Why We Practice Lent

Published February 9, 2016 by

Why We Practice Lent

This year, Lent begins on Feb. 10th, “Ash Wednesday.”

  1. Lent is the Church practice of fasting leading up to Easter; for the first 200 years of church history Christians fasted as an act of mourning on Good Friday – the day Jesus was crucified, and Holy Saturday, the day of silence, but by 325 A.D. the length of fasting had gone up to the 40 days preceding Easter (after Moses on Sinai, Elijah in the desert, and Jesus in the desert).

In many churches baptisms are held on Easter (as in ours), as one of the things baptism symbolizes is the movement of death from death to life, just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead. For Christians, Lent is a time to prepare themselves to commemorate Jesus through the sorrow of the cross and the joy of His rising from the dead, and in a mysterious way through fasting, to participate with Jesus as well.

  1. Three types of Fasts: Partial (giving up some things, like candy, or meat, or music); Normal (giving up food except water and juice); Complete (giving up food and water and juice).


Ideas of things to give up for Partial Fasting (taken from 2015 Top 50 2015 Lent Fasts (calculated by tracking > ~ 400,000 Lenten tweets)):

#30 sugar, #25 Netflix, #18 junk food, #10 coffee, #5 social media, #2 chocolate

We fast so that we more experientially know our need for God and our dependence on Him for our physical sustenance: Deut. 8:3 “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

  1. During Lent, fasting is connected closely with both prayer and repentance.

Prayer: if we do other things during this time, like work more, we waste it. Fasting, mysteriously, strengthens and empowers prayer. Often in the NT we see people fasting with prayer before making decisions.

Repentance: “Fasting reveals our excessive attachments and the assumptions that lie behind them… it brings us face to face with how put the material world ahead of its spiritual Source.” (Marjorie Holmes).

We acknowledge our finitude and failings before God and turn

to Him who in mercy turns back to us: Psalm 90:3, 13 “You turn us back to dust… Turn, O Lord! Have compassion on your servants!”

  1. This year, ask God what He may want you to be giving up, and then use the opportunity and time, with prayer and repentance, to get to know Him and know yourself better between Feb. 10 and Easter, March 27th.

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