We have entered the season of Lent – 40 days of prayer and fasting before Easter as we reflect on the suffering of Jesus Christ and examine our own hearts.
For some churches this is a very big part of their services. For others, little, if anything, is said about this season.
Growing up in a church that did not emphasis Lent, I have come to really appreciate it as an adult.
While the Bible does not specifically mention anything about Lent, (the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. began this observation), the Bible is full of calls to fasting and prayer.
- 1 Samuel 7:6 – the people fasted in repentance.
- 2 Chronicles 20:3-4 – the people fasted for protection
- Ezra 8:21-23 – the people fasted for direction and unity
- Matthew 4:1-11 – Jesus fasted in preparation for His public ministry.
- Acts 13:1-3 – the people fasted in preparation for expansion of their ministry.
There are hundreds of ways people observe this time of prayer and fasting. Some actually go without eating for a day; others miss a meal for one day or throughout Lent. Some give up a specific food or drink that they normally have each day.
The idea is not just giving up something, but spending the time that would be given to a meal or a favorite food in prayer.
But Lent is not about giving up to make us feel “holy.” If we do not take this time to really reflect on and seek God for spiritual direction, vision, right living, compassion….the list could go on and on….our sacrifices of food or favorite things are meaningless.
Isaiah 58:6-8 tells us what kind of fasting we should do in this time of Lent.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
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;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.