We thank God for another season of Lent to be observed. It starts on Ash Wednesday and ends the day before Resurrection Sunday (Easter). Sundays are not counted as it was the day our Lord was resurrected. It is a day of celebration.
During Lent, we remember the sufferings of Christ on the cross, the cost of our salvation and the depth of God’s love for us; we examine how serious our sin and its consequence are. We approach the throne of God with repentant hearts, seeking His grace and mercy. It is a time for self-reflection on our own spiritual condition and journey, and for drawing closer to our heavenly Father.
Many fast during Lent to draw closer to God. Fasting is a spiritual discipline mentioned in the Scriptures. Fasting throughout the Bible has been linked with an extra dimension of power. In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ fasted for 40 days and nights to acknowledge His dependence on the Father, and to gain spiritual strength through the reliance on the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. Nehemiah fasted for confession, repentance and favour in the sight of the king, for the great mission ahead.
There are many types of fasts. Some people fast for 40 days with just one meal a day; some forgo one meal of the day, such as breakfast or lunch. Many, especially Indians, opt for a vegetarian fast. My parents observed vegetarian fasting. They donated the money they saved while abstaining from meat to the church, which was channelled to social concerns ministries and missions work. After we got married, my wife and I continued to fast during Lent period. We also taught our children to do this.
I believe that fasting in the Lent period involves sacrifice. It is not just about stopping something, such as food, or having a social media break. It’s a matter of the heart. Whatever I abstain from must be replaced with some time of prayer and devotion, where I give space for God’s grace to challenge and change me from inside out.
How will I observe Lent this year? I want to fast one meal of the day—my lunch. During my lunch breaks I plan to go for prayer walks, conducting flash prayers for the people I pass by. This is just a little sacrifice on my part to show my love for my Lord. He was burdened when seeing the great multitude and had great compassion on them. I want to pray for the people—the helpless and the lost.
In the pursuit to grow spiritually towards a transformed and renewed life, I want to continue to pray like the Psalmist: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps 139:23–24 NIV)
The Rev Philip Abraham is the President of the Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference, and the Pastor-in-Charge of Jurong Tamil Methodist Church and Pasir Panjang Tamil Methodist Church.