As I go through my lesson plans and through my own personal study I notice more and more the act of fasting to be an important part of all spiritual activities. As a kid I could not understand the practice of fasting. I didn’t understand fast offerings. For those of you that read this, fast offering is practiced by the LDS church on the first sunday of each month. We abstain from two meals and then donate the money that we would have spent on these two meals to the church. They in turn take the money and use it for those who are less fortunate. To clothe, feed and house those that are in need. This practice is accompanied by a meeting where all members are invited and encouraged to bear their testimonies of the gospels of our religion that are prompted to them by the spirit. Although this practice has become more of an update on family, health, and spirit building experiences it is usually wrapped up by a certainty that they know that a gospel principle is true.
In my study I have come across several passages that calls for fasting of the individual and groups of people to gain a blessing or increase ones spiritual strength. This months subject in the curriculum for the Aaronic priesthood is Commandments. One of the topics we are asked to cover is fasting and why we do it. When I first read this topic I didn’t ever really think of it as a commandment. It was quite a change in the way I viewed fast sunday. We are commanded to attend church and partake of the sacrament, but I never put the ritual of fast sunday in the commandment group. As I read more of the curriculum and re-read certain passages in the scriptures I realized how wrong I was.
Fasting can be used to not only strengthen spirit and testimony but for protection, blessings, healing,
Strengthening of spirit and testimony for your self and others:
Matthew 4:1-11 – Tells of Jesus fasting in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 night and used prayer, fasting, and the scriptures to rebuke satan of his temptations.
1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to betempted of the devil.
6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
I find it so inspiring that the lord used scriptures to give himself power over the devil. With his faith in god he was able to so frustrate the adversary that he was begging to be worshiped at the end. We are taught from this that through prayer, fasting and reading the scriptures that we can withstand the temptation of men.
We are warned not to fast in “public” in Matthew 6:16-18 as humility before the lord is necessary for spiritual growth and pride and vanity will stop us from growing in the spirit.
16 Moreover when ye 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.
This is part of one of my favorite scripture passages in that all of our charities and good works are not for us to be judged by men, but to the lord for our willingness to serve obediently not expecting any reward but those that will be given us in growth of our spirit. That when we look to increase our station with men by our works we are in danger of increasing our vanity, which does not fit with Gods’ principle of service. I could go into this much further but because I am not a perfect person myself it always leads me to anger at others instead of forgiveness and understanding.
Healing and Blessing
Christ is a gentle but firm master, especially in the way that he dealt with his own disciples. This next passage discusses more than one great principle, fasting, prayer and faith and the master scolded his disciples for their lack of faith and trust.
14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Esther and Malachi show us the place of fasting and prayer when in comes to protection. While Esther was up for execution when she came to the king to spare the lives of her people, she bid Malachi to get the people to fast and pray so that they were protected from the unjust judgment that the king was tricked into passing to his wife’s people as well as his wife herself.
10 ¶Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him commandment unto Mordecai;
11 All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.
12 And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words.
13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.
14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
15 ¶Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer,
16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.
17 So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.
Through the act of fasting and prayer the people were protected by the softening of the king’s heart.
We see in many religions, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam to name a few the acts of fasting for meditation, blessing, and enlightenment.
Those with medical or other physical maladies are generally excused from the full ritual. Some religions allow for a reduced amount of food in substitute for fasting, believing that the spirit of the exercise is being observed with less risk to the sick.
I now know that fasting can assist with my search for answers and blessings and plan to make it a common practice when I need to find answers to difficult questions.