I woke up hungry this morning. It is fast Sunday and I have chosen to fast. I decided to make my fast more meaningful, to go to church with an attitude of worship and gratitude.
I have been studying the law of the fast… both physically and spiritually… ways fasting helps my body heal and helps my spirit draw closer to God.
Throughout history many people have fasted to feel the power of God within their lives more full. Fasting helps us to “tap into God.”
Jesus expected His disciples to fast. He taught, “Moreover when you fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but until thy Father which seeth in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” – Matt. 6:16-18
The meaning of “fast” in Hebrew means “to cover the mouth.” A fast involves abstaining from food.
Food for the body is provided by God to sustain the body and to nourish it. When we eat food, we are literally taking the earth and making it a part of us. I started thinking that God designed our bodies to be nourished and fueled in this way so that we could see the bigger picture of true nourishment – the nourishment of our spirits.
God has provided food for our souls with His Word. The words of the scriptures, prophets and the Spirit nourishes our spirits in the same way physical food nourishes our physical lives. (Check out Ps. 119:103; Jer. 15:16; Ezek. 3:1-3). Just as fresh fruits and vegetable strengthen and maintain our bodies, the Word of God nourishes, fuels and strengthens our spirits.
During a fast, you deliberately let go food – something that binds us to this world – in order to receive more from the Spirit.fasting helps you to deny physical cravings to focus on spiritual cravings. during the fast you allow your spiritual hunger to become stronger and more focused. You feed your spirit with the same energy and enthusiasm with which we seek after satisfying our physical appetites. Spiritual hunger takes priority over physical hunger.
Fasting is not about influencing God. Fasting is not a hunger strike designed to demand from God what He has been holding back. Fasting is not too impress God. Fasting is not to manipulate God. Fasting is not a last-ditch-effort, a “hail Mary,” to get through to God. Fasting doesn’t prove anything to God. He already knows all. Fasting doesn’t even show God that you are serious. He already knows that too. He knows your heart better than you do. Instead, fasting is a means of sharpening our skills, our spiritual senses too hear and see what God has to share with us.
Fasting produces physical, intellectual, and spiritual benefits.
Ezra Taft Benson taught, “Periodic fasting can help clear up the mind and strengthen the body and the spirit…. To make a fast most fruitful, it should be coupled with prayer and meditation; physical work should be held to a minimum, and it’s a blessing if one can ponder on the scriptures and the reason for the fast.” (CR Oct. 1974).
Fasting helps us gain self-mastery.
President Russell M. Nelson taught, “A pivotal spiritual attribute is that of self-mastery – the strength to place reason over appetite. Self-mastery builds a strong conscience. And your conscience determines your moral response in difficult, tempting and trying situations. Fasting helps your spirit to develop dominance over your physical appetites. Fasting also increases your access to heaven’s help, as it intensifies your prayers. Why the need for self-mastery? God implanted strong appetites within us for nourishment and love, vital for the human family to be perpetuated. When we master our appetites within the bounds of God’s laws, we can enjoy longer life, greater love, and consummate joy.” (Decisions for Eternity, Ensign, Nov. 2013)
Plato said, “The first and the best victory is to conquer self; to be conquered by self is, of all things, the most shameful and vile.” (Laws, Book 1, section 626E).
Fasting produces strength of character.
“If there were no other virtue in fasting but gaining strength of character, that alone would be sufficient justification for its universal acceptance,” taught President David O. McKay. (On Fasting, Improvement Era, March 1963).
Fasting increases courage and confidence.
“Fasting and prayer can help develop within us courage and confidence. It can strengthen our character and build self-restraint and discipline.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin
Fasting increases faith, humility, and spiritual power.
Psalms 35:13 – I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling of their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God. – Helaman 3:35
Fasting strengthens us against Satan’s temptations.
“By observing fasting and prayer in its true spirit, the Latter-day Saints cannot be overpowered by Satan tempting them to evil. (CR, Oct. 1951).
Fasting increases our ability to hear God.
In 2 Chronicles 20 we can read of a fast King Jehoshaphat called so that he and his people could increase their ability to hear God. He had received a report that his enemies were getting together and were nearing the borders. War was approaching. Jehoshaphat did not want to rely on the reports of men. He did not want to reply on his own abilities to see and to assess the situation. He knew that there must be a bigger picture. (Happens to me all the time! Think of the situations that overwhelm you and cause you to fear and have anxiety. Think of the times you feel things are hopeless. Happens to you too, doesn’t it).
What did Jehoshaphat do when faced with a difficult circumstance? He fasted… and he ask his people to fast as well. Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord. He determined that he would fix his eyes not on what he could see but on what he could not see. (See 2 Cor. 4:18). He trusted the Lord has an answer and a plan that was much better than what he could come up with. (see Eph. 3:20). His confidence in the Lord is inspiring: Take your eyes off the circumstances and fix them on the ruler of heaven and earth. The Lord did provide an answer. He will provide an answer for us. Fasting helps us to strengthen that connection so that we can hear what God has to reveal to us.
Fasting helps one sense his utter dependence upon God.
Bruce R. McConkie taught, “In all ages the Lord has called upon his people to fast and pray and seek him with all their strength and power. Fasting – abstaining from food and drink for a designated period – give man a sense of his utter dependence upon the Lord so that he is in a better frame of mind to get in tune with the Spirit. Moses and Jesus both fasted for forty days as they sought that oneness with the Father out of which great spiritual strength come.” (The Mortal Messiah, 2:152).
Fasting purifies our hearts and fills us with love.
“It is evident that the acceptable fast is that which carries with it the true spirit of love for God and man; and that the aim in fasting is to secure perfect purity of heart and simplicity of intention – a fasting unto God in the fullest and deepest sense – for such a fast would be a cure for every practical and intellectual error; vanity would disappear, love for our fellows would take its place, and we would gladly assist the poor and the needy,” taught Joseph F. Smith. (Observance of Fast Day, Improvement Era, Dec. 1902).
Fasting helps us get in tune with the Spirit and receive personal revelation.
Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And Now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me. – Alma 5:46