Day 3

Why Do We Fast? 
Friday, February 19
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, Matthew 6:16-18

Fasting, going without food and sometimes without water, is an ancient practice observed the world over. It is used for both religious and nonreligious purposes. The principle of fasting is mentioned about thirty times in the Bible. We inherited the practice from our Jewish siblings. And for most of church history, fasting has been engaged as a meaningful rhythm of the faith. The Methodist tradition of Lenten fasting is a form of spiritual growth as we prepare for the celebration of Easter.

It can be easy to look at fasting as an antiquated, old-fashioned practice. Generally, fasting is thought of as something only the uber spiritual participate in. For all of us, though, the act of removing something that is part of our daily life can create space for God to sneak in.

When we go without food our hunger can remind us to be thankful for God’s provision. When we fast from television and social media we can spend the time we gain in prayer. When we remove items and activities we reach for mindlessly we can intentionally turn our attention to God.

Right before Jesus began his earthly ministry, he spent 40 days and 40 nights alone in the wilderness, without food. He was then tempted by the adversary, yet he recalled the wisdom of Deuteronomy “one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD”. Jesus reminds us that the inner and outer dimensions of our bodies are dependent upon the nourishment of God. In Matthew 6, he teaches us to fast in secret, allowing the pangs of desire to orient us back to God and God’s power to transform.

This year we can choose to use fasting as a form of lament, a way to process our grief during this time of extended wilderness. We can be intentional about this practice by removing or adding something to our daily habits. Taking something away may look like not eating for a day or giving up sugar, alcohol, or social media throughout the season. On the other hand, we may add extra devotional or prayer time, a gratitude practice, or charitable acts. Wherever you find yourself this Lenten season fasting can become an embodied staple of entering God’s presence. It may be uncomfortable, but it is powerful and strengthens us in a way no other practice can. Amen.

Reflection by Jaclyn Belt
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