Luke 2: 36-38
There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna gets just three verses. She was ‘very old’ … to be honest in the first century 84 was ancient! Her husband had died after seven years of marriage, so she had probably lived alone for 60 years. Today she’d be written-off by many people. Ignored, or disregarded, but Anna focused on what Jesus describes elsewhere as ‘one thing is essential’ (Luke 10:42). As it says here, in the middle of Anna’s three verses, she ‘worshipped night and day, fasting and praying’. Obviously, she also had to eat, sleep, and do the stuff which tends to clutter up our lives. Have you ever stopped to ask what people said about Anna?
A nosy neighbour: ‘she’s always in the Temple’.
The Priest: ‘she always here’.
A friend: ‘I don’t know how she stays so healthy, she’s always missing meals’.
Have you ever stopped to think how people might summarise your life? Judging by what people frequently say when they meet … ‘I expect you’re busy’ … ‘are you as busy as ever?’ … I wonder whether people think I’m too busy for them?
Fasting demands we stop. It’s life, especially life today. In order to do anything we invariably have to stop doing something. Fasting is typically about abstaining from all food, solid, or liquid but not from water. Contrary to popular belief, if we don’t have three square meals a day we wont teeter on the brink of starvation, and most of us could do with shedding a few pounds pre Christmas, I’m sure. Beneficial though this might be, to fast for this reason would be to totally miss the point. This is why, like Anna, we need to be ‘worshipping and fasting’, because fasting needs to centre upon God. The only point of true fasting is to abstain from one thing, in order to focus upon God. When taking a photo I need to be still. I need to stop moving about. Then I need to focus on whatever the subject is, if I’m to get a decent photo.
Fasting doesn’t need to be purely about food, but whatever you choose to abstain from it’s most helpful to choose something where there’s a regularity and frequency … like meals! However, the practice of fasting implies doing it and the only way it is ever likely to become part of our practices is by doing it regularly.
I wonder, would you be prepared to choose a meal, or a regular leisure activity, and not do it each week before Christmas, in order to pray?
Dear Lord, I believe I can do all things through you who strengthens me. Help me to decide what to stop and when, in order to deepen my roots in you. Help me translate my intention into practice.
Lord Jesus, be the centre of life, be the centre of my prayers, be the centre of this day.