Those who drink of the water that I will give them
          will never be thirsty.

                           —John 4.14

Fasting is a traditional spiritual discipline, especially during Lent. It’s not about self-punishment, but a host of other things. Fasting is a form of prayer, a way to pay attention to God. There are many forms of abstinence—people give up lots of stuff for Lent (and for medical reasons some people shouldn’t fast from food). But there is something powerful, something visceral, about fasting from food, something that touches our soul’s embodiment.

You might fast for a few hours, most of a day or longer. If you do, here are some things I experience when I fast. Ponder them and let them lead you deeper into prayer.

Hunger: I am led to inquire of myself what I most deeply want. I discover my hunger for God.

Obedience: I confront the demands of my ego and set them aside, and in humility fast simply because God asks me to, and for no other reason.

Discipline: I practice conscious, intentional choice making, and allow God to mange my will.

Detachment: I let go of desire and the need to fulfill it, and turn my desires over to God.

Weakness: I experience the limits of my powers, my dependence on God, and willingness to turn to God alone.

Slowing : I am not able to be so active. Fasting from food leads to fasting from hurrying. I am not able to be so driven, so bent on justifying myself. I have to adopt a more sabbath-like pace.

Simplicity: I practice contentment. I practice accepting what is instead of wishing it were otherwise.

Suffering: I find I can experience discomfort and still place my attention on God.

Compassion: As Jesus suggests in Mt. 6.16-18 I don’t usually let people know I am fasting. I bear it silently. I know anyone I meet may be enduring secret burdens and struggles, and I can be more sensitive and compassionate toward all people.

Justice: I am more aware of the poor and hungry, and I am more able to be in solidarity with them in prayer and action.

Transformation: I let God change my hunger for food into a hunger to let God’s love flow through me.

Grace: I am more mindful of receiving what I can’t control, and trusting grace.

Delight: I’m more aware of food, the gift of taste, the delight of eating. I get over taking things for granted.

May God bless your fasting; God bless your prayer.


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