How can fasting and detachment improve your prayer life?
April 18, 2019
Lent is upon us. No doubt you are fasting in some way to prepare for Easter. Lenten fasting can help break your attachments to things other than God. Detachment in turn strengthens your prayer life. What is Christian detachment? How can it increase your intimacy with Christ?
If we look honestly at our relationships with things and with other people, we must acknowledge brokenness. Before Lent, you might have recognized that you have a disordered relationship with food, for example, so you decided to give up or limit some foods you enjoy. Maybe you spend too much time on your cell phone, so you chose to fast from using the internet or certain apps.
“Disordered” literally means out of order. When our lives are rightly ordered, God comes first. Conversely, a disordered life means we have made things or people into little idols, putting them ahead of God. We use food, digital devices or something else in a way that does not honor God. We implicitly put our pleasure in these things ahead of God’s will for us.
Fasting from things that have gotten out of order can lead to more detachment. Christian detachment is not an end in itself. We need to be properly detached from everything but God so that we can obey the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mk 12:30). In fact, the more we love God, the easier such detachment becomes.
This is where prayer comes in. Prayer increases our love for God. As we meditate on the Gospels, for example, we learn more about Christ’s goodness and mercy. As we speak to him daily from the heart, our attachment to God grows. We begin to see the areas that are keeping us from drawing closer to him. We are motivated to put them right.
In its turn, detachment enables us to pray more deeply. The less we are inordinately attached to pleasures, the less they will distract us during prayer. As we give things up for God’s sake, he rewards us with more of himself.
What about attachments to people? Christian detachment does not mean being cold-hearted. If you are married, perhaps with children, God wills for you to love your spouse and kids. In fact, as you grow closer to God, you will love them more truly, because you will be less selfish and more understanding.
Detachment in relation to other people means willing God’s will for them, instead of your own. It means seeing the image of God in them and treating them with the respect that image demands. A truly detached person never uses others for his own ends. Since he obeys the greatest commandment, he is also able to obey the second: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:31).
Detachment brings freedom – freedom to love God and others without selfish clingings getting in our way. As we die to self during Lent through fasting, we prepare to rise with Christ at Easter. Then we will be able to celebrate the saving work of God without hindrance. We will be able to enter into the prayers of Easter in a deeper way than we have before. Isn’t that worth a little fasting?
Connie Rossini is a member of St. Peter Parish in Omaha. She is co-author of The Contemplative Rosary just released by EWTN Publishing and author of four other books on Catholic spirituality.