Saturday, July 17, 2010
God's people from the time of Adam have fasted in order to draw nearer to God as well as to worship Him. Jesus Christ indicated the importance of fasting by His personal example. (See Luke 4:1-4.) God still expects His people to fast and pray often as shown through latter-day revelation. (See Doctrine and Covenants 88:76.) Fasting means to go without food and drink, and an occasional fast is good for the body and invigorates the mind. I once worked with a woman who "fasted" once each week in order to cleanse her body. She understood that fasting helped her physical body, but she did not understand that fasting could also benefit her spiritually. A purposeful fast is more than simply going without food and drink; it also includes a need to concentrate on spiritual things. Going without food or drink is simply starving our bodies. In order to benefit the whole soul, fasting must be accompanied by sincere prayer. Each fasting period should start and end with prayer. To make the fast even more beneficial, it should have a purpose. Fasting accompanied by sincere prayer can be used to overcome weaknesses and to solve problems. We can fast and pray for help or guidance for ourselves or for others who may be ill, injured, or otherwise in need of a blessing. Fasting can help us know the truth, become more humble and feel closer to Heavenly Father. It can also bring comfort in times of sorrow and mourning. (See Mosiah 27:22-23 and Alma 28:4-6.) We should be cheerful when we fast. We should not advertise the fact that we are fasting to others nor fast to impress others. (See Matthew 6:16-18.) Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints observe a day of fast one Sunday each month. We neither eat nor drink for two consecutive meals, meaning that we fast for a period of twenty-four hours. This means that if we eat dinner on Saturday evening, we would not eat again until the evening meal on Sunday. The fast day is a special day to help us become more humble, to ask for forgiveness from our sins, and for the power to overcome faults and forgive others. All members who are physically able to fast should do so. Little children, pregnant and nursing women, and members who are ill are not expected to fast. Children should be encouraged but not forced to fast after they are baptized at age eight or older. On fast Sunday, members meet together in fast and testimony meeting to partake of the sacrament and to strengthen ourselves and each other by bearing testimony. Fast day is also a day to help others by donating through the proper priesthood authority the money that would have been spent for food. We have been asked to give as generously as we can because the fast offerings are the Lord's way to administer to the needs or less fortunate members of the Church. An Old Testament prophet named Isaiah wrote about the Lord's rich promises to those who fast and help the needy. He wrote of promised peace, improved health, and spiritual guidance: "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning and thine health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am" (Isaiah 58:8-9). I know by personal experience that fasting brings many blessings. It improves our lives, gives us increased strength, and helps us to live other principles of the gospel by drawing us closer to God. It helps us improve our character as we learn to control our appetites and passions. Fasting helps us to prove to ourselves that we have self-control. Children can learn to develop spiritual strength if we teach them to observe a proper fast. Wise and prayerful fasting helps us develop faith, and increased faith brings greater spiritual power. The Savior promised that proper fasting brings blessings from God: "Thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:18).