Prayer & Fasting for Lent
by Trace Clevinger
This a repost from Lent last year.
As I was growing up, my family tried to eat dinner together most every night. On a few occasions, I recall my parents skipping a meal because they were “fasting” due to big decisions they were trying to make. Through watching them, I drew the conclusion that fasting means giving up food, and the desired result of fasting is to hear from the Lord in order to make wise choices.
The first time I personally remember having fasted was in college during Easter weekend, soon after a turning point in my faith where I began truly desiring to follow Christ. I wasn’t trying to make any important decisions at the time but was instead seeking to abstain from food in order to more fully appreciate the weight of Christ’s death and the joy of His resurrection. Over the years, as I’ve observed others and learned from experience, I’ve seen that fasting can take forms other than abstaining from food and is done for a variety of reasons.
My goal in this blog is simply to answer the questions of what fasting is, why people do it, and provide practical ways to fast in hopes that members of Waypoint would join together in seeking the Lord during this Lent season (the 6-week period leading to Easter) through fasting and prayer.
WHAT IS FASTING?
“Then I proclaimed a fast at the river…that we might humble ourselves before our God” – Ezra 8:21
Traditionally, when people think about fasting, they think about abstaining from food. In American culture today, people regularly fast from food in hopes of gaining health benefits from it regardless of their spiritual beliefs. However, to gain a biblical understanding of fasting, I think it’s helpful to focus more on the purpose behind fasting than the particular item (whether it’s food or Facebook) that one is fasting from. In my study of the topic I’ve come to see that the purpose of fasting, at its core, is to more closely align ourselves with God. This means our whole person (heart, body, and mind) knowing God’s whole person (Father, Son, and Spirit), understanding His purposes, and experiencing His pleasures more fully.
WHY DO WE FAST?
There are many reasons someone may choose to fast. Three reasons I see in Scripture for fasting are below:
1. To prepare us to hear from the Lord:
a. “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.’” – Acts 13:2
b. Fasting is not a requirement for hearing from the Lord, but it is an act which helps us remove other distractions for a time in order to better listen to what He has to say.
2. To respond to what God has revealed to us:
a. “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” – Esther 4:16
b. Fasting is a primary biblical way of responding to, and preparing ourselves for, something God has revealed to us or called us to do. Daniel, Moses, Elijah, Esther, and Jesus (to name a few) all fasted as a means of responding to God’s faithfulness and to prepare themselves to walk in faithfulness to God.
3. To lament (and repent) over sin and brokenness:
a. “‘Yet even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful.” – Joel 2:12-13
b. Whether you are lamenting over your own sin, or the brokenness of this world, fasting is a way to rend our hearts before the Lord, show repentance, and ask God to bring healing.
HOW DO WE FAST?
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice…to set the oppressed free…? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter…and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear…and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” - Isaiah 58:5-9
Generally, fasting involves abstaining from food for a period of time. But, fasting can also involve abstaining from a variety of things, like giving up comforts or refraining from media, and in place of them, setting aside time devoted to worshiping and hearing from the Lord. Ultimately, the act of fasting is not what is pleasing to the Lord, it is the state of our hearts when we humbly seek the Lord and desire for our hearts to be made more like His that is pleasing to Him.
The elders and staff of Waypoint Church invite you to join us in fasting and prayer during Lent in the following ways:
1. Use the Prayer and Fasting Guide (available here) to pray through topics as a church body each week of Lent.
2. Join us for our prayer gatherings on Tuesday nights. The link for the prayer meeting each week will be sent out on Realm.
If you would like to learn more about Lent and the Christian Calendar see this article.