calls for drinking only liquids, typically water with light juices as an option. Selective Fast – This type of fast involves removing specific elements from your diet. One example of a selective fast is the Daniel Fast, during which you eliminate meat, sweets, and bread from your diet and consume water and juice for fluids and fruits and vegetables for food. Partial Fast – This fast is sometimes called the Jewish Fast and involves abstaining from eating any type of food in the morning and afternoon. This can either correlate to specific times of the day, such as 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., or from sunup to sundown. Soul Fast – This fast is common for those who do not have much experience fasting food, who have health issues that prevent them from fasting food, or who wish to refocus certain areas of their life that are out of balance. For instance, someone might select to abstain from using social media or watching television for the duration of the fast, and then choose to carefully bring that element back into one’s life in an orderly fashion at the conclusion of the fast.

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Tips and Tools for Fasting It is crucial to remember that you are not fasting to earn or prove your righteousness; therefore there is grace for you when you are fasting. The process of fasting is not only about the achievement of abstaining for the fully allotted time. The Lord is working in the process even if you are unable to complete your commitment. Seek the Lord for the length and type of fast you will pursue. While January will mark a season of fasting for our church, the Lord may lead you to only fast a portion of this time. While this spiritual discipline is meant to be challenging, it is crucial for you to follow the Lord’s leading. The point is not to chose a fast that is impressive, but rather a fast that is faithful. Replace the thing you are abstaining from with prayer. As you walk through the journey of fasting, utilize the extra time for prayer. For instance, if you are fasting from lunch, redeem the time you would regularly partake in a meal to be in the Word and prayer. Some may chose to abstain from purchasing drinks from their favorite coffee shop and then collect those funds over the duration of their fast to donate that money toward missions. Be aware of how the physical effects the spiritual. Fasting is a spiritual declaration. The enemy of our souls will test you. Emotional irritability and fatigue are not just physical symptoms because of a change in your eating habits. Recognize the profound effect these physical changes will have on you and guard against how they enemy may attempt to draw you into sin. Invite others on this journey with you. Similar to prayer, there is power in community. While your fast may be different in content from others, you can draw mutual encouragement from others who are similarly pursuing the Lord. For parents, it may be an excellent discipleship opportunity for your children. On our website, we have included a sample fasting calendar which is appropriate for children (kingsharbor.org/wco).

* * * Additional resources on fasting are included on page 41 of this guide.

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Understanding the Psalms The Psalms, like prayer, are woven into the fabric of the Christian experience. The Psalms feel like basic Christianity, yet they often feel beyond our accessibility. If we were all honest, this collection of writings is a bit more difficult than our popular conscience wants to admit. Most other books of the Bible have a logical, narrative flow, but the Psalms seem to lack the same intentionality. Even the individual writings feel distant- when was the last time you prayed for the Lord to break the jaw of the wicked during your morning quiet time? So again, like prayer, the Psalms are strikingly familiar, and yet, we are still left with the questions- how do we do this? How am I supposed to understand this part of the Bible and how will the Lord use this to stir my affections for him?

Genre, Structure, and Style While there have been lengthy books written about understanding the Psalms, our hope is to give you a brief overview of three crucial characteristics to increase your comfort with these writings. The first of these is genre. Genre – Genre clarifies the category of writing in which a given piece falls. Genre may be a strange word, but it is a familiar concept. If you were looking to watch a movie with friends, you might ask the question- what am I in the mood for? You would think about documentaries, a drama, maybe a suspenseful thriller and finally, you decided to watch the latest action blockbuster. Because of the category you chose, you have certain expectations- superpowers, things blowing up, or no need to think deeply. The genre sets your expectations of content and tone. The genre of the Psalms is poetry. Poetry has an entirely different set of expectations than a historical narrative like the book of Joshua. While historical narratives in the Scriptures hope to give clear accounts of how the Lord has acted in history and to educate the reader on the character and nature of God through those past actions, poetry is different. Poetry also differs from the epistles (or letters) we read in the New Testament. While the epistles are direct communication to a specific audience to address and instruct regarding a specific issue, poetry

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has different intentions. The poetic force of the Psalms shapes the reader beyond doctrinal education. The poetry of the Psalms is meant to stir both the heart and the mind. John Piper says it best, “If you read the Psalms only for doctrine, you’re not reading them for what they are. They are psalms, songs, poetry. They’re musical, and the reason human beings express truth with music and poetry is to awaken and express emotions that fit the truth.”3 Structure – It doesn’t take long reading through this book to realize that the order of these writings isn’t sequential. In fact, it often feels that consecutive psalms have nothing to do with one another. Psalms is an anthology style collection. Most modern versions divide the Psalms into five parts or books. The poems within each book are associated by their tone and focus, and each book closes with a benediction. Psalms 1 and 2 serve as introduction to the entire collection, pointing to the blessing of those who trust the Law of the Lord and take refuge in the Davidic King, who will rule God’s people forever. Book 1 covers Psalm 3-41 with the unifying message regarding the Davidic King coming to power in the face of opposition. Book 2 stretches from Psalm 42-72 declaring the future hope of the Davidic King ruling over all of the earth. Book 3 begins with Psalm 73, a period of longing and expectation for the Lord to be near to Israel in the midst of exile. Book 4 spans from Psalm 90 to Psalm 106 and this can be seen as the people of God remembering the Lord’s past faithfulness as they trust Him for a new exodus in the present. Book 5 contains Psalms 107-145, which are united by a praise for the future King, who will defeat evil and restore the temple and kingdom. The final 5 psalms are a conclusion of similar structured poems commanding the people to praise God. The Psalms are intentionally structured to tell the unified story of Israel remembering, hoping, longing, and lamenting before the Lord as He works His plan and shows His promise of King, who will rule forever. Style – While the entire book of Psalms tells a unified narrative, the individual poems express unique emotions and stylistic features. Various authors offer different categories but the most common groups include psalms of thanksgiving, confidence, kingship, wisdom, remembrance, and lament. Most of these are fairly familiar, but the one that may be foreign on that list is the category of lament. Lament psalms have a similar structure of complaint, petition, and reassurance of confidence in the Lord. These are the psalms that may be the most breathtaking because of their deep honesty. You will notice that Books 1-3 are full of these type of psalms of heartbreak and reassurance. These laments express the permission for the believer to both love the Lord and confess the confusion one is experiencing over sin and the brokenness of the world. Each one of these styles invites the believer to feel and express the same.

3. F  rom Pastor John Piper’s sermon, “Songs that Shape the Heart and Mind” (May 25, 2008)

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31-Day Reading Plan & Devotional Questions

Reading Plan: Day 1 - Psalm 1-5 Day 2 - Psalm 6-10 Day 3 - Psalm 11-15 Day 4 - Psalm 16-20 Day 5 - Psalm 21-25 Day 6 - Psalm 26-30 Day 7 - Psalm 31-35 Day 8 - Psalm 36-40 Day 9 - Psalm 41-45 Day 10 - Psalm 46-50 Day 11 - Psalm 51-55

Day 12 - Psalm 56-60 Day 13 - Psalm 61-65 Day 14 - Psalm 66-70 Day 15 - Psalm 71-75 Day 16 - Psalm 76-80 Day 17 - Psalm 81-85 Day 18 - Psalm 86-90 Day 19 - Psalm 91-95 Day 20 - Psalm 96-100 Day 21 - Psalm 101-105 Day 22 - Psalm 106-110

Day 23 - Psalm 111-115 Day 24 - Psalm 116-118 Day 25 - Psalm 119 Day 26 - Psalm 120-125 Day 27 - Psalm 126-130 Day 28 - Psalm 131-135 Day 29 - Psalm 136-140 Day 30 - Psalm 141-145 Day 31 - Psalm 146-150

Devotional Questions:4 The questions below are provided to help you reflect upon each day’s reading. Grab your journal or use the following pages to take notes and write down your prayers. 1. Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing? 2. What does today’s reading teach you about God? 3. What does today’s reading teach you about humanity? 4. What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel? 5. How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

4. Devotional questions were derived from the He Reads Truth Bible Reading App.

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Day 1

Psalm 1-5

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 2

Psalm 6-10

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 3

Psalm 11-15

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 4

Psalm 16-20

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 5

Psalm 21-25

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 6

Psalm 26-30

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 7

Psalm 31-35

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 8

Psalm 36-40

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 9

Psalm 41-45

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 10

Psalm 46-50

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 11

Psalm 51-55

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 12

Psalm 56-60

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 13

Psalm 61-65

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 14

Psalm 66-70

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 15

Psalm 71-75

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 16

Psalm 76-80

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 17

Psalm 81-85

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 18

Psalm 86-90

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 19

Psalm 91-95

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 20

Psalm 96-100

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 21

Psalm 101-105

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 22

Psalm 106-110

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 23

Psalm 111-115

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 24

Psalm 116-118

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 25

Psalm 119

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 26

Psalm 120-125

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 27

Psalm 126-130

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 28

Psalm 131-135

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 29

Psalm 136-140

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 30

Psalm 141-145

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Day 31

Psalm 146-150

Devotional Questions: Is there anything from today’s reading that was unclear or confusing?

What does today’s reading teach you about God?

What does today’s reading teach you about humanity?

What does today’s reading teach you about the Gospel?

How will you pray in response to today’s reading?

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Resources on Prayer & Fasting Books on Prayer

• A Praying Life - by Paul Miller



• Praying with Paul: A Call to Spiritual Reformation - by D.A. Carson



• The Power of Prayer - by Charles Spurgeon

Books and Resources on Fasting

• Why Should I Fast - by Daniel Hyde



• H  unger for God - by John Piper (You can download the book for free at www.desiringgod.org/books/a-hunger-for-god)



• C  RU.org Fasting Resources (View resources at www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/fasting.html)

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