Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high.
March 1st is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent. The season of Lent is a forty-day journey that ends at Easter. For centuries Christian seekers and believers have observed this as a time of self-reflection, sacrifice, and repentance. Some Christians make this a season of fasting, prayer, or another spiritual discipline.
While growing up, the practice of “giving something up” for Lent was optional. I usually tried, and some years were more successful than others. If you gave something up it had to be something that was a sacrifice, not something ridiculous like giving up riding elephants in northwest Ohio during Lent. I was very serious about this so I gave up something I really loved. I am sure many of you can already guess that it was sweets. Some years I would add snacking between meals. It was all very healthy, but very difficult for me. When I grew older I would add additional prayers or Bible study to my Lenten discipline.
I am not sure I truly understood why I was doing this Lenten discipline until I was much older. The discipline was good for me, but it was more than just the actual act of giving something up or doing things differently. The prophet Isaiah warns us that even prayer and fasting can become corrupted. We are not to engage in pious practices with an ulterior motive in mind.
It is unacceptable to fast and pray in order to win favour with God, to “make your voice heard on high.” Christians do not take on spiritual disciplines to win favour with God but to draw near to God. In a short time I began to experience this.
Some people give something up that is important to them during Lent. Others do things for others that they normally don’t do with any regularity during the rest of the year. There are some who attend special Lenten services, spend more time in prayer, or do additional Bible study. And then there are those individuals who do a combination of disciplines. Whatever it is we decide to do, the end result is still the same. We draw closer to God.
We are given these forty days of Lent as an opportunity to grow in our relationship with God and with each other. When you draw near to God you cannot help but draw near to the people around you, and when you draw near to others you draw near to God. Blessings on your Lenten journey, whatever path you may choose to walk.