21 Days of Prayer to Start 2020

Happy New Year!
Tomorrow brings the year 2020, and with it, the 21 Days of Prayer. To help you connect with Christ during the first twenty-one days of 2020, we encourage you to:

1. Fast from something

For the past month, we have been encouraging you to ask God to show you something in your life you have allowed to come before Him and to fast from it for the 21 Days. So if you haven’t made a plan yet for what to fast, take a moment today to decide what to cut out for the next three weeks. Perhaps it should be sugar, TV, social media, the news, or even feed for one day each week.
If you’ve already made a decision from what to fast, plan to begin tomorrow. And share with at least one person, whether your spouse or someone from your Growth Group, from what you have chosen to fast.

2. Use the Daily Devotionals

Every day during this 21-day spiritual journey, we will send you a devotional to your inbox. If you already get our weekly News & Notes email, you’re all set! If not, sign up here. Each email will have thoughts from Pastor Erin, a Scripture passage (usually a chapter of the Bible) to read, and a suggested prayer that is designed to simply start your own prayers with God.

If you’d rather receive the devotionals in podcast form (to listen while you drive to work or get ready for your day), add this URL into your favorite podcasting app:


3. Come to the Sunday Worship Gathering

Lastly, because this is a church-wide spiritual journey, do everything you can to make it to our Worship Gatherings at Droste Hall at 10:00 am each Sunday. We will be studying the Lord’s Prayer and the context around it each Sunday in our Teach Us To Pray series. I really think it is going to help your prayer life as we go through these twenty-one days together.

Two Other Notes:

#1. If you have a friend who is not part of the Riverwood family, but would have interest in being part of the 21 Days of Prayer & Fasting with us, send them this link.
#2. We will be taking a break from the blog during these 21 Days. We are pouring our time in creating content into the daily devotionals, Growth Group guides, and our Sunday Worship Gatherings. We’ll resume posting on the blog on Jan 23.

Fasting is Worship

From January 7-27, Riverwood is doing a “21 Days of Fasting & Prayer” spiritual campaign. We are praying for Riverwood, our nation, our community, and for personal spiritual growth in 2018. To make our weekly blog a part of this spiritual journey, we are looking at Isaiah 58 and the topic of fasting.

If you missed the past three articles in this series, you can catch them here on the blog. Otherwise, let’s conclude this series together as we look one more week at the spiritual discipline of fasting!

by Erin Bird

We made it! (Almost.) This Saturday marks the end of our 21 Days of Fasting & Prayer. I hope it has been a great journey for you. Honestly, I hope a part of it has been hard, but I also hope it has been rewarding as you have drawn closer to God.

(By the way, we are going to give you an opportunity this Sunday to share what you have experienced during these 21 days, sharing both the difficulties and rewards that have come through this spiritual journey. Be thinking about what God might want you to share during our open mic time at Sunday’s Worship Gathering. Your words might encourage someone else and help them worship God AND your words will praise God and acknowledge His work through this fast.)

Today, I want to look at the topic of fasting one last time as we finish up Isaiah 58. Let’s look at the last two verses.

If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath,
from doing your pleasure on my holy day,
and call the Sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the Lord honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;
then you shall take delight in the Lord,
and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
(Isaiah 58:13-14)

If you remember from my previous ponderings on Isaiah 58, the ancient people of Israel were fasting trying to get God to do certain things for them. But God corrected them, wanting their fast to humble them so they might be a blessing to others.

So as God has Isaiah wrap these thoughts up on fasting, God mentions the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a day of worship where the people rested from their work. But in the first part of verse 13, God points out that some of them were working on the Sabbath, yet still trying to manipulate God through fasting.

God calls them back to a place of purity and whole devotion to Him – to “turn back their foot” from doing “pleasure” (business/work) on His holy day. Just like fasting was supposed to draw the heart of the people to God, the Sabbath was to do the same.

When we use things like the Sabbath or prayer or fasting to seek the Lord, we are worshipping Him. When we “take delight in the Lord,” (verse 14) it brings delight to Him. Because, as John Piper is famous for saying, “we are most satisfied when God is most glorified in us.”

And so God, through the prophet Isaiah, reminds the ancient Jews (as well as modern Jesus-followers) that spiritual disciplines like fasting or keeping the Sabbath aren’t to be used to get things from God, but rather to draw our hearts toward God in worship.

So as we conclude our 21 days of fasting and seeking the Lord, may we worship and praise Him. And may we continue to worship Him, even after our fasting has come to an end.

Fasting Benefits Others

From January 7-27, Riverwood is doing a “21 Days of Fasting & Prayer” spiritual campaign. We are praying for Riverwood, our nation, our community, and for personal spiritual growth in 2018. To make our blog a part of this spiritual journey, we are looking at Isaiah 58 and the topic of fasting.

If you missed the past two posts in this series, you can catch them right here on our blog. Otherwise, let’s continue to learn together as we seek Jesus through the spiritual discipline of fasting!


by Erin Bird

We just passed the half-way mark in our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. How’s your fast going? Mine is going well, but I’ll be honest, some days have been hard. In case you don’t know, I am fasting breakfast everyday. Somedays haven’t been a huge issue, but some days my stomach is screaming at me to eat something.

Are you having painful moments like this in your fast? Maybe you are experiencing:

  • hunger pangs like I am,
  • or anger that you can’t enjoy a candy bar,
  • or frustration because you missed the big TV episode everyone is talking about at work,
  • or feeling left out because your peer group keeps mentioning things from Facebook.

When those moments arise, we can be grouchy and not very pleasant to be around. (We might make people around us wish we weren’t fasting.)

But God tells us through Isaiah 58 the opposite should be true. Rather than make people wish we hadn’t engaged in 21 Days of Prayer and fasting, our fasting should actually benefit others. Look at it with me:

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? (Isaiah 58:6-7)

If you remember our previous articles on Isaiah 58, some of the Jewish people were fasting from food in hopes they could get God to do things for them. They wanted God to be pleased with them and work on their behalf, and they thought He’d be deeply impressed if they gave up food.

But God called the people to fast so that THEY would change! If you look at Isaiah 58:6-7 above, you notice…

  • He wanted them to experience hunger so they could identify with the hungry.
  • He wanted them to suffer so they could understand the plight of those in continual suffering.
  • He wanted them to go without to have a soft heart toward those who have not.

In other words, God wanted the people humbled so they might be changed in such a way that their life wasn’t about self, it was about Him and blessing those around them.

All of this tells me we should have two responses in our painful moments due to fasting:

1. Emotional Response

First, our own struggle in the midst of our fast should help us understand those who face a similar struggle far more regularly than us. Our hearts should be softened to the plight of the less fortunate – whether it be physical poverty or emotional poverty. Fasting should produce empathy within us.

As the famous quote says: “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” Fasting gives you a chance to try on someone else’s “shoes.”

2. Physical Response

Second, the pain we feel in our fasting should lead us to do more than just empathize, it should change how we live toward others.

  • If you are giving up coffee for these 21 Days, could you donate the money you would have spent on your roasted caffeine to an organization like Compassion International?
  • Or if you gave up a meal or an entire day with food, could you give the time you would have spent eating to volunteer at something like the Northeast Iowa Food Bank or the free Waverly Café held at Grace Baptist every Wednesday evening?
  • Or if you gave up social media, could you redeem the time by writing actual letters to people or inviting someone over for dinner?

In Closing

And so…

  • …when you have a hunger pang, allow it to make you more connected with those facing hunger insecurity.
  • …when you can’t have the soda or sugar you want so badly, may it lead you to pray for those who regularly go without.
  • …when you feel left out because everyone is talking about social media, may it lead you to look for others who feel left out and befriend them.

May your fast not only help you be more connected with your loving Heavenly Father, but may it connect you more with those in our world whose biggest need is the gospel.

Fasting Changes You (Not God)

From January 7-27, the Riverwood family is doing a “21 Days of Fasting & Prayer” spiritual campaign. During this time, we are praying for Riverwood, for our nation, for our community, for one another, and for personal spiritual growth in 2018. To make this blog a part of this spiritual journey, we are looking at Isaiah 58 and the topic of fasting.

If you missed last week’s post, you can catch it here.. Otherwise, let’s continue to learn together as we seek Jesus through the spiritual discipline of fasting!


by Erin Bird

I was talking with a friend of mine this week who started a new commission-only job a couple of months ago. Last week was incredibly frustrating for him. Two different people wanted to make a purchase, but said they needed to “sleep on it.”

My friend knew if they waited, they would miss out – and sure enough, both items were sold within the hour to other people. This meant he missed out on the commission, and the individuals missed out on the incredible deal.

As my friend summed up his story, he said, “So basically, I put in 50 hours of work last week, and got nothing to show for it.”

If you were in his shoes, you’d be frustrated, too. None of us enjoys putting hard work into something only to see no return.

The Point of No Return

I think we often approach fasting the same way. We want something from God, and we think if we work hard enough at fasting, He’ll change His mind and give us what we want.

But as we see in Isaiah 58, fasting isn’t about changing God. It’s about God changing us! Look at the first part of verse 3 with me:

“Why have we fasted,
and you see it not?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you take no knowledge of it?” (Isaiah 58:3a)

The people are talking to God in these sentences. They are fasting, but God doesn’t seem to be responding. They’re working hard, but they are seeing no return on God’s part. Why?

Well, God responds…

“Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,
and oppress all your workers.
Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to hit with a wicked fist.
Fasting like yours this day
will not make your voice to be heard on high.” (Isaiah 58:3b-4)

You see, the people were fasting trying to get things from God. They had made fasting about themselves. But God basically responds, “Fasting isn’t to change me, it’s to change you! However, you are acting just as sinful and selfish as ever, even in the midst of your fast!”

But God’s not done. He continues…

“Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?” (Isaiah 58:5)

In other words, God is saying that fasting is supposed to change us. It’s supposed to humble us. It’s supposed to give us a proper perspective. It’s supposed to help us see that we are truly dependent upon Him – for food, for clothing, for work, for relationships… for life!

So as you undergo your fast during these 21 Days…

  • whether it be food,
  • or entertainment,
  • or social media,
  • or your phone,
  • or whatever it might be,

may you not falsely think your fast is to move God to give you something. Rather, may your fast humble you and help you realize that what you get in a fast is God Himself changing your character to be more like Him.

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