Girlies, are you familiar with Lent? Lent is a 40- to 46-day period (depending on whether you count Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Contrary to popular belief, Lent is not a “Catholic-only” observance; many Protestant denominations also celebrate Lent, and those that don’t officially observe Lent often will still observe a period of fasting.
Lent is a time of fasting, moderation and repentance. During Lent, many people give up certain foods or habits, and some give up food entirely and instead focus on repenting for sinful behaviors and surrendering to God. To the best of my knowledge and research, there is nothing specifically mentioned in the Bible that directly supports Lent; however, the Bible talks about fasting and repentance in many places:
- When Nehemiah heard about the destruction of Jerusalem.
When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I ws fasting and praying before the God of heaven (Nehemiah 1:4).
- When Israel confessed their sin to the Lord.
Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them. The descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God (Nehemiah 9:1-3).
For six hours Israel stood and read from the book of the law, and for another six hours, they just stood and worshiped God while they were fasting!
- The Lord, through the prophet Joel, calls His people to a time of fasting and repentance.
‘Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning’ (Joel 2:12).
- The apostle Paul fasted and prayed after his conversion on the road to Damascus.
And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank (Acts 9:9).
- Jesus noted that certain areas of spiritual warfare can only be overcome by fasting and prayer, when He cast out a particularly ornery demon.
And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ So He said to them, ‘This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting’ (Mark 9:28-29).
There are many benefits to fasting and the Bible calls us to repent of our sins regularly. Repentance is the real focus of Lent; the point of a fast is to give up something in order to focus more clearly on God. You can find more tips on fasting in The Teenager’s Guide to Fasting.
I prayed hard about what to fast for Lent and for how long, and I decided on a Daniel fast, which is fruit, vegetables and water only. Since I’ve never done one of these, I will probably start with just a week.
What about you girls–are you fasting anything during Lent this year?
‘But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you’ (Matthew 6:17-18).
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