Like a lot of Christ-followers, I started my Lenten fasting on Wednesday (Ash Wednesday). Lent is the 40 non-Sunday days before Easter. In some non-traditional circles it is simply called “40-days of prayer and fasting.” Fasting is something I’ve studied for years. If you didn’t start your fast on Wednesday, you can still start one. I refuse to let fasting become a legalistic/works righteousness endeavor. Instead, it is about growing deeper with Christ, and it is never too late for that. Below is the guide I published for my church this week, however many of the concepts apply to any fast.
A Quick Guide to Lenten Fasting1. Fasting in its severest form is complete abstention from food with only minimal water. However, for Lent the usual practice is to abstain from one type of food (candy, soda, flour, beer, etc…) and maintain a regular diet. 2. Fasting from entertainment and electronic devices is also a possibility. However, be careful. Think through your commitment. Don’t, for example, fast from television watching if you are a huge NCAA basketball fan (March Madness is always during Lent). The result might be resentment and bitterness toward Christ rather than love and devotion. 3. During Lent, Sundays are “days off” from the fast. Take a break from depriving yourself on these six days, it will help you maintain the 40 days of prayer an fasting. So if your fasting from soda, enjoy a Big Gulp. Or two. 4. The goal of any fasting is to get closer to Jesus. In its simplest terms, when you crave what your fasting from, take a moment to spiritually focus upon Christ and pray, “I love you Jesus more than I love __________.” or “Help me crave you as much as I crave _____________ right now.” 5. A person can be a wonderful and committed Christian without ever observing a Lenten fast. However, Jesus assumed his followers would indeed fast (Matthew 6:16-18) so the legitimate question is, if you do not fast now, when most Christians in the world are, then when do you plan to? 6. In worship, no “Alleluias” or variations of it shall be uttered or sang. The Lenten fast breaks on Easter Sunday morning, which is why every great Easter hymn has a strong “Alleluia” refrain—So Lent is broken with Alleluia. Some people also break Lent with pancakes! 7. Lent is an excellent time for study and prayer. Spend extra time during this season investigating a doctrine, a Bible book, or a thought. Take specific notice of your prayer life and intercession for others. 8. Fasting is about grace, not works. It is a mistake to see this as “something I must do” to be a Christ-follower. Instead, it is a practice that helps develop deeper intimacy with the Lord. A person who is engaging in Lent or any fast for the purpose of showing how spiritual he or she already is has failed to grasp spiritual maturity. 9. Do not fast from foods as a weight loss diet. This is not about waist lines or cholesterol indexes. If you intend a strict fast or have medical issues (like diabetes), please consult a physician. 10. Try to keep your fast a secret. In the Ash Wednesday service we encourage one another in our commitments, but after tonight try not to mention it to anyone except possibly an accountability partner or spiritual adviser. In other words, if you’re fasting from red meat and someone offers you a burger, simply say, “No thanks.” Do not call attention to your fast.