3 Secrets to Successful Fasting During Lent


"Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes." Daniel 9:3

"3 Secrets to Successful Fasting During Lent" by Steppes of Faith

“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.” (Daniel 9:3)

In late winter, many people honor the liturgical season of Lent, when believers give up something of their choice for 40 days, beginning on Ash Wednesday. It is usually in remembrance of Jesus’s time of fasting in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11), but it is more of a time of preparation for Easter.

To be clear, the Bible does not mention Lent. It is not a biblically established holiday or season. Its origin dates to the fourth century when the First Council of Nicaea, the first ecumenical council of the Christian church, formalized it in 325 AD.

In its early days, people prepared for their penance and restoration after the church denied them holy communion because of a judged sin. As a show of their remorse, they publicly wore sackcloth and sprinkled ashes on themselves. By the ninth century, people abandoned this custom, but the church would not allow them to forget their sins. Instead, church elders sprinkled ashes on the people’s heads or marked an ashen cross on their foreheads on the first day of Lent. Hence the name Ash Wednesday.

Over time, opinions about Lent started to change. Members of the church moved toward anabaptist beliefs, which involves baptizing adults (not infants) after they had freely put their faith in Jesus Christ. Their beliefs became part of the Protestant Reformation and a split in the church, separating Protestantism from Catholicism.

Catholics are the main participants in Lent today, though many others do too.

Prayer and Fasting

Regardless of religious denomination, Lent always entails prayer and fasting, which can take many forms. A person can give up one thing or activity, usually a perceived vice, for 40 days. One can also give up one meal each day or all meals one day a week. Or one can choose to abstain from eating entirely for a set number of days and drink only water.

Throughout the Old Testament, fasting was often used to gain God’s favor in difficult situations. Multiple kings repeatedly commanded the Israelites to fast and pray for God’s protection and provision. Later in the New Testament, Jesus indicated fasting is more than simply a vehicle to obtain God’s blessing. It is a normal part of one’s spiritual life and not something we use to exhibit ourselves as godlier than others. Jesus admonished his audience during His Sermon on the Mount to be cautious of this behavior.

“When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites with a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that you do not appear to men to be fasting but to your Father, who is in the secret place. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:16-18)

The apostle Paul also teaches that fasting should be a regular part of our spiritual lives in 1 Corinthians 7:5.

“Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Prayer and fasting will draw you closer to God and strengthen your relationship with Him.

3 Tactics for Successful Fasting

Temptation is powerful during times of fasting. The enemy quickly seizes the opportunity to lure us away from our efforts so he can thwart any hope we have for God’s blessing. Such attacks are why we use prayer and fasting to focus on God and lean on His strength. It reminds us of His power and generous grace.

Jesus battled it when He wandered the desert and fasted for 40 days before His official ministry began (Matthew 4:1-111, the whole basis for Lent). Even in His divine power, fasting would have been challenging. However, there were three key tactics He used to fight the enemy successfully.

Jesus Quoted Scripture

After fasting for 40 days and nights, Satan tempted a very hungry Jesus to turn stones into bread. But Jesus answered in Matthew 4:4, saying, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” a quote taken from Deuteronomy 8:3.

“So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”

Quoting Scripture back to Satan and demonic forces is probably one of the most powerful weapons you have in the middle of trials. It is why the Bible calls it a sword (Ephesians 6:17).

Jesus Was Confident of His Power

In his second attempt, Satan tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple to prove His power. But Jesus responded, “It is written again, you shall not tempt the LORD your God (Matthew 4:7),” another quote from the book of Deuteronomy.

“You shall not tempt the LORD your God as you tempted Him in Massah (see Exodus 17:1-17). You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, His testimonies, and His statutes which He has commanded you. And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 6:16-18)

Jesus was confident in His relationship with the Father and the power He received because of it. As believers in Christ, we have the same power because of His finished work on the cross and our restored relationship with the Father. We only need to remember that we have it and not let Satan make us think or believe otherwise.

Jesus Was Obedient to the Father

At this point, the long period of fasting surely had worn Jesus down. In Satan’s third and final temptation, he took Jesus to the top of a mountain, trying to convince Jesus to worship him in exchange for all the world’s kingdoms (Matthew 4:10). Again, Jesus quoted from the book of Deuteronomy.

“You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and you shall take your oaths in His name. You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples all around you (for the Lord your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the Lord your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 6:13-14)

Even though Satan tempted Jesus to take back control of the earth from Satan, the “ruler of this world (John 12:31),” He stayed steadfastly obedient to the Father. As children of the Most High God, He also calls us to obedience in every area of our lives.

If the enemy tempts you while you are fasting, a key tactic is to quote Scripture to him. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Bible Promises to Lean On

Satan loves to attack believers, especially during times of fasting when we are at our most vulnerable. However, God promises to protect His sheep and strengthen them. Remembering His promises is essential, so we do not lose hope as we seek His blessings. Jesus knew that the Father had not forsaken Him, and neither should you.

Scripture offers us many promises and words of encouragement we can utilize during Lent or any time we are fasting. Here are a few to place in your heart:

Psalm 56:9, “When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; This I know because God is for me.”

2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”

1 John 4:4, “…the One who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and delivers them.”

Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Fasting is not simply a religious activity in which we give something up for a while and then take it up again. It is meant to be a time of quietly focusing on God and drawing closer to Him, leaning on His strength to overcome temptation and rebuke Satan. In the case of Lent, it is also a time for a change in attitudes and behaviors so that our hearts are more oriented toward the Lord and the things of heaven.

Whether you engage in Lenten activities or choose to fast another time, be confident in the power the Lord grants you against the enemy. Be obedient to the Him and remember His wonderful promises to you. Above all, allow fasting to do a good work in your heart so you can draw closer to our loving Savior and experience the victory we have in Him more deeply.

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