Why Do We Fast During Lent?

Image of Pastor Genter from Concordia's chaplaincy team

Today’s post was written by Pastor Lee Genter. Concordia’s Chaplaincy Department actively contributes to our residents’ well-being, especially during the Lenten season. Enjoy!

We begin the season of Lent this year on Valentine’s Day. There are many traditions that have grown over the years of how people observe this holy season.

The three main traditions for observing Lent over the centuries are fasting, giving alms to the poor and self-examination/repentance. In this devotion, I will emphasize the tradition of fasting.

Fasting takes various forms throughout different traditions. Some denominations refrain from eating meat on Fridays, others eat a vegan diet during Lent and others do not eat from sunup to sundown. Many people voluntarily and personally give up something for Lent, like sweets, alcohol or another food or pleasure they enjoy.

Fasting expresses humbleness in ourselves and contrition for our sins. It helps us realize how dependent we are on God; that we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3)

Jesus guides us how to fast in Matthew 6:16-18. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Fasting does not score brownie points with God, to gain his favor or get His attention. But fasting can be a way to honor God whom you love and want serve, in weakness and increased devotion.

Fasting may help us in prayer. From a weakened state, we see our real spiritual needs more clearly. When hungry and weak, we may pray more fervently because distractions are cleared away, and we may focus on the one thing needful: Jesus.

My favorite passage in the Bible about true fasting is found in Isaiah 58. The people were fasting for all the wrong reasons. God tells them what true fasting is all about. Fasting that pleases God is to show mercy, do justice and have compassion. “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.” Isaiah 58:6-8

We are free to celebrate this holy season of Lent in any way that pleases God. He loves us and offered up His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins on the cross. We love Him! We journey with Jesus the way of the cross.

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Founded in 1881, Concordia Lutheran Ministries is a faith-based, CARF-accredited Aging Services Network and recipient of the inaugural Pennsylvania Department of Aging Excellence in Quality Care Award. As one of the largest nonprofit senior care providers in the country, the organization serves 50,000 people annually through in-home care and inpatient locations in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and Tampa, Florida.

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