A Purposeful Hunger

This week we explore the discipline of Fasting. Fasting is not a discipline Lutherans have often emphasized, although Luther did recognize its value, cautioning that “one should not fast with a view to meriting something by it as by a good work.” He also said, “It is right to fast frequently in order to subdue and control the body. For when the stomach is full, the body does not serve for preaching, for praying, for studying, or for doing anything else that is good.” Fasting gives us more time for prayer and might even give us the opportunity to donate the cost of the meal we are missing to those less fortunate

Rev. Bruce Modahl

Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might deny ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and cavalry to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king that the hand of our God is gracious to all who seek him, but his power and his wrath are against all who forsake him. So we fasted and petitioned our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty. (Ezra 8:21-23)

Ezra negotiated with good king Artaxerxes for the return to Jerusalem of another band of exiles. Ezra decided not to include a military escort in his request. Instead, Ezra took his bargaining straight to God. Ezra offered fasting and petitions in return for God’s protection.

Perhaps what Ezra offered up was not as transactional as it sounds. Jesus tells us to petition God in the prayer he taught us. In his Small Catechism Luther explains that when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we are asking for everything we need to live including food, clothing, homes, good government, and good neighbors.

We often fast from something during Lent. Instead of one thing for the Lenten season, let us, health permitting, try fasting from all food for one day. Throughout the day, let us repeat, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The hunger pangs that develop during the day will quickly focus us on our need. The petition we repeat reminds us upon whom we depend to satisfy all our needs.

The hunger and the petition remind us that we too are exiles on a homeward journey. Jesus has gone before us to prepare a place for us. And along the way Jesus prepares a place for us in the Eucharistic community where we petition God and find food, rest, and strength to continue the journey.

Prayer: Our Father in heaven, give us today our daily bread. Protect us along our way. We give you thanks for making a place for us in your Son, in whose name we pray. Amen.

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