As we begin the season of Lent there can be a lot of chatter about fasting, and we want to guard our hearts against missing the point entirely. It’s good to give up the things in our lives to which we tend to become attached. It’s not a bad thing that we give up social media, television, desserts, shopping, etc. We can all agree that in the course of a year we have probably packed a great deal of *stuff* into our lives that needs cleaned out. But if we mentally check a “fasting” box and move on, then we are going to miss the point of our fasting — to miss God’s idea of fasting — this Lent.
The point of fasting and prayer is to be able to hear God’s voice and do his will. It is good to fast from things that we are attached to so that we will be attached to God instead. It is also good to fast from things that take our time so that we have more time to spend with God. But it can be easy to get caught up in the spiritual practice of fasting and miss the point of it, which is to hear God’s voice…AND then do His will. What is God’s will? What kind of direction should we look for from Him when we fast? What is He going to say to us?
One of the readings in the Liturgy of The Hours for Ash Wednesday is from Isaiah 58. In this passage, God pretty explicitly lays out what His idea of fasting is and what kind of result it should have in our lives. Look at verses 6-7:
“This rather is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking free every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.”
Pretty clear, right? But let’s break it down a step further. If we are fasting with ears listening and hands ready for the Lord’s work, then we are going to personally hear God tell us: Continue reading
Ash Wednesday is the day after tomorrow — Lent seems to have snuck up fast this year! I’m sure you would not be alone if you are still deciding what to do for Lent. I have some suggestions that might help you. I’m not going to give you ideas of what to fast from or give up — listen to the Holy Spirit for that. But I do have some ideas for your reading/study material. I have three options that are all pretty different from each other…
Option #1 – Facebook Book Club
For those who enjoy online book clubs (and are not giving up social media for Lent), you may want to join the FB Abiding Together Podcast book study. I’m not a follower of this podcast, but I know a couple of people who listen to it and/or are participating in the study. The group is reading and discussing Henri Nouwen’s Life of the Beloved. I’m definitely going to add this book to my “Want To Read” category — it looks like a good one.
Option #2 – The Seven Penitential Psalms
Meditating on the psalms is a wonderful option for both Bible study and prayer. The psalms themselves make up a significant portion of liturgical prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. There are Seven Penitential Psalms that are especially good to study and meditate on during penitential seasons/days of the Church: Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143. (The link above has some reflections too.) My recommendation would be to take one psalm for each of the six weeks of Lent to study and meditate on in prayer all week. Then tag on the seventh one during Holy Week or on Good Friday.
Option #3 – Read the Book of Exodus
You will see a lot of Exodus readings during Lent, because that’s an important book for this season of the Church. It’s kind of convenient — 40 days of Lent, 40 chapters in Exodus. Read a chapter a day. Start on Ash Wednesday and finish by Easter. (Hint: Sundays are not part of the 40 days of Lent. So you can use those to catch up if you get behind.) I’m actually doing this for Lent with a married couples group at our church. We are using this study with the text, commentary, and study questions by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch.
Whatever you decide on, remember the point — to detach from the desire to please ourselves and draw closer to the Lord; to be abandoned to Him. Ask Him what will accomplish that goal for you. God bless your Lenten journey!
How about you? Any addition studies out there you want to recommend?
Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey
“I hate Lent!” was the exclamation that came from our almost-six-year-old’s mouth the other night. He was overcome with sudden despair because we denied his plea for dessert. It’s funny that he was being so dramatic; it’s not like this was the first day without sweets. We were three weeks into Lent; but perhaps three weeks was his breaking point.
“I hate Lent!” Ty whimpered. “That’s kind of the point,” my husband replied humorously. I chuckled. Ty didn’t find either of our responses comforting.
I started thinking about the exchange. Ty was “feeling the burn,” so to speak. The spiritual exercise of self-denial wasn’t very novel anymore, and his self-discipline and self-control were waning. For a child, it’s probably equivalent to a weight-lifter at the gym after multiple sets. At the beginning there’s a lot of enthusiasum. The first few reps aren’t bad; they might even feel good. Then fatique sets in…then mental exhaustion, and the thought of one more rep is terrible. Continue reading