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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

“To be sure, food keeps us alive, but that is only its smallest and most temporary work. Its eternal purpose is to furnish our sensibilities against the day when we shall sit down at the heavenly banquet and see how gracious the Lord is. Nourishment is necessary only for a while; what we shall need forever is taste.”

When I came across this thought in Robert Farrar Capan’s book The Supper of the Lamb, I found it arresting.  I don’t think I had ever considered what the “eternal purpose” of food might be, nor even that it has one. In my experience, food is always temporary.  Mere hours after a delicious meal, I’m back at the fridge for more.

But what if Capan is right, and food does have a purpose beyond sustaining us for a few hours or days at a time?  What if God gives us food now to prepare us to anticipate and receive heavenly food later, when sustaining life is no longer a pressing need?

Pondering this the last few days (I am writing this before the fast begins!) has made me consider what I am eating, and it has helped me to see food as the gift that it is.  It does not just sustain me now; it teaches me about God’s magnificent grace to me, which I will enjoy for endless days in His very presence. On that day, you and I shall eat– feast, in fact– when food can have no value other than to delight us and confirm to us God’s astonishing delight in us.

In the meantime, perhaps both the enjoyment of our meals and the seasons refraining from them will build up our capacity for what awaits. It will take strengthening to endure the torrent of joy to come.   As C.S. Lewis observes:

At present, if we are reborn in Christ, the spirit in us lives directly on God; but the mind, and still more the body, receives life from Him at a thousand removes—through our ancestors, through our food, through the elements. The faint, far-off results of those energies which God’s creative rapture implanted in matter when He made the worlds are what we now call physical pleasures; and even thus filtered, they are too much for our present management.  What would it be to taste at the fountain-head that stream of which even these lower reaches prove so intoxicating? Yet that, I believe, is what lies before us. The whole man is to drink joy from the fountain of joy.

I pray that both seasons of fasting (now) and seasons of eating (soon!) will work to prepare you for the great joy that lies ahead.

Tim Henderson
Vice President, University Christian Union
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