Fasting for Lent

It really snuck up on me this year.


January is usually the time I start thinking about what I will do to observe the season of Lent. Well, I thought about it in January…but that was about it. So, Wednesday morning, February 26, just about the time I was enjoying a slice of some amazing, sugar-crusted lemon bread, it hit me. Today is Ash Wednesday! With a smile on my face and the knowledge of God’s grace, I finished that delightful treat and began thinking about how to journey through this important season.


Over the centuries, many have included fasting as a part of their observance and it is easy to see why. Fasting from food—or anything we regularly rely upon—forces us to notice and confront those places where we trust in the thing more than the One who provided that thing. While the Lord can use fasting in powerful ways, something special happens when fasting is combined with another practice. When we adopt a discipline of abstinence (like fasting), it is good to also add a discipline of engagement. When we take something away, it is helpful to add something that builds off the departure of that thing that is gone.


This idea of “letting go” and “picking up” is a pattern I have followed for many Lenten seasons. For this reason, I find myself drawn to the kind of fast mentioned by Pope Francis a few years ago. Here is what he said:

Do you want to fast this Lent?

  • Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
  • Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude.
  • Fast from anger and be filled with patience.
  • Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope.
  • Fast from worries and trust in God.
  • Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity.
  • Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
  • Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy.
  • Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
  • Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
  • Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.


Let go of one thing so that you can make space to pick up another. Look back over the list again and notice if one or more lines seem to resonate with you. If so, ask the Lord if He is leading you to take the next 37 days to practice this sort of fast. As for me, while I have yet to land on what I will let go, I know the thing I will pick up is prayer. I know this because of what God has been saying to me in my Bible reading.


You may remember how I recently wrote about Luke’s observation that Jesus regularly withdrew to lonely places so that He could pray. This is stunning to me. Jesus regularly withdrew from His pressing schedule to go to the wilderness and pray. This must have been inconvenient for Him and many probably were frustrated that He did it (“Everyone is looking for you!” Mark 1:37). Even though cultural pressures were against Him, prayer was a high enough priority for Him that He made time and space for it. If Jesus needed to do this, how much more do I?


Jesus regularly withdrew to pray. This statement gripped me and would not let me go. Well, it still has me. So the question I have to answer is not what will I add but what can I cut out to make space to regularly withdraw for prayer this season? I’ll think about this over the next couple of days and see what develops.


What about you? What has the Lord been saying to you through your Bible reading and how might those personal messages be repurposed and applied during this Lenten season? No matter how you answer that question, enter in with a smile on your face and the knowledge of God’s grace. He will guide your steps. The Lenten season was made for you, not you for the Lenten season. So use this time to enjoy the Lord as He reveals new things about yourself and Himself in the weeks ahead.


May you grow in the knowledge of just how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ for you!



P.S. Either as an addition to your plan or as a stand-alone observance this Lenten season, I recommend the daily online Lenten devotional from Biola University. You can find it here: