There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38)
Fasting is not something that comes to mind for many of us when we consider our spiritual growth. If we do consider fasting, it is often for personal reasons such as improved fitness or weight loss.
Yet, maybe we should instead consider fasting as a normal part of our spiritual life. Jesus gave us specific instructions on how to properly fast in Matthew, chapter 6. The Bible also gives several examples of lengthy fasting: Moses before God provided the Ten Commandments, Elijah as he sought a new direction from God for his ministry and Anna as she waited in the temple for the Messiah. Both Moses and Elijah used this time of fasting for prayer and supplication at important times in their relationship with God.
We could do the same in this Lenten season as we’re humbled by our overwhelming gratitude for the grace provided by Christ’s sacrifice. Martin Luther says, “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.” During Lent let’s look for the opportunity to deny ourselves food for a meal or for a day. Instead of eating, let us use that time to pray and study the Bible to further our spiritual growth.
Prayer: Lord, give me strength to deny myself that which I think is necessary and instead recognize what is truly important, gratitude for your abounding Grace. Amen