Fasting for Lent
For centuries, Christians have observed the season of Lent by fasting from food and observing other self-denying acts.
These acts help us become more aware of our true needs. When we deny ourselves the comforts we are used to—whether a full plate of food, or some other part of our daily routine (TV, coffee, alcohol, Internet, etc.)— we are more mindful of our great need for God. Also, when we deny our sinful desires, we become more acutely aware of them, for when they are not fed, they tend to surface in more noticeable ways. Most importantly, these practices make us mindful of our need for salvation by Jesus' death on the cross.
What follows is some suggestions for ways to fast. None of these are compulsory. Remember that the important thing is to take away distractions, to focus instead on the mercy, salvation, and comforting provision of God. Make time and space for God, and God will meet you.
What can I give up?
First, some important considerations: if you have any concerns about whether dietary fasting (fasting from food) is safe for you, ask your physician, especially if you have a health concern (heart, diabetes). Don't fast from food if your are pregnant or nursing; make sure you always get plenty of fluids; and finally, don't make decisions for others (for example, don't modify a child's diet except to help them decide to cut nonessentials like sodas or desserts, etc.).
You know yourself best: which of the following might you do without? Try adding to your list each week (see the individual pages of the Calendar to read more specific suggestions). If you fast from all the food items listed in the Calendar pages, you may find that at the end of several weeks, you are eating very simply: vegetables, beans, rice, fruit, grains, etc. Take the suggestions one step at a time and make sure you do what is necessary to have energy for your work and family.
Suggested fast items:
Food: Meats, poultry (eggs too), fats and oils, soft drinks, second helpings, alcohol, coffee (try tea or some other low-caffeine drink if you get headaches), dairy (milk and cheese), junk food (chips, snacks, excessively salty food), candy (plus refined sugar in general), and dessert (great for kids—very meaningful!).
Media: TV, movies, computer, email (set an autoresponder), Internet, magazines, radio, the phone (leave your cell phone off when appropriate), handheld computers, video games, and other technology.
Other Things: You may want to fast from certain relationships, or people in general, choosing instead to walk alone with God for a period. You may also fast from social events, parties, or clubs, if you regularly go out of your way for that kind of gathering.
Days: Leave it all behind: leave junk food, TV, cars, noise, and all the media and messages of the culture. Pack the very minimum (water, warm clothes, etc.) and find a trail, or a beach, and feast on God.
Imitate Jesus, who took whole days to walk alone in the wilderness fasting and praying. Give God the time and the room that he wants. God wants to fill you up, wants to bless you. If we are constantly pouring other stuff into our heads or stomachs, there will be little room for God.
On what days should I fast?
Fast on any day but Sunday, which is a feast day even in Lent. On Friday (the day of the crucifixion), many world Christians will fast from meat, and it can be meaningful to join them. Try fasting from something on each day, Monday-Saturday. You may choose one day to fast from all foods or other comforts for as much of the day that you can (remembering to drink plenty of fluids). End your weekly fast on Sunday: on this day, enjoy your food and your freedom!
When you fast, do not put on a sad face as the hypocrites do. They neglect their appearance so that everyone will see that they are fasting. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. When you go without food, wash your face and comb your hair, so that others cannot know that you are fasting—only your Father, who is unseen, will know. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18 - TEV)
© David Maddalena. All rights reserved. Buy Bright Sadness
, A Devotional for Lent by David Maddalena
E-mail this page to a friend