Canon Paul Hardingham writes on the spiritual disciplines that help us to grow and deepen our faith.
Spiritual disciplines are practices designed to help us grow as disciples of Jesus. This month we are looking at the practice of fasting.
Fasting can be a neglected discipline, but plays an important part in the Christian life, especially during Lent. Jesus began His earthly ministry by fasting in the wilderness for 40 days and taught His disciples to fast: ‘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.’ (Matthew 6:17,18).
Firstly, giving up something in my life underlines my desire to put God first in my life. Secondly, fasting shows me how much I depend on things other than God in my life, so I can surrender my idols to Him. Thirdly, fasting encourages me to have a deeper hunger and dependency for God in my life. Therefore, fasting gives me space to focus on God for His strength, provision, and wisdom, and leads to a more intimate relationship with Christ. It also enables the Holy Spirit to reveal my true spiritual condition, leading to repentance, and a transformed life and a more attentive heart towards God.
How can I fast?
Usually fasting involves missing one or two meals during the day, although some can’t abstain for medical reasons. It might also include abstaining or limiting the time I give to television, alcohol, or social media. However, Lent can also be a time to embrace new spiritual disciplines e.g. joining a study group, ‘random acts of kindness’, or giving more time to prayer and Bible Study. Whatever you do, make Lent count this year!
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.’Matthew 5:6
Featured image: Jan Brueghel – St John Preaching in the Wilderness (PD)