Ash Wednesday and the Practice of Fasting

By: Landon Collins

Today is Ash Wednesday. It is a significant day in the life of the Church. In forty-six days we will gather together to celebrate the Resurrection. But how will we get there? For some the next forty-six days will be just as normal as the previous forty-six. For others however, there will be an intentional downward movement “towards the grave”. Of course we aren’t moving toward actual death, at least not ours, but we do move towards the death of Christ on Good Friday and hopefully towards the death of some areas of our lives.

Today is meant to be a day of penance. It is a day of reflection, confession & repentance. It is a day where we recognize our sinfulness (do not think individual sins). Today this practice self-examination involves wearing ashesin the shape of a cross on the forehead. These ashes represent the dust from which God created us. They also symbolize grief, the grief that is caused when we recognize that our sin creates a broken relationship with God, with others, with ourselves, and with the world around us. Today we begin the forty six day journey of creating a better awareness of our need for Christ and the life that is available through his life, death, and resurrection.

Today is a day where many Christians will choose to practice the discipline of fasting. Our very own Zac Cannon describes fasting, “Fasting means going hungry in an area of your life in order to grow in your hunger and need for God.”Fasting is not just done on Ash Wednesday, the season of Lent is a season of fasting for many.

There are many benefits of the Spiritual Discipline of fasting. In her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, Adele Calhoun says, “Fasting clears us out and opens us up to intentionally seeking God’s will and grace in a way that goes beyond normal habits of worship and prayer.”This practice has been meaningful for me over the years. It has helped create an awareness of sin in my own life, and with the new awareness, this practice has helped me give those things to God. Each year in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday, I spend time praying about what this practice should include. This year I felt God nudging me towards a day of fasting from my phone. So every Friday until 5pm my phone will be turned off and put away. The goal is to use the new created space to reflect on my life and to be attentive to God’s voice.

Our staff is currently considering ways we might fast together. Last year it included skipping a meal together and using that time for prayer. I invite and encourage you to spend time today praying about the possibility of fasting over the next several weeks. How might you “go hungry in an area of your life in order to grow in your hunger and need for God?” For the next several weeks our staff blog will include reflections of our individual fasting experiences this coming Lent. I pray we are transformed, and I pray our sharing will lead towards a transformation in your own life.

If you would like to talk more about the season of Lent and the practice of fasting I would love to chat. Please feel free to reach out. I pray the next forty-six days would lead towards death in some areas of our lives. And from this death, I pray we would experience new life through the Resurrection.

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