Why do people fast during Lent?

Fasting has long been used as a way to achieve purity, clear-mindedness, penitence, and spiritual renewal—not just in the Christian faith, but in most major world religions. And there are a variety of different ways to fast. There are complete fasts in which a person eats or drinks nothing for a short period of time (~24 hours); there are partial fasts in which a person only eats one meal a day, or fasts from sunrise until sunset; and there are fasts in which a person restricts the types of food they eat, rather than the times in which they eat (e.g. refraining from eating meat). Lent is traditionally a liturgical season in which many people consider fasting.

The motivations behind deciding whether or not to fast during Lent are very important. There are people who choose to fast during Lent in order to lose weight. There are people who fast in order to reign in their excess consumption and attempt to live more simply. There are those who fast specifically so that they might grow spiritually. In this case, the fast is done in an attempt to focus their lives less around food and more around prayer, meditation, and the reading of scripture. When considering whether or not to fast, it is important to carefully consider your motivations and what you desire the outcome to be. Are you fasting for health? To reorient your priorities in life? To grow in faith? All of the above?

No matter what the motivations behind fasting, it is important to think the process through, to ensure that your motivations are not unhealthy or self-harming, and to speak to a doctor about whether the fasting plan you choose is right for you.


Do you have any other questions about fasting or anything Episcopal-related? Click here to suggest a topic for another What Why Wednesday!