What is Lent?
Lent is a traditional season in the church calendar observed from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. It’s a season where we, as Christ-followers, focus on repentance in light of the sacrifice of Jesus. As His disciples, we also participate in His sacrifice through the spiritual practice of fasting and giving alms (donating to the poor).
What is fasting?
Fasting is a prayer with the body in which we practice denial of ourselves. In its most foundational expression, fasting is abstaining from eating food and instead turning to prayer when we feel the pangs of hunger. For example, a person may skip breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then during the times they would normally eat, they would spend in prayer.
Why do we fast during Lent?
Fasting is a great practice to keep year round, and at Reality, we encourage our church to fast once a week. Lent is a particularly special season in which we are unified with other Christians around the world and across time to practice fasting together.
What about giving alms?
Giving alms is also a practice during the season of Lent in order to not just focus on self-denial (an inward practice), but also to show love to our neighbors and tangibly care for them (an outward practice). As we see in Isaiah 58:7-8:
“Is [the fast God desires] not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.”
Recommendations for Fasting & Giving Alms
Step 1: Define Your Fast
Set aside 20-30 minutes to pray through what God would have you fast from during Lent (March 2 – April 17). This fast should be a form of physical self-denial. Examples:
- Not eating any food one day per week
- Not drinking alcohol
- Not ordering food delivery to you house
- Not buying online
- Not driving
Step 2: Focus Your Fast on Prayer
When you begin your fast on March 2nd, make sure it’s a practice of self-denial that has prayer as its primary focus. (This should not be about other motivations, such as losing weight or saving money.)
For example, if you choose to not buy anything online as your fast, you can make your trips to brick-and-mortar stores (if you still need to buy something) a time to pray as you walk the aisles. If you choose to not drive as your fast, then utilize your time walking, biking, or on the bus or train as an opportunity to pray.
Step 3: Count the Costs
Each of these fasts will have a self-sacrificial cost – which is the point! Allow your longing or hunger pangs to be calls to prayer. Likewise, keep track of the actual dollar amount of skipping meals or not ordering on Amazon, and tally up the total for the next step.
Step 4: Give Alms
With the amount of time or money you accumulate from your fast, give this away to those in need around you. Whether they are the unhoused neighbors or a needy family in your building, as you give to them, bless them in the name of Jesus. This may look like giving money or volunteering your time.
Step 5: Break Your Fast
Easter is all about the resurrection of Jesus, which is available for us as His disciples as well. On Easter we break our fasts and celebrate! On that day, make sure to eat that sugar, drink that wine, or go for a joy ride as a celebration of Christ’s resurrection, power, and grace!
What if I break my fast early?
At Reality, Wednesday is our regular day of fasting together, so it’s the perfect time to get back on track if you accidentally (or intentionally) break your fast early. For some added encouragement, follow along with our weekly Fasting & Prayer Focus for some extra encouragement and prompts to help guide your time!