5 Mar 2023
Want to Learn How to Fast for Lent and Why You Should Fast?
You’ve come to the right place!
Lent is a time for prayer and fasting. It is a season of spiritual preparation in which we remember Christ’s temptation, suffering, and death.
Historically, the church has celebrated Lent as a 40-day period beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding the day before Easter. It is observed in many Christian churches as a time to commemorate the last week of Jesus’ life, his suffering (Passion), and his death, through various observances and services of worship. Many Christians use the 40 days of Lent as time to draw closer to the Lord through prayer, fasting, repentance, and self-denial.
We live in a culture of fast food, instant gratification, and self-centeredness. One of the best ways to get our eyes off of ourselves and back onto the Lord is through fasting. However, fasting has practically been disregarded and forgotten in the comforts of the modern church.
Fasting didn’t end in Biblical times, there have actually been proclaimed fasts in America. Fasting is nothing new in American history. The pilgrims held three formal periods of fasting before leaving for the New World. During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress proclaimed July 20, 1775, as a national day of fasting and prayer in preparation for the war on independence.
WHAT IS FASTING?
What does it really mean to fast? According to the Oxford Dictionary, fasting means to abstain from food; especially to eat sparingly or not at all or abstain from certain foods in observance of a religious duty or a token of grief.” Fasting and religious purposes cannot be separated because they are intricately intertwined. The Bible gives us numerous references to individual and corporate fasts. There were even certain days that were designated each year for fasting and prayer. Fasting is a gift that God has given to the church in order to help us persevere in prayer. Fasting draws us closer to God and gives power to our prayers. Our central motivation with this lesson is to teach about the reasons to fast, different types of fasting, and then discuss how to fast.
REASONS FOR FASTING
People have been fasting since the ancient days of the Bible. The Bible records numerous accounts where people, cities, and nations have turned to God by fasting and praying: Hannah grieved over infertility “wept and did not eat” (1 Samuel 1:7); Anna, who was an elderly widow, saw Jesus in the temple and “served God with fasting and prayer” (Luke 2:37). Saul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, “was three days without sight, neither ate or drank.” (Acts 9:9). Cornelius told Peter, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour…” (Acts 10:30). Most people fast for religious and spiritual reasons, while others choose to fast for health reasons. There are several specific reasons that the Bible tells us to fast.
- To be Christ-like. (Matthew 4:1-17; Luke 4:1-13).
- To obtain spiritual purity. (Isaiah 58:5-7).
- To repent of sins. (See Jonah 3:8; Nehemiah 1:4, 9:1-3; 1 Samuel 14:24).
- To influence God. (2 Samuel 12:16-23).
- To mourn for the dead. (1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 1:12).
- To request God’s help in times of crisis and calamity. (Ezra 8:21-23; Nehemiah 1:4-11).
- To strengthen prayer. (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:17-29; Acts 10:30; 1 Corinthians 7:5).
Winfield Bevins is the author of Simply Anglican and the Director of the Center for Church Multiplication at Asbury Theological Seminary. -- You can find out more about him at his website, www.winfieldbevins.com.