40 days of fasting and prayer leading up to the most remarkable days in the Christian faith, Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is Lent.
Because Easter is a moveable feast, so is Lent and the other holy days of Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Palm Sunday, and Good Friday. This year, Lent is observed from March 6 – April 18. It’s not found in the Bible, but has been observed by followers of Christ for centuries as a spiritual discipline and remembrance.
I’ve learned from some scholars that the 40 days imitates Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness before He began His public ministry. I’ve read that “like all Christian holy days and holidays, it has changed over the years, but its purpose has always been the same: self-examination and penitence, demonstrated by self-denial, in preparation for Easter.” (Christianity Today)
Secular theories of Lent involve Fat Tuesday and giving up something for selfish reasons, selfish gain, or out of religious obligation.
From my findings, observing Lent is intentionally setting aside time to remember Christ's life and death and resurrection and to discipline oneself to fasting, prayer, and studying of the Scriptures.
I recently read that “if Lent is not about getting to know Jesus Christ better, it is a waste of time.”
Therefore, I don't feel pressured into observing Lent, but consider it an opportunity to know Christ more.
Anytime I make a goal or set out to do something, I’m also looking to the other side of the accomplishment or journey. Looking at Lent, I wonder, what will come of us after 40 days of fixing our gaze on Jesus and less on the things of this world as we deny self more than normal? What could happen as we develop a stronger discipline of prayer, or at the very least an awareness that we’ve given something up to gain more of Jesus? (put this in the email to those who participate)
What if the gain is greater than the sacrifice?
“No matter how deep you are now, wade in deeper still. Don’t worry about what’s going to get wet. Don’t stop at the point where you can keep your feet underneath you. Get swept away. What are you holding onto? What are your hesitations to living a more Spirit-led life of faith? What illusion of control are you clinging to? Go all in. Pray today that this fast will be just the beginning of a deeper relationship with God.” (21 day fast, You Version)
Here’s my story:
To fast is to feast.
While on the elliptical machine, giving thought to fasting for Lent, I saw a round table and three things being removed and placards with names on them taking their place. In this exchange, I was saying I refrain so that these don’t get in the way of drawing closer to God. By fasting, I’m removing something from the table. Yet the table isn’t empty. I’m engaging in Kingdom activity by feasting on intercession for my friends who’s names are on the placards. I see a dozen names.
When we give something up, we gain something else. And not always a fair trade. When I send my kids to school, I’ve gained time to work uninterrupted. When I sink into bed at night, I’m giving up work and gaining rest.
In my thirty something year journey with Jesus, I’ve learned that fasting from something is feasting on something else. He quenches. He fulfills. He sustains. This Lent, when the hunger comes and the desire ravages for the three things I’m giving up, I will feast on intercession. For the desire for my friends to know the love of Jesus is greater than anything these earthly tastes can satisfy.
Maybe you’ve learned something also about Lent in this writing. I invite you to fast, yet feast with me.
Come to the table by leaving a comment below.
You can say what you’re fasting from and feasting on. Or you can simply say, ‘I’m here with you at the Lenten table.’
During Lent, I will send a few emails to those at the table, offering prayer and encouragement. Make sure you are a subscriber to the blog so that I have your email address.