Lent is the period preceding Easter that is often devoted to fasting in commemoration of Christ’s fasting in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1–11. Lent 2020 begins on Wednesday, February 17, and ends on Thursday, April 1. Here are a few biblically based guidelines for fasting.
Biblical Understanding of Fasting
Throughout the Bible, fasting is referred to as abstinence from food for spiritual purposes. Fasting is a biblical way of humbling yourself before God and seeking spiritual renewal (Psalm 35:13; 69:10; Ezra 8:21; Isaiah 58:5; Joel 2:12–13).
Jesus and Fasting
Jesus participated in the practice of fasting. According to Matthew 4:1–2, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.”
Jesus taught that fasting should not be a public spectacle. In Matthew 6:16–18, Jesus says, “Whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. . . . But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that you fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Objectives of Fasting
Possible objectives of fasting may include spiritual renewal, a deeper relationship with God, guidance from God, healing, God’s favor, God’s grace for difficult situations, and resolution of problems.
Guidance on Beginning and Conducting Your Fast
Before beginning your fast, consult your doctor, consider your medications, prepare yourself spiritually, prepare yourself physically, ask God for guidance, and plan your prayer time.
The Main Thing
Partial fasts may include the elimination of meat or your favorite beverage. Perhaps you could reduce your TV time, screen time on your electronic device, or social media time. Perhaps you could refrain from profanity, gossip, or complaining. What’s most important is a willingness to make some sort of sacrifice with hopes of turning your attention to God in a more intimate way.