It’s a Friday, and it’s Lent, that means the Prayer Book expects us to be fasting today. But, unlike the Roman tradition, we aren’t given strict definitions of what to fast from, or how to fast from things in general. We’re left to the “spirit of fasting”, in danger of a liberal neglect of the discipline, as opposed to the danger of rote fasting out of merely outward obedience. That said, it probably helps to have some advice, suggestions, and tips regarding how to implement a fast.
If you are not accustomed to fasting (on Fridays, during Lent, or at all) here are some ideas to try:
- Skip a meal and replace it with a longer prayer time than usual.
- Simplify your eating for the day: no fancy spices, sauces, or flavors.
- Eat less: halve all your normal portion sizes.
- Cut out the extras: no soda, alcohol, desserts, or snacks.
- If you normally buy a coffee or a snack on the run, don’t.
- Quantify the money you saved on food (as far as you’re able) and give it away to a homeless person on the street, or to a charity that cares for the poor.
Remember fasting is not a discipline that ultimately is meant to be pursued on its own, but alongside prayer and alms-giving. Isaiah 58 has a well-known denunciation of ungodly fasting, and as you read through it you’ll find that it props up alms-giving and prayer as correctives to such abuse. That chapter was often an Office reading for Ash Wednesday for that very reason.
Just remember, both the Prayer Book and Jesus expect God’s people to fast. Yes, you’re free to do so in your own way, but just be sure you actually do!