Lent and the Purpose of Fasting

Do you observe Lent?

I honestly don’t remember why or when Joey and I started observing Lent. We have for as long as I can remember. I do remember when our kids started participating.  I recall sitting around our kitchen table in Aberdeen, Scotland explaining lent to our children. Mattie(then 6) and Kinnon(then 5) had become old enough to realize Joey and I were fasting and they had many questions. When we had finished discussing what the Bible teaches us about fasting, they decided they wanted to participate. After much deliberation and after I confirmed they could not fast from school work, they landed on cold cereal. Our kids loved the treat of sugary, cereal on Saturday mornings. The kids stuck it out and we have been fasting together as a family through the season of Lent ever since. 

Lent is a 40 day season in the liturgical church calendar beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter. The day before Lent begins is Mardi Gras. Did you know Mardi Gras is associated with the church calendar?? Mardi Gras literally means “Fat Tuesday” and traditionally it was the day when people cleared out their cupboards of all the sugar, flour, meat, ect. that they would not be eating during their season of fasting. This is also the reason the day is known as Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday. It’s basically a day of celebrating and feasting before the fasting begins the next day on Ash Wednesday. (Today 2/9 is Shrove Tuesday.)

Lent usually begins with an Ash Wednesday service where we recognize our mortality, repent of our sins, express thankfulness to God and dedicate ourselves to a period of fasting and renewed passion in our relationship with Christ. Traditionally the priest or minister smudges a cross from ashes on the foreheads of those participating. Ashes are used as a sign of our mortality and sin, while the cross is a symbol of our forgiveness and hope received from Christ. 

So what? Why should be observe Lent? After Jesus was baptized he experienced a season of fasting. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days (Matthew 4:1-11). After this time of fasting and temptation Jesus began his earthly ministry. If your spiritual life or ministry could use some renewed passion or you could use rest and renewal for life and ministry or wisdom for your future then Lent is a great season to focus on Christ. 

Those of you who know us and follow our journey know this has been the hardest year we have ever experienced. After this year of suffering my soul is craving peace and rejuvenation. Also, Joey and I are both struggling with calling and what God may have on the horizon for us. These are just some of the things we will be praying through as we are observing Lent this year. 

This year for my personal observation of Lent I will be following a Daniel fast and incorporating more scripture meditation into my daily life. More on both of these and what the rest of my family will be doing to come…

One of my favorite verses on fasting…

“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; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” Isaiah 58:6-9a

“Lord, take my fast as an offering to You. May it bring Your light, Your healing, Your righteousness and Your glory. Amen” 


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