Fasting is not something that comes easily for me, and, judging by the questions I’ve been getting, it’s not something that comes easily for many of you, dear readers. What follows are some Frequently Asked Questions on the topics of fasting and Lent.
I remember asking my dad about fasting when I was a kid, and he told me he had asked my grandfather the same question when he was a kid. My grandfather had said, “Fasting is something Roman Catholics do during Lent, but we Protestants are supposed to give up things all year long.” I loved my grandfather, but I think he was wrong to frown on fasting as some misguided practice that Roman Catholics do, and I’m glad that American Evangelical Protestantism has begun to embrace fasting and Lenten disciplines more widely.
- Fasting reminds us that there are people around the world for whom hunger is not a choice, and to a very small degree, fasting can help us stand in solidarity with them.
- Fasting reminds us of the temptations and privations of Jesus in the wilderness. Before there’s the Resurrection, there’s the Crucifixion. Before the crown, there’s the cross.
- Fasting can help us set our minds on what matters most.
- Fasting can help us pray with more focus and intensity.
I give a brief overview of Lent and fasting here:
What If I Can’t Fast From Food?
Lots of folks have medical conditions that make it unsafe for them to fast from food during the day. Here’s my advice, if you’d still like to fast: make your food as plain as possible, and eat just enough to keep healthy.
What Should I Do When I’m Fasting?
I use fasting as a way to help me pray: throughout the day, I’ll pray something like “Lord, help me to desire you and your word as much as I desire food.”
Another technique is to use hunger as a reminder to pray for some particular topic. Maybe during Lent you can pray for the persecuted Church, or the situation in the Ukraine, or for your neighbor who struggles with faith, or for your marriage, etc. Every time you are hungry, pray for that specific situation or person.
One other thing to do is to take on something life-giving while you are giving up something else. If you are fasting from food, take on prayer. If you are fasting from coffee, take on giving the money you would have spent towards a clean water project. (You can see suggestions of what to take on in the chart below.)
Does It Matter What I’m Fasting From?
Traditionally, fasting involves food, but you can fast from other things as well.
- You could fast from caffeine;
- You could fast from television;
- You could fast from complaining.
In the 40 Campaign we’re doing at my church, each week during Lent involves a different kind fast. You can see the list below.
Should I Fast On Sundays?
Every Sunday is an Easter celebration, and so Sundays have traditionally been feast days. I like the thought of not fasting on Sundays for this reason.
What If I Give In and Break My Fast?
Try again tomorrow. Fasting isn’t about showing off heroic self-denial; it’s about learning to pray and focus on what matters most.
How has the experience of fasting been for you?