For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we enjoy setting aside the first Sunday of every month as a significantly important day. It is the day in which we fast so that we might draw closer to the Lord.
But I remember as a new member of the church being confused about fasting. Why were we to abstain from food? Oh, and we're not supposed to drink water either? Hmmm. And how long should you fast?
So many questions I had.
Now that I've been a member of the church for some time, I've had the opportunity to study the scriptures for quite awhile. I've discovered beautiful scriptures that speak of fasting and it's beautiful purposes. I've learned much. Much of what I learned cannot be boiled down into one simple article, but hopefully I can effectively summarize a few beautiful principles about fasting.
First of all, we are asked to fast for two meals. Some people will time that down to the minute (more or less), by stating that they fast for 24 hours. Others, especially those with health issues or who need to take medicine routinely throughout the day, must vary their fast. Thus, their fast may truly be the equivalent of skipping two meals even though they may not reach a true 24 hour time table.
This brings us to the question of wisdom. Not all people can fast from eating. My daughter, due to her reflux, throws up if she goes too long without eating. The Lord expects her to use prudence and caution, just as He desires all of us to use wisdom in our daily choices. Does this mean my daughter cannot fast at all? Probably not; she just needs to make sure that she does so wisely.
Fasting generally does mean that we do not take in food or drink during the period of time we're fasting. But again, this is to be balanced in wisdom and prudence. Yet even the most "flawless" approach to fasting simply equals starving if we do not couple our fast with sincere prayer.
Praying adds depth and focus to our fast. Both together help us deepen our spiritual reserves. Add to these two entities that of scripture study, and you have a powerful day spent in the spirit.
But what if you get hungry? I personally use those hunger pains as a spiritual alarm clock. When I feel hungry, I am reminded to once again kneel (if in an appropriate place) and petition the Lord for that which I'm fasting.
Which brings me to a final point. Generally speaking, we fast either to demonstrate gratitude to the Lord or to petition something of the Lord. Thus, many people initiate their time of fasting by pondering PRIOR to the fast as to which of the two (gratitude or petition) they desire for the next fast they partake of.
Once the time comes to fast, they then begin the fast in prayer. Then during the ensuing hours, they spend quiet time studying their scriptures, praying, or serving. If, as I stated at the beginning of the article, the person's fast is during the first Sunday of the month, that person also attends their Sabbath meetings.
Fasting is an amazing way to draw ourselves closer to the Lord. And just as Jesus Christ spent His life serving God's children, that which we didn't eat during our fast we donate to the Bishop for distribution to those who are hungry amongst us. Usually, depending on the country, these fast "offerings" come in the form of cash donations. But regardless of their form, these fast offerings uplift the hungry, bringing nourishment to those who are less fortunate.
What a gift it truly is to try fasting for the first time...and every time thereafter. Not only does it help draw us closer to the Lord when we sincerely do it, fasting also benefits others when we donate the equivalent of that which we abstained from consuming. No wonder those who fast sincerely are actually grateful for the experience!
Struggling with your teens? C.S. Bezas book has been called the perfect aid for parents and youth leaders. Powerful Tips for Powerful Teachers: Helping Youth Find Their Spiritual Wings is available in most LDS bookstores and online at DeseretBook.com. Order it today and watch changes begin.