Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Blow the Trumpet! Call the Assembly! The Blessings of Fasting
WAU.org ^ | March 2010 | WAU

Posted on 03/05/2010 9:50:26 PM PST by Salvation

Blow the Trumpet! Call the Assembly!

The Blessings of Fasting

Blow the Trumpet! Call the Assembly! 
 
Every Lent, as the church invites us to draw closer to the Lord, it calls us to take up the ancient practice of fasting.

Every Ash Wednesday, we are urged to return to the Lord “with fasting, and weeping, and mourning” as we turn away from our sins and seek God’s mercy. Every year, we are called to “blow the trumpet in Zion” and “proclaim a fast” (Joel 2:12,15).

Even though God’s people have been fasting for thousands of years, this revered practice has declined in recent decades. Part of the problem is that we live in a culture that emphasizes instant gratification. Part of the problem is that society doesn’t see much value in self-discipline or self-denial. As a consequence, we do not always see the value in fasting.

Fasting is the practice of abstaining from food or drink for a period of time in order to focus on spiritual growth. By denying ourselves these physical pleasures—which are not bad in and of themselves—we become more open to the spiritual blessings God wants to give us. Also, by seeking the Lord in this more intense way, we find it easier to hear his voice as we face important decisions. We may even discover that our fasting gives us an added boldness in petitioning the Lord for a miracle!

So as we begin this season of Lent, let’s take a look at the blessings that flow from fasting: blessings on our lives, in our families, and upon our church.

The Focus of Fasting. Scripture urges us to fast and, on a number of occasions, points to the tremendous value of fasting. Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, and St. Paul all fasted. Even Jesus himself fasted for forty days before beginning his public ministry. Following the example of all these biblical heroes, the church has incorporated fasting into its own life. Along with other precepts like attending Mass each week, confessing our sins, and observing the holy days of obligation, the church has declared certain days and times when we should either abstain from certain foods or fast altogether (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2043).

By including the discipline of fasting with these other important precepts, the church is telling us how valuable it can be. Of course, the emphasis in this sentence should be on the word can. Fasting involves far more than simply going without food for a certain time. Fasting is a beautiful combination of the spiritual and the physical. It’s not just about feeling hungry. It’s about letting our physical hunger uncover our spiritual hunger. It’s about freeing ourselves up so that we can turn to the Lord and ask him to give us his spiritual food. It’s about emptying ourselves so that Jesus can fill us.

In his parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector, Jesus made the point that fasting, even twice a week, is not of much value if it is done with a prideful heart (Luke 18:12). He also told us to make sure that we do not try to draw attention to ourselves by looking gloomy: “When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you” (Matthew 6:17-18). Clearly, fasting with the wrong attitude will not draw us closer to God, and it will not move us to love others more dearly.

So what is the right attitude? It’s telling Jesus that we want to take our minds off ourselves and focus on him. It’s telling Jesus: “I want to do something extraordinary that will help me focus on the Lord.” It’s telling him that we want to take authority over our appetites so that they don’t rule us.

“Worldly” Fasting. While we may not use these words, many of us are already fasting, but in a worldly way. Consider the people who become so immersed in their jobs that they skip meals and work late into the night. Perhaps a project at work has taken on a sense of urgency, and we respond by throwing ourselves into it. It is as if the prophet Joel had said, “Blow the trumpet! Proclaim a fast! The demands of work are upon us.”

This example shows us how we would all be willing to “fast” from food, sleep, and maybe even family time, if it were for an important matter. So here’s the question we should all ask ourselves this Lent: “Is God worthy of a fast? Is he worthy of this kind of sacrifice?” We can see that there are times when other demands, like the demands of work or parenting, require such a sacrifice. Can we see any situation in which our relationship with the Lord would call for such a sacrifice as well?

The Blessings of a Fast. Scripture tells us how Noah and his family took refuge in the ark while it rained for forty days and nights. When the flood waters receded and Noah found dry ground, God made a covenant with him and his family. Similarly, when Moses took the Israelites into the wilderness, he was led to Mount Sinai. While the people were camped at the base, Moses climbed the mountain, where he prayed and fasted for forty days. At the end of the fast, God appeared to him and made a covenant with Moses and all of Israel. Centuries later, the prophet Elijah spent forty days in the wilderness, and at the end, God spoke to him and gave him directions that would help him carry on God’s work of restoration.

From a human standpoint, the wilderness is a place of danger: the heat by day, the cold by night, the deadly insects and wild animals, the scarcity of food or water. But from a godly perspective, the wilderness is a place where the Lord prepares his people a place of fasting and isolation. The wilderness gives us a golden opportunity to put aside all other pursuits and distractions so that we can hear God more clearly and receive his grace more fully.

As we said above, Jesus spent forty days fasting in the wilderness just before he began his public ministry. He used this time of prayer to prepare himself to teach, to heal people, and most importantly, to establish a new covenant through his death on the cross.

So when we are called to fast and pray during these forty days of Lent, we should look at it not as a task or a chore but as the start of an adventure. When done with the right disposition, fasting can help prepare us for the works God has in store for us—works that bring healing and restoration, works that actually build his kingdom on earth!

There is one more thing that fasting does for us: It can pave the way for a greater release of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Fasting can open us up to new insights from heaven, insights into God’s perspective, insights into important decisions we have to make, and insights into the ultimate reason why God created us in the first place.

Getting Started. So as we begin this season of Lent, let’s start off on the right foot. Let’s confess our sins and get ourselves right with God. He is a merciful Father who will never refuse us.

Let’s set aside a specific time each day when we will pray. How will we find the Lord if we don’t seek after him? How will we be able to reap any fruit from the feelings of hunger that our fasting produces if we don’t let this hunger turn us to the Lord?

Most of all, let’s remember that fasting is a spiritual discipline that is grounded in our everyday, physical lives. If it’s not combined with a prayerful seeking after God, our fasting will have little effect on us.

When we approach the practice of fasting out of a motive to seek the Lord and to give him glory, wonderful things happen. Not only will we find our petitions answered in unexpected ways. We will find the Lord actually honoring us as we seek him. We will find him blessing our time with him in a very special way. We will find God fulfilling in our lives the promise he spoke through his prophet Joel thousands of years ago:

“You shall eat and be filled, and shall praise the name of the Lord, your God… . My people shall nevermore be put to shame. And you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel; I am the Lord, your God, and there is no other; my people shall nevermore be put to shame.” (Joel 2:26-27)



TOPICS: Catholic; History; Moral Issues
KEYWORDS: catholic; catholiclist; fasting; lent
Starting the third week of Lent on Sunday. There's still time to get started on something like fasting (if you haven't already been doing it.)

Lots of ideas.

1 posted on 03/05/2010 9:50:26 PM PST by Salvation
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Well, it’s a nice description of the spiritual benefits of “fasting”: but as to the benefit of going without food as some sort of synergistic accompaniment to the religious observation, I’m afraid I still don’t have a feel for it.

Yes, I know that it’s mentioned in the Bible (and the Koran), and no doubt we could all afford to lose a few pounds, but Lent won’t do that for you. As one who is on a perpetual fasting regimen to keep my BMI below 25, perhaps I really don’t have an appreciation for those that have to “get on the wagon” to make things work with their religious observations.

More power to ‘em though. There will always be people like me in a small minority that don’t get it (though I can appreciate the opportunities that these observations provide). It just seems that the religious experience could be achieved without the fasting, as the message is not lost even if you “bust out” and hit “Golden Corral” during Lent. I know, my relatives would have to do it in disguise, or visit a distant city. Perhaps that’s why my wife’s parents (Catholics) always come to visit us during Lent. I always wondered when the fasting was going to start, as it never seemed to happen during their visits (they really “chow down”). I’m beginning to think it’s because we live 600 miles from their home, ergo no witnesses ;-)


2 posted on 03/05/2010 10:40:30 PM PST by Habibi ("It is vain to do with more what can be done with less." - William of Occam)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

I enjoyed the article, but I have a question for others. For medical reasons I am unable to fast from food and it is a discipline that I would like to work on.

Usually I ‘fast’ in other ways (like from TV, or an activity), but I was wondering if anyone else had other ideas.


3 posted on 03/05/2010 11:00:23 PM PST by reaganaut (You say 'Jesus Freak' like it's a bad thing....)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: reaganaut

Fast from gossip,

Add things to your schedule — like extra prayer, extra acts of mercy, maybe going and praying in front of a Planned Parenthood two days a wekk rather than just one day a week.

Fasting for smarting off to family members and to co-workers, fast from the dirty language and take the bad words out of your vocabulary.

Drive the speed limit ALL the time, regardless of how many cars pass you.

That’s a start.


4 posted on 03/05/2010 11:09:35 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

I am not Catholic, but I found this very interesting. Thanks for posting.


5 posted on 03/05/2010 11:52:54 PM PST by 999replies (Thune/Rubio 2012)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Well, I don’t gossip (gossip is one of the things I hate most), I drive the speed limit, and don’t swear.

But, yeah I get what you are saying. That is pretty much what I do. I usually fast from TV, or video games and put that time into prayer. Increase my Bible study time from 1 to 2 hours a day, things like that.

I guess I am wondering if I am ‘missing out’ because I am missing out on the physical hunger part.


6 posted on 03/05/2010 11:54:15 PM PST by reaganaut (You say 'Jesus Freak' like it's a bad thing....)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: 999replies

It’s said that fasting AND prayer are very powerful. I think we all pray in different ways and I think we all can fast in different ways.

Many do the food thing; I always try to add something else, because I’m not always the best at only eating one full meal and two small meals a day.


7 posted on 03/05/2010 11:55:43 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: reaganaut

**if I am ‘missing out’**

I doubt that since you are putting more Scripture and meditation into your schedule. We can’t always do what others can do, we can only do our best.

And I’d say you make it there — but I’m not trying to read your mind. LOL!


8 posted on 03/06/2010 12:02:23 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

LOL. I didn’t take that as mindreading.

Thanks, Salvation.


9 posted on 03/06/2010 12:04:58 AM PST by reaganaut (You say 'Jesus Freak' like it's a bad thing....)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Really a good post. Lots of people will think you are a religious fanatic for fasting, which is one good reason to keep it secret. :-D


10 posted on 03/06/2010 1:03:48 AM PST by Judith Anne (2012 Sarah Palin/Duncan Hunter 2012)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Thanks, Salvation...I find fasting very beneficial, although I don’t do it very often, as it IS difficult!

Ed


11 posted on 03/06/2010 1:05:31 AM PST by Sir_Ed
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

I fast from food starting mid-afternoon on Good Friday until daybreak on Easter Sunday. Done so for years.

I find it most uplifting.


12 posted on 03/06/2010 2:22:06 AM PST by Gamecock (We aren't sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. (R.C. Sproul))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Thank-you for your good word. Lent has never always been easy, this year as I go through a rough change of life, I though I never had a good start to Lent. Today I will be going to confession and at least I have the opportunity to start all over again. :)=^..^=


13 posted on 03/06/2010 3:19:11 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!=^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^=)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

So you cannot just pray alone then without the fasting?


14 posted on 03/06/2010 3:21:28 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!=^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^=)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Fasting has never been my best stregth, more of a prayer person. Just do not know where to begin.


15 posted on 03/06/2010 3:31:42 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!=^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^=)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: reaganaut

I also have difficulty with fasting from food, because I’m always pregnant, nursing, or both. Even if you need to eat a certain amount for health reasons, you can still “fast” by choosing to avoid certain meals you really like and substituting something that is good for you but less favored. Maybe a meal you don’t really like, but your spouse or children do!

I’ll also give my family all the meat in a meal, if they want it, and just eat the rice and vegetables myself.


16 posted on 03/06/2010 3:48:55 AM PST by Tax-chick (Aw, CUSSWORDS!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Salvation
Drive the speed limit ALL the time, regardless of how many cars pass you.

I was with you up to here. I do this to avoid tickets, but is it honestly considered a sin to speed?

17 posted on 03/06/2010 4:00:42 AM PST by Future Snake Eater ("Get out of the boat and walk on the water with us!”--Sen. Joe Biden)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Future Snake Eater; Salvation

Which is more important: being considerate of the safety of others, or arriving at your destination a few seconds earlier? It’s also meritorious to obey the law, if the law is not immoral, simply because it *is* the law.

That said, in some cases, such as busy interstate traffic, driving the speed limit is more dangerous than driving the prevailing speed. You should make the choice that has the least risk of harm to yourself or others.


18 posted on 03/06/2010 4:45:04 AM PST by Tax-chick (Aw, CUSSWORDS!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: Tax-chick

You’re describing reckless driving. Driving faster than the mandated speed limit is not necessarily reckless. And there are a hell of a lot of laws that can be made that aren’t immoral, but that doesn’t make them any less stupid.

It’s all about creating guilt among the average law-abiding citizenry by passing enough laws where EVERYONE is a criminal in some way or another.

I refuse to believe that THAT is sin. God declares what sin is, not bureaucrats.


19 posted on 03/06/2010 5:06:06 AM PST by Future Snake Eater ("Get out of the boat and walk on the water with us!”--Sen. Joe Biden)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: Future Snake Eater
Driving faster than the mandated speed limit is not necessarily reckless.

That is true. However, I don't think one needs to be "reckless," a rather strong word, to be "not sufficiently concerned with the harm I might do."

Driving is a matter of habits, and if people develop the habit of exceeding the speed limit, passing unsafely, or failing to stop at stop signs, they are a threat to others.

It comes down to whether a person chooses to think of herself first, or to consider others first, even at a cost to self. Driving the speed limit, as a rule, does no harm to the self, and it decreases the risk of harm to others.

20 posted on 03/06/2010 5:31:18 AM PST by Tax-chick (Aw, CUSSWORDS!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: Tax-chick

All that is true, but “sin” still doesn’t come into it. Moderation in all things, right?

I can drink a beer or two without being a drunkard, and I can go 10-20mph over the limit at 3am in the New Mexico desert without being a hazard, and I can drive through a red light that refuses to change at midnight at a completely empty intersection (that one has happened to me on several occasions).

It’s all about applying some common sense and judging the individual situation.


21 posted on 03/06/2010 5:45:57 AM PST by Future Snake Eater ("Get out of the boat and walk on the water with us!”--Sen. Joe Biden)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: Future Snake Eater
It’s all about applying some common sense and judging the individual situation.

I agree, which is why I kept saying, "In most cases ..." and gave the example of coordinating with the general speed of highway traffic, rather than driving 55 among 75s.

However, many people are not using good judgment. When my prayer group discussed the 5th Commandment, which mandates showing reasonable concern for your own and others' safety, safe driving was mentioned in our book. Several of the nice, suburban church ladies observed that they habitually drive too fast and fail to observe stop or yield signs ... not at midnight or in New Mexico, but in busy residential neighborhoods. I know it's true, because I've been in the car with some of them, gritting my teeth and praying for angels to protect me!

These are the people for whom more considerate driving practices would be a valuable Lenten penance.

22 posted on 03/06/2010 8:02:37 AM PST by Tax-chick (Aw, CUSSWORDS!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: Tax-chick

So, it’s not about not obeying a given law, it’s violating the actual spirit behind the law. Would you agree?


23 posted on 03/06/2010 8:19:37 AM PST by Future Snake Eater ("Get out of the boat and walk on the water with us!”--Sen. Joe Biden)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 22 | View Replies]

To: Tax-chick

Thanks for the suggestions TC. That sounds like a good place to start.


24 posted on 03/06/2010 10:28:40 AM PST by reaganaut (You say 'Jesus Freak' like it's a bad thing....)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Good news Salvation, went to confession and from there I have found a NEW FOUND PEACE in my life and the new begining of healing and wholeness. :)=^..^=

Thank-you for your prayers and NOW I am truly able to do LENT! :)=^..^=


25 posted on 03/06/2010 4:02:02 PM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!=^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^==^..^=)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson