“Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it.”
Lent and fasting go together naturally. Lent harkens back to Jesus Christ’s wilderness experience in preparation for his public ministry, in which Jesus intensified his focus on prayer by fasting from food for 40 days. It also may be associated with Moses’ 40 days on Mount Sinai with God, and the 40 year journey of the Israelites wandering in the desert. Lent for contemporary believers is a period of somber self-examination designed to promote intense hunger for God, and nothing reveals what eats at me as clearly as when my appetites are exposed in light of a renewed hunger for God.
“In a culture where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the Golden Arches and an assortment of Pizza Temples, fasting seems out of place, out of step with the times. In fact, fasting has been in general disrepute both in and outside the Church for many years” (Richard Foster). Fasting is never intended to be punitive. True Christian fasting doesn’t seek suffering or self-denial as an end, but as a way to love something less so that God might be loved more. Actually, fasting does not always deal with abstinence from food; it is the denial of any normal function of life in order to become more absorbed in seeking God. Herein lies the rub: What masters us has become our god; and Paul warns us about those “whose god is their appetite” (Phil 3:18). What we hunger for most, we worship.