This week we entered the season of Lent. Growing up, it meant going to Church to get ashes on Ash Wednesday and meatless Fridays leading up to Easter Sunday. It also meant we were expected to give something up during this time. This usually meant chocolate, candy, snacks, television, etc. Although there was the one year I wanted to give up talking to my sisters, my mom didn’t go for it and I ended up giving up chocolate.
While it was part of the Catholic tradition, what I didn’t know or understand was the act of fasting. Recently, I have been working on a project involving fasting. I have learned a lot about the biological and nutritional aspects of it, but I also learned a lot about what the Bible says about fasting.
We are not commanded to fast in scripture. However, it is presented as an act that can be good, beneficial, and should be used as a time of deep prayer. In the book of Acts, believers would fast before making decisions:
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. ~Acts 13:2-3
We also read of another example of fasting in the book of Luke. In which, a prophet, Anna who was a widow and very old, gave thanks to God for the redemption of Jerusalem as Joseph and Mary traveled back to Galilee with baby Jesus.
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. ~Luke 2:36-38
Fasting is a way we, as followers of Jesus, demonstrate our dedication to a relationship with God. It is a way for us to take our eyes of things of the world and focus them on God and his Word. Whatever it is you might be turning your eyes away from – certain foods or meals, social media, watching television, alcohol, smoking, etc., make sure it is with the intention to grow closer to God and not be boastful about it.
“When you do fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly, I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face so it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” ~ Matthew 6:16-18
I pray, if you are fasting during this Lenten season, you use the time to pray deeper, pray longer, and grow closer to our loving and gracious Father.