FASTING & FEASTING
Traditionally, fasting has been a key spiritual practice in the weeks leading up to Easter, patterned after Jesus’s own forty-day fast in the wilderness (cf. Matthew 4:1-2; Luke 4:1-2). In Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, author Donald Whitney makes this observation, “The most important aspect of [fasting] is its influence on prayer.” So we do not fast simply to grow in willpower or discipline, but to grow in intimacy with God. As we fast (and pray), we do so in anticipation that the Holy Spirit will expose to us areas of unhealthy dependence so we can cling more fully to Christ and open ourselves more to one another.
Jesus expected his disciples to fast (cf. Matthew 6:16-18), but their fasting pointed forward to a great feast. When once asked why his disciples were not fasting, Jesus replied, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:15). The book of Revelation picks up on this imagery describing our reunion with Jesus (the bridegroom) as a wedding feast. As we fast now, we deny ourselves the satisfaction of food and drink to rekindle our deeper spiritual longing for Jesus’s presence and friendship. We fast in anticipation of the feast.
The selected verses highlight different occasions and purposes for fasting in the Bible. Use the selected verses and the prayer (below) each day to consider how you may find your longings directed toward God.
M MAR 20 | 1 Samuel 7:6
T MAR 21 | 2 Samuel 1:11-12
W MAR 22 | Ezra 8:21-23
R MAR 23 | Matthew 6:16-18
F MAR 24 | Acts 13:1-3
S MAR 25 | Revelation 19:6-9
Artist of souls, you sculpted a people for yourself out of the rocks of wilderness and fasting. Help us as we take up your invitation to prayer and simplicity, that the discipline of these forty days may sharpen our hunger for the feast of your holy friendship, and whet our thirst for the living water you offer through Jesus Christ. Amen.
From The Revised Common Lectionary.
GREATER & BETTER
MAR 27 – APR 1
The words “greater” and “better” can encapsulate the whole of the Easter season and the whole of the book of Hebrews. In the weeks leading up to Easter, we reflect through prayer and fasting on what our hearts are holding onto as greater and better than Jesus. Most mornings, the first thought that comes to us is not that Jesus is greater and better than whatever challenges and frustrations await us that day. And many evenings, when we look back on our day, it is difficult to remind ourselves that Jesus is greater and better than whatever highs or lows we experienced.
Knowing that we are prone to doubt and forget this, the book of Hebrews reminds us chapter after chapter that Jesus is greater and better than anyone or anything else. The opening chapters describe Jesus as a greater revelation, greater than the angels, greater than Adam, greater than Moses, greater than Joshua, and a greater high priest. Because Jesus is greater, we can be assured of “better things” (6:9) with “a better hope” (6:19) and “a better covenant” (7:22) enacted on “better promises” (8:6) through Jesus’s “better sacrifices” (9:23). Because Jesus is greater, we can look forward to “a better possession” (10:34), “a better country” (11:16), and a “better life” (11:35). In Jesus, we’ve received “a better word” (12:24). This is the word we need to speak to ourselves every morning and every evening — and to one another each day.
Use the selected verses and the psalm (below) each day to receive this “better word” from Jesus.
M MAR 27 | Hebrews 6:19
T MAR 28 | Hebrews 7:22
W MAR 29 | Hebrews 8:6
R MAR 30 | Hebrews 9:23
F MAR 31 | Hebrews 10:34
S MAR 1 | Hebrews 11:16
O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
Psalm 63:1-4 (NIV)