Weekly Spiritual Practice: Fasting
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. — Matthew 4:1–2
Lent, the 40-day season to turn back to God and prepare for the miracle of Easter’s empty tomb, is the perfect time to explore a spiritual practice. As the first week in Lent begins, we will look at the traditional Lenten practice of fasting.
As we see in Matthew 4, fasting is a practice that helps strengthen our reliance on God. The grumbling of our stomachs reminds us of our prayer for — and provision of — daily bread. It also helps us connect to those for which hunger is not a privileged, practiced and temporary discomfort, but a harsh reality brought about by the many food injustices in this world. Fasting is not a “Christian diet” nor is it a way to be holier than others. Fasting is about creating a “hungering space” for Jesus to enter your lives.
As this week’s focus is on seeing the Lord in those who hunger, commit to a time of fasting. There are many ways to fast — not just from food. Here are some ideas:
• Make time this week for a partial fast. Choose a morning to refrain from food and use the time you would have spent on making breakfast to pray. Break the fast at noon. Or perhaps, make your fast be one that foregoes dinner.
• Fasting can be refraining from a certain food or drink that you feel you can’t live without. Did someone mention coffee? Chocolate?
• Fasting doesn’t have to be food centric. Try a social media fast or a fast from checking emails constantly. Perhaps use one day as a “No Electronics Day.”
Whatever you choose to fast from, and decide the duration of the fast, reflect on these questions:
• What cravings/addictions have a hold on you?
• What do you find the most uncomfortable about the fast you have chosen?
• What physical discomfort have you experienced? How does this connect you with others who are suffering?
• What have been some insights or realizations that have come to you from fasting?
No matter how you decide to explore the spiritual practice of fasting this week, remember you are not striving for perfection. If you give in and eat or drink something sooner than you had wanted, or checked an email after promising to log off, that is OK. Fasting is about making us more aware of creating a space in our lives to have more room for God to enter in. Fasting opens us up to our need for more reliance on Christ in our lives.
God of daily bread, this week in Lent, help us to enter the hunger of the world around us so that we become more aware of those who are standing in need of our help. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
What is God asking you to fast from this week?