Spiritual Disciplines for Lent: Joy of Fasting
For Lent we will be looking at different Spiritual Disciplines and how you might be able to use them in your own life.
Week 1: Fasting
Matthew 6:16-18 16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.[f] 6
Fasting can be intimidating and is often misunderstood. Yes, fasting means to go without something you like but there is more to it than that. Fasting is about putting things into perspective. We can become overly reliant or comfortable in our blessings causing us to have both unrealistic and ungrateful expectations. Fasting is not a punishment rather is a reminder about what is important in life. The traditional understanding of fasting is done with food. It is easy to over indulge and it is also easy to experience the pain of hunger. There is a cost or sacrifice in giving up or limiting our food options. Yet, Jesus states that fasting is not about being miserable but rather experiencing God’s blessing. He instructs us to act if we are being blessed. Not only are we to wash our face to look normal but we are to add oil on our head. Oil is a sign of blessing but it also is done for health to make our faces literally shine to others. We shine because we know that there is something more to life than food or things. We also shine because the moment we break our fast we are gratitude for our blessings is restored.
Here are some examples of how can you add the spiritual discipline of fasting with food:
Traditional Fast- pick a 24 hour period in which you will eat no food.
Intermediate fasting- Pick an 8 hour period in which you will eat your food. The remaining 16 hours will be your fast. This usually means missing one meal a day.
Fasting a specific item- What many people do for lent. Choose one food and stop eating/drinking it for Lent.
Wesley fast- John Wesley fasted weekly (occasionally twice a week) and picked Friday as his fast day. Starting at sundown on Thursday night fast to 3pm on Friday. You can do a no food, no solid food, or a no meat fast. If you are going to try this I encourage to first have a goal of noon. Then you can assess how you are doing and eventually make it all the way to 3pm.
Each of those fasting styles can be used with items other than food also such as with technology(Phone, Computer, TV)- you can pick a period of time you will not use technology as part of your fast, you can give us social media sites, or you can set aside days that you will not use them
You can also use the fasting idea to add things in. What you would be doing is fasting time to do activity that will bring you peace and connection with God.
You can fast by picking a time you will go for a walk.
You can fast by adding in a prayer time each morning.
You can fast by setting aside an afternoon to read a book.
You can fast by picking a day that each week you will either visit or call someone to reconnect with.
There is no right way to fast nor is the goal to suffer and punish ourselves. Fasting is about finding recognizing that we are sustained by God’s love. Fasting is also about being reminded of the blessings we already have. Nothing tastes better than a meal after a fast. Blessings on your Lenten Journey.