Lent is a season of 40 days of repentance and preparation for the joys of Easter.
- Lent starts on Ash Wednesday (March 2 this year),
- and lasts until Easter Sunday (April 17th this year).
One of the traditional practices of Lent is fasting.
We are told in Matthew 4:1-11 that Jesus spent forty days fasting in the wilderness and afterwards “he was starving.” Some of us feel that way after 40minutes!
Fasting can be a powerful practice for a Christian, but it’s also often misunderstood and challenging, so it tends to be either badly practised, or not practised at all.
Fasting, in a Christian framework, is:
- Wisdom – it’s love and knowledge meeting together in a practice that avails us of God’s resources to meet our needs.
- Training – it’s the indirect effort that gives us access to something we can’t try or make happen on our own.
- Surrender – it’s voluntarily “making ourselves weak” so that we can know and receive the strength and power of God (2 Cor 12:9-10).
Simply put: fasting is a way to place ourselves in the way of grace by withdrawing our reliance on earthly things so that we can feast on God’s presence and power.
Possible ways to fast during Lent
If you’ve never practised fasting before, an easy way into the practice is to engage in a partial fast. A partial fast can involve food and drink, or certain habits. Here are some possibilities for a partial fast:
- Fasting from foods associated with “feasting”: chocolate, desserts, coffee/caffeine, alcohol, etc.
- Fasting from media or entertainment.
- Fasting from habits and comforts: shopping, parking in a spot close to the store.
Here are some questions to ask as you consider a partial fast.
- What cravings have a hold on me?
- What would be truly liberating to leave behind?
- Short of an addiction, have I become dependent on a particular food, drink, substance, or activity?
- What would be truly challenging for me to give up during Lent?
- What is Jesus asking of me?
- When you feel empty or restless, what do you do to try to fill the emptiness?
- What does this tell you about your heart?
- What is your attitude toward fasting or self-denial?
- In what ways do you currently deny yourself?
- When has self-denial brought you something good?
- What has the experience of fasting been like for you?
- Where do you operate from an entitlement mentality?
- How can you wean yourself from this way of life?
However, you decide to fast during Lent, approach it as an experiment in grace.
The point is to create space in our souls to feast on the presence of Jesus in our midst.
Celebrate the gospel as you fast, and look for God’s grace to meet you.
The next post contains the handout that we made available at OCC.