I regard fasting as the M1A1 Abrams of the spiritual connection world. All living things are hardwired to constantly seek out sustenance. With most of the animal kingdom, the search for food defines daily life. Man is fortunate to have been blessed with a rational knowledge that has allowed us to grow and gather food in abundance (my belly is a clear example). Going without a meal is, for most of us, a consequence of unhealthy absentmindedness or determined dieting. Consciously choosing to sublimate this imperative to sate our hunger elevates the Fast to a place of primary spiritual importance. Fasting during Lent increases the divine obligation and does so with authority.
In antiquity, fasting was akin to abstinence in its ecclesiastical brilliance, but appears to be an unwritten law (after all, Lent is an Apostolic institution). In later years, the Church made fasting a part of ecclesiastical law and forbade eating on Fridays during Lent. This law subsequently changed to allow the eating of meat, but forbade the consumption of fish and flesh on the same day, and so on. Now the Catholic Church encourages parishioners to not consume meat, but no longer excommunicates those that do... which is nice. The Protestants encourage parishoners to give up something meaningful, but no longer instructs members on how to fast. It is clear to anyone with doctrinal discipline that the integrity of the fast is rarely observed in these days. I for one, intend to add some small amount of integrity to Lent.
How do I intend to fast? Allow me to try and lay it out for you.
1. Conscious determination. Know why you are fasting.
I have successfully fasted in the past and found it to be enlightening. I recognize that I am fasting for one reason... to bring myself closer to God and vanquish the evil that lies within me. The guidance that I require from Christ is normally difficult for me to hear. When fasting, I find it much easier to hear Him.
2. Determine the level of your commitment. How long will you fast (ie- a month, day, or single meal)? To what extent (ie- consume liquids)? Will it affect your daily schedule (ie- workouts)? How much time will you devote to prayer and reflection?
For Lent, I have chosen Friday for a daylight hour fast. For me, this means that I will not eat until sundown on Friday night... and only after some personal time in the evening with JC. While you want to be committed, remember what Matthew said in Chapter 6, "16'When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.'
I make a list of all my sins. I can't possibly hit them all because I am a really, really able sinner. Part of the renewal process, however, is acknowledging your sins and seeking (with Christ and yourself) forgiveness. Lutherans do so by reciting the Brief Order for Confession and Forgiveness. It is particularly appropriate during Lent.
1 John 1: 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives.I then try and figure out all the people that I have wronged and seek forgiveness. If appropriate, I'll try and make it right. I try earnestly to surrender myself to Him by reading 1 John 5. I then just steel myself for temptation by reading Galatians 5: 16-26.
4. Get the body ready for the Fast.
In the days prior, I stay away from sugar and most carbs that tend to raise my blood sugar levels. You can't really avoid the crashes, but you can make them a lot easier by getting ready for them. I also try to remind myself that I'm likely to be a bit cranky and impatient, so I give some berth to the co-workers and family.
5. Make a reasonable schedule.
As this is all about God, I start the day with prayer and Bible readings (pre-picked) and then program my Outlook calendar to remind me to pray throughout the day. I also will give up TV and most computer surfing for the day so that I can remain focused.
6. Expect rewards.
John 14: 21 "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." Stay faithful and you will be rewarded.
What will you be doing for Lent?
DE PROFUNDIS CLAMO AD TE, DOMINE, DOMINE, AUDI VOCEM MEAM!
(Out of the depths I have cried unto Thee, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice!)