For millions of faithful, Lent is a time for prayer, repentance, and fasting. The observance, which extends from Ash Wednesday through Holy Week, has traditionally been a Catholic practice, although 20% of American Protestants reportedly also participate to get closer to God.
"Christians traditionally try to focus on Christ's death and resurrection and ways that we can kind of prepare our hearts for the coming Easter season and many Christians celebrate in all sorts of different ways," Brittany Ann, founder of Equipping Godly Women, recently told CBN News.
And Pastor Shane Idleman of Westside Christian Fellowship in Leona Valley, California, also detailed his beliefs about the spiritual benefits of intentional fasting.
"As you're praying and fasting more, you're really drawn in to just experiencing God in a more profound and powerful way," Idleman said. "One thing about fasting is it doesn't bend God's arm, but it bends my knees in a time of prayer and seeking Him."
We often hear of people giving up chocolate, candy, or other foods or vices during Lent to place a deeper focus on Christ. But Brittany noted there are different ways to take part, even if you get a late start.
"While I do love the structure of Lent — everybody going through it together — it is never too late to start a spiritual discipline, whether that is giving something up or adding something in," she said. "If you are thinking right now, 'You know, I should have given this thing up, or I should have started this new practice, I've been meaning to read my Bible more, I've been meaning to spend more time in prayer,' there's no time like the present; you can start today."
While Lent is typically focused on abstaining from something, Brittany sometimes seeks to add to her routine, such as opting for more intentional quiet time — or small acts of sacrifice for others.
"Even unique ideas like taking a farther away parking space," she said. "Maybe you're just going to give that little sacrifice so that somebody else can have a special space. Maybe you're going to pay for the person in front of you. There's all kinds of things you can do."
And these practices — including fasting — don't need to be limited just to the Lenten season.
Idleman believes fasting, regardless of the time of year, is a biblical practice that can offer a spiritual recharge and a deeper relationship with the Almighty.
"It's powerful when your heart's right," he said. "You walk into this season where you've repented … and I don't think it should be a period of six weeks of self-discipline and then give up and go back to our old habits. This is a time to really instill some good habits into our life."
Though we're already in the middle of Lent, it's never too late to dive in. After all, the biblical benefits of fasting can clearly be gleaned at any time of the year. Consider praying, seeking the Lord, and following His cues to proceed.
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