I know we are encouraged to fast and pray. I’ve tried fasting, and, frankly, I don’t get that much out of it. Why do we do it?
In the Church, we have a formal fast once a month and a fast and testimony meeting. In addition, we donate the money we would have spent on two meals as fast offerings to help the needy. Everyone is encouraged to participate unless they have health problems. But members may also fast for individual reasons such as for someone who is sick or while praying about a serious problem.
You say you’ve tried fasting and didn’t get much out of it. Elder Ifiok E. Okon, a New Era reader serving in the Nigeria Aba Mission, offers some good advice. “Fasting is for spiritual upliftment,” he writes. “Just as faith without works is dead, fasting without a positive attitude towards it is dead and brings us no rewards.”
Fasting and prayer go together. Someone once said that fasting without prayer is just starving. In other words, fasting along with prayer helps make you more receptive to the influence of the Lord. It teaches you to shut out the things of the world and focuses your attention on things of the Spirit. One of the best scriptures on fasting is in Doctrine and Covenants 59:14: “This is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.” [D&C 59:14]
Right now you might find it hard to believe that going without food could feel like rejoicing. You might want to read an article in the October 1989 New Era entitled “Fasting Is What?” The author talks about how fasting is more than just enduring hunger. He suggests praying and reading the scriptures along with fasting. He found that he then paid more attention to people bearing their testimonies and felt a sense of self-control. He liked those new feelings that fasting helped him achieve.
Fasting is a sacrifice, but it is a fairly minor sacrifice when compared to the blessings you can receive. Fasting is a way to teach us to turn away from the things of the world, even though food is a very good and necessary thing, and to focus on the things our spirits need. When we control our appetite for food, even for a short time such as during a fast, we can learn to control other bodily appetites. We can come to understand that our actions do not have to be controlled by how our body feels. We can choose the things of the Spirit.
During your next fast, try these steps:
Pray before beginning your fast.
Fast with a purpose, and think often about the purpose of your fast.
Remain cheerful and patient.
Offer a prayer of gratitude at the end of your fast.
Fasting, combined with prayer, can be a powerful force in your life. Don’t dismiss fasting just because you’ve tried it once or twice without results. Each month you have the opportunity to join with the other members of your ward in a fast. Next fast Sunday, try beginning your fast with prayer. You can even pray that you’ll be able to understand the value of fasting. And pay close attention during testimony meeting. Try to avoid complaining about missing food. And end your fast with a prayer.
Fasting can be a spiritual influence in your life. It can bring you closer to your Heavenly Father.
Before, I felt fasting was a form of physical starvation. Without true intent of heart and spirit, it became a spiritual starvation as well. Fasting, like prayer, is a way of showing obedience to the Lord. Remember blessings abound when we do the things the Lord would have us do, and fasting is one of them.
Cecilia McMoore, 19 Fort Benning, Georgia
When I fast I feel at ease with myself and with the Lord, and the joy is greater as a result of giving my fast offerings and knowing I am helping needy people.
Luis Alberto Ferrizo Krell, 16 Montevideo, Uruguay
Even if you follow all the steps of the fast and are sincerely in harmony with the Lord, you still have to have patience.
Natalia Rios Trelew, Argentina
I recently achieved a goal for one of my Young Women values. I started my fast with a prayer and fasted for two meals. I ended my fast with another prayer. We fast to become more in tune with the Spirit and to receive answers to our prayers. If you have a good attitude and do things that will bring you closer to the Lord, you will discover for yourself the true meaning of fasting.
Deborah Fuller, 14 Overland Park, Kansas
In my family, on fast Sunday we think of a purpose of our fast, and then begin it with a prayer to ask Heavenly Father to help us and give us strength so that we won’t feel so hungry all day. We pray at the end too, and thank the Lord for all we have and again ask for the blessing we fasted for. I think you will get more out of it if you earnestly pray at the beginning and at the end.
Kimball Larsen, 16 St. Louis, Missouri
Fasting is a sacred thing; therefore we need to humble ourselves so we can receive the Spirit. When we fast, we also need to pray.
Troy Hansen, 17 North Ogden, Utah
I was born in the Church and started fasting at age eight. Until recently I didn’t see the point. Then my testimony started to grow stronger, and I have more faith that fasting and prayer work. Keep trying.
Amy Harbon, 17 Southport, Merseyside, England