The Disciplines of Lent: On Fasting

The second of the three great Lenten practices is fasting.

A few weeks ago IWS Director of Outreach Maureen Roe wrote an article that called us to the Lenten discipline of increased prayer, prayer that forms us into Christlikeness and increases our own compassion for the corporal and spiritual needs of those we encounter. This week’s topic brings us to the second of the three great Lenten practices – fasting. Bodily pleasures, while not wrong in and of themselves, can become domineering. We need to fast from bodily pleasures, the lower hungers that we all have, so that the deeper, higher, spiritual hungers will arise. 

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God

 — Micah 6:6-8 NRSV

How do we do fast from bodily pleasures?

First, be aware of the lower hungers, the pleasurable appetites that, while good in and of themselves, may distract you from full intimacy with God. The classic kind of fasting involves disciplining appetites of pleasurable foods, like chocolate or sweets. But perhaps your appetites are centered around digital distractions or some other kind of preoccupation that undermines to some extent your union with God through Christ. 

Secondly, may I suggest that we all also fast from unhealthy and besetting sinful activities, such as gossip, power control, avoidance of the poor, racism, sexism, pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, lust, gluttony, and other ways in which we participate in the culture of death. Stopping these behaviors for Lent can lead to new habits that bring an end to these besetting sins that break our fellowship with God and with brothers and sisters.

God calls us to live a communal fasted life while always remembering the suffering of others less fortunate than ourselves. Fasting produces prayerful Christ-followers, the vocation of all Christians born in the waters of the font and perfected in the desert of life. It is essentially an act of worship. The worship of God conduces to union with God, Christlikeness, so that we, the Church, can be the manifestation of Christ to the world, telling the world its true story and inviting the world into that same union with the Creator.

May our observance of a holy Lent through fasting help us all to grow in the fullness of the life of God. 

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About the author

Dr. James R. Hart served as President of the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies from 2007-2024. Dr. Hart was a member of the first IWS doctoral class, the Alpha class, and served as Dean of Students during his matriculation. After graduating from IWS, Dr. Webber appointed him as the Dean of Administration, and then Provost in 2006. In June of 2007, he was inaugurated as the second president of IWS. Dr. Hart holds a B.M. in Sacred Music from Oral Roberts University, an M.M. in Trumpet Performance from the University of Tulsa, and a D.W.S. from the Institute for Worship Studies. He was critical to the formation of IWS in Florida and has held administrative responsibilities since its inception in 1999. He is a professional trumpeter, choral director, and worship leader, and a published composer/arranger, songwriter, and author. He has been involved in worship leadership in various contexts around the globe for over 40 years and has taught in the areas of worship, theology, and music in various conferences, colleges, and seminaries. Dr. Hart and his wife, Carol, have three daughters and three grandchildren.
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