“Is it true that they seek me day after day, longing to know my ways? … on your fast days you do not lose anything.”
Friday, 19 February 2021
One of the practices we are invited to make part of our rhythm in Lent is fasting. For most people today, fasting is not part of our ongoing spiritual practice. We might engage in some fasting in Lent, but we probably do not for the rest of the year.
In many religions, fasting is considered an important practice for spiritual growth. Traditionally, Christians fast during Lent. Muslims fast during the month of Ramadan. Observant Jewish people fast and follow a kosher diet. Others fast for physical reasons, not spiritual ones. Health advocates tell us that fasting or periodic fasting is good for a healthy lifestyle. It can also help us to increase our will power.
When we think about fasting, we normally think about reducing food intake. But fasting can be more than that: fasting from television, social media or from something that takes an inordinate chunk of my time, maybe something I really enjoy.
It is interesting to notice, in the Scriptures, that fasting is never mentioned alone. Fasting and prayer are always linked. Paired with fasting should be some reflection. Fasting, like reflection, should focus our minds on what is important, our values and vision. It should put us in touch with our priorities. It should help us reach more deeply into our souls, making space in them to live more authentically, to become more loving and more human. Fasting reminds us that we are more than just physical beings; we are spiritual ones too. Across multiple religions and spiritual practices, people have engaged in reflective fasting. There is value in this physical and spiritual practice.
Pause today to ask yourself: how could fasting help me grow spiritually? Do I need to be consuming everything I consume every day? What could I fast from, perhaps using that time for prayer and reflection?