Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing.
-Joel 2: 11-12
One of the Lenten disciplines that is always encouraged is fasting. During this particular Lent we are most certainly fasting in ways that we had never intended. We find ourselves fasting from face-to-face interactions, from going about some of our daily routines, perhaps from picking up our regular items from the store and from experiencing Holy Communion together. None of this comes to us as an intentional fast to make room for prayer but, all of it allowing for time to reflect in prayer on so many different things. This forced fast has been pretty eye opening, allowing time to think about the things that we can’t currently have access to, or that no longer seem like a big deal, and it makes me wonder what things that we are currently fasting from that may not return.
When we talk about fasting as a prayer discipline we speak of filling the space of something we consume with time for prayer and reflection. This is a time of prayer and reflection can be spent giving thanks for what we have been blessed with and praying for those who lack the same. We might find that when we give up a comfort in our lives it readies our hearts for more urgent sacrifices that might be called upon us from time to time. Today it seems we are living in a vulnerable state of fasting. I know that it is one that creates anxiety and a sense of helplessness in not knowing how to help. I urge you to take this time of fasting and create space to pray, to reflect on the blessings that abound in our lives and trust that God is faithful.
Lastly, this week I’ve started reading (literally just started) a book titled “Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals” by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro. It speaks to the ways that Common Prayer helps today’s diverse church pray together across traditions and denominations. It seems most appropriate to me now in light of our current pandemic situation. Early in the book, page 19 on my Kindle to be exact, they have this to say about prayer: “We never pray alone, even when praying by ourselves.” I take great comfort in that during this time and I hope you do too. Remember that we continue to hold you in prayer and long for the day that we gather to pray together.