April 18, 2011
Notes From an Experience of Fasting and Praying
“Even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. (Joel 2:12-13)
This fast takes me back to when I was a boy growing up in the Greek Orthodox Church. When we listed the food items we would be fasting from during Lent, we did it out of obligation thinking somehow we would become “better people” and that God would be “pleased” with our sacrifice. I don’t think I have progressed much beyond that.
I began with noble goals of toppling idols and of drawing closer to God, but in the middle of the fast the temptation is toward performance and results — specifically, spiritual performance that tempts me to a religious pride, and to physical results because I am losing unneeded weight. God is lost in the details of the very thing meant to find him. It becomes more about what I can do by means of this religious exercise as opposed to what God can do in me. It ends up becoming a type of self-help process by which I prove I don’t need the grace of God.
The temptation is to forget my first love, basically. If there is one thing that Jesus proved during his temptation, it was that he depended upon the father totally. He did nothing in his own power. My hope is that as I continue, I will lean more heavily upon the Lord. By his grace, I will lean less upon food and even less upon myself!
There were times I’d long for a piece of pizza—not so much because I was hungry, but for the sheer pleasure of taste. So God uses the fast to inform me of how hedonistic I really am.
I don’t think I’ve ever noticed how often food is advertised in the newspaper, on television, at the movies, or on billboards until now! One gets the paranoid feeling that the world is out to sabotage one’s fast. Perhaps the devil is not pleased when we seek heavenly bread and wants to divert our attention as often as possible. I am reminded of his encounter with Jesus where he suggested that Jesus transform stones into bread. Jesus’ answer is amazing:
“It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4
If there is one thing that Jesus proved during his temptation, it was that he depended upon the Father totally. He did nothing in his own power. “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,” he responded when faced with temptation. If you are fasting during this time (and even if you are not), you too will be tempted—but not just with food. You will be tempted to live life on your own power, even life with God. So stay close to Jesus if you are fasting during Lent.
Thanks to Mike Sares for this contribution. Mike is the pastor of Scum of the Earth in Denver, CO and author of the book Pure Scum.
Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at 10:53 AM