Purposes of Fasting
On one occasion, the Savior cast a devil out from a child and used this
experience to teach His disciples about the power of prayer and fasting. His
disciples asked Him, "Why could not we cast him out?" Jesus answered:
"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. Howbeit this kind
goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." (See Matthew 17:14–21.)
This account teaches that prayer and fasting can give added strength to those
giving and receiving priesthood blessings. The account can also be applied to
our personal efforts to live the gospel. If we have a weakness or sin that we have
struggled to overcome, we may need to fast and pray in order to receive the help
or forgiveness we desire. Like the demon that Christ cast out, our difficulty may
be the kind that will go out only through prayer and fasting.
We can fast for many purposes. Fasting is one way of worshiping God and
expressing gratitude to Him (see Luke 2:37; Alma 45:1). We can fast as we ask
Heavenly Father to bless the sick or afflicted (see Matthew 17:14–21). Fasting
may help us and those we love receive personal revelation and become
converted to the truth (see Alma 5:46; 6:6). Through fasting we can gain strength
to resist temptation (see Isaiah 58:6). We can fast as we strive to humble
ourselves before God and exercise faith in Jesus Christ (see Omni 1:26;
Helaman 3:35). We may fast to receive guidance in sharing the gospel and
magnifying Church callings (see Acts 13:2–3; Alma 17:3, 9; 3 Nephi 27:1–2).
Fasting may accompany righteous sorrow or mourning (see Alma 28:4–6; 30:1–
The Church designates one Sunday each month, usually the first Sunday, as a
day of fasting. Proper observance of fast Sunday includes going without food and
drink for two consecutive meals, attending fast and testimony meeting, and giving
a fast offering to help care for those in need.
A fast offering should be at least the value of the two meals not eaten. When
possible, we should be generous and give much more than this amount.
In addition to observing the fast days set aside by Church leaders, we can fast on
any other day, according to our needs and the needs of others. However, we
should not fast too frequently or for excessive periods of time.
The True Fast
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the true form of fasting. He spoke
against hypocrites who, when they fast, "disfigure their faces, that they may
appear unto men to fast." Rather than putting on an outward show of
righteousness, we should fast "unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father,
which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly" (Matthew 6:16–18).
The prophet Isaiah also taught of the true spirit of the fast: "Is not this the fast
that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy
burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not
to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to
thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide
not thyself from thine own flesh?" (Isaiah 58:6–7).
Isaiah also testified of the blessings that come when we obey the law of the fast:
"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 rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry,
and he shall say, Here I am. . . . If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and
satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be
as the noonday: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in
drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and
like a spring of water, whose waters fail not" (Isaiah 58:8–11).
3 Nephi 13:16–18; D&C 59:12–14; 88:76, 119
Author: Hills, Dawn M.
The practice of periodic abstinence from food and drink for devotional purposes
has been documented since early times. The Bible and the Book of Mormon
attest to fasting in its several forms, public or private, institutionalized or
spontaneous. In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord commanded
the Latter-day Saints to "continue in prayer and fasting from this time forth" (D&C
Church members fast together generally on the first Sunday of each month, in
preparation for fast and testimony meeting. They usually abstain from food and
drink for two consecutive meals, attend Church services, and donate a fast
offering for the care of the needy. Additionally, an individual, family, or
congregation may fast for a specific cause such as one who is sick or otherwise
afflicted. An individual may desire the intimate communication with deity
engendered by a prayerful fast when preparing for a difficult task or significant
change in the circumstances of life. A person may fast when seeking spiritual
enlightenment or guidance in decision making, strength to overcome weakness
or endure trial, comfort in sorrow, or help at other times of special need.
General principles of the fast include prayerful preparation concerning the subject
of the fast and frequent contemplation and meditation throughout to achieve
oneness in purpose and spirit with the Lord; a quiet, humble, and cheerful
conduct befitting one seeking blessing or spiritual enlightenment (Matt. 6:16-18;
cf. 3 Ne. 13:16-18); and a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving when ending the
Rich blessings are promised to those who fast and help the needy (Isa. 58:8-9).
Self-control, communion with the Lord, and spiritual strength and power
accompany compliance with the law. The spirit of the fast is aptly represented in
latter-day scripture: "Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing
and prayer" (D&C 59:14).
Joseph B. Wirthlin, ―The Law of the Fast,‖ Ensign, May 2001, 73
Fasting, coupled with mighty prayer, is powerful. It can fill our minds with the
revelations of the Spirit. It can strengthen us against times of temptation.
My beloved brethren and sisters, I feel as you do that Elder David B. Haight is an
inspiration to the entire Church and so many others.
Two thousand years ago, upon the sand and stones of Galilee walked a man that
few recognized for who He truly was: the Creator of worlds, the Redeemer, the
Son of God.
A lawyer approached Him and asked, ―What is the greatest commandment?‖
Jesus answered: ―Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all
thy soul, and with all thy mind.
―This is the first and great commandment.
―And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
―On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.‖ 1
Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord has established His Church once
again among men. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, restored to
the earth in these latter days, is centered on those commandments the Savior
proclaimed as the greatest: to love our Heavenly Father and to love our
fellowmen. Our Savior said, ―If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all
my commandments.‖ 2 One way we show our love is through observance of the
law of the fast. This law is based upon a primary yet profound principle—a simple
practice—that, if observed with the proper spirit, will help us draw closer to our
Heavenly Father and strengthen our faith, while at the same time help us ease
the burdens of others.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, members are encouraged to
fast whenever their faith needs special fortification and to fast regularly once
each month on fast day. On that day, we go without eating or drinking for two
consecutive meals, commune with our Heavenly Father, and contribute a fast
offering to help the poor. The offering should be at least equal to the value of the
food that would have been eaten. Typically, the first Sunday of each month is
designated as fast Sunday. On that day, members who are physically able are
encouraged to fast, pray, bear witness to the truthfulness of the gospel, and pay
a generous fast offering. ―The law of the fast,‖ taught Elder Milton R. Hunter, ―is
probably as old as the human family. … In ancient times, prophet-leaders
repeatedly gave to church members the commandment to observe the law of
fasting and praying.‖ 3
We observe that in the scriptures, fasting almost always is linked with prayer.
Without prayer, fasting is not complete fasting; it‘s simply going hungry. If we
want our fasting to be more than just going without eating, we must lift our hearts,
our minds, and our voices in communion with our Heavenly Father. Fasting,
coupled with mighty prayer, is powerful. It can fill our minds with the revelations
of the Spirit. It can strengthen us against times of temptation.
Fasting and prayer can help develop within us courage and confidence. It can
strengthen our character and build self-restraint and discipline. Often when we
fast, our righteous prayers and petitions have greater power. Testimonies grow.
We mature spiritually and emotionally and sanctify our souls. Each time we fast,
we gain a little more control over our worldly appetites and passions.
Fasting and prayer can help us in our families and in our daily work. They can
help us magnify our callings in the Church. President Ezra Taft Benson taught: ―If
you want to get the spirit of your office and calling as a new president of a
quorum, a new high [councilor], a new bishop [or, I might say, a Relief Society
president]—try fasting for a period. I don‘t mean just missing one meal, then
eating twice as much the next meal. I mean really fasting, and praying during that
period. It will do more to give you the real spirit of your office and calling and
permit the Spirit to operate through you than anything I know.‖ 4
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: ―Let this be an [example] to all saints, and
there will never be any lack for bread: When the poor are starving, let those who
have, fast one day and give what they otherwise would have eaten to the bishops
for the poor, and every one will abound for a long time. … And so long as the
saints will all live to this principle with glad hearts and cheerful countenances
they will always have an abundance.‖ 5
Book of Mormon prophets taught the law of the fast: ―Behold, now it came to
pass that the people of Nephi were exceedingly rejoiced, because the Lord had
again delivered them out of the hands of their enemies; therefore they gave
thanks unto the Lord their God; yea, and they did fast much and pray much, and
they did worship God with exceedingly great joy.‖ 6
The powerful combination of fasting and prayer is exemplified by the four sons of
Mosiah. They faced overwhelming odds, yet worked miracles in bringing
thousands of the Lamanites to a knowledge of the truth. They shared the secret
of their success. They ―searched the scriptures‖ and ―they had given themselves
to much prayer and fasting.‖ What was the result? ―They had the spirit of
prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with
power and authority of God.‖ 7
When we fast, brethren and sisters, we feel hunger. And for a short time, we
literally put ourselves in the position of the hungry and the needy. As we do so,
we have greater understanding of the deprivations they might feel. When we give
to the bishop an offering to relieve the suffering of others, we not only do
something sublime for others, but we do something wonderful for ourselves as
well. King Benjamin taught that as we give of our substance to the poor, we
retain ―a remission of [our] sins from day to day.‖ 8
Another Book of Mormon prophet, Amulek, explained that often our prayers have
no power because we have turned our backs on the needy. 9 If you feel that
Heavenly Father is not listening to your petitions, ask yourself if you are listening
to the cries of the poor, the sick, the hungry, and the afflicted all around you.
Some look at the overwhelming need in the world and think, What can I do that
could possibly make a difference?
I will tell you plainly one thing you can do. You can live the law of the fast and
contribute a generous fast offering.
Fast offerings are used for one purpose only: to bless the lives of those in need.
Every dollar given to the bishop as a fast offering goes to assist the poor. When
donations exceed local needs, they are passed along to fulfill the needs
As an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, I have traveled the world testifying of
Him. I come before you today to bear another witness—a witness to the suffering
and need of millions of our Heavenly Father‘s children. Far too many in the world
today—thousands upon thousands of families—experience want each day. They
hunger. They ache with cold. They suffer from sickness. They grieve for their
children. They mourn for the safety of their families. These people are not
strangers and foreigners but children of our Heavenly Father. They are our
brothers and our sisters. They are ―fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the
household of God.‖ 10 Their fervent prayers ascend to heaven pleading for
respite, for relief from suffering. At this very hour on this very day, some
members even in our Church are praying for the miracle that would allow them to
surmount the suffering that surrounds them. If, while we have the means to do
so, we do not have compassion for them and spring to their aid, we are in danger
of being among those the prophet Moroni spoke of when he said, ―Behold, ye do
love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel … more than ye love the
poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.‖ 11
How well I remember my father, the bishop of our ward, filling my small red
wagon with food and clothing and then directing me—as a deacon in the
Church—to pull the wagon behind me and visit the homes of the needy in our
Often, when fast-offering funds were depleted, my father would take money from
his own pocket to supply the needy in his flock with food that would keep them
from going hungry. Those were the days of the Great Depression, and many
families were suffering.
I remember visiting one family in particular: a sickly mother, an unemployed and
discouraged father, and five children with pallid faces, all disheartened and
hungry. I remember the gratitude that beamed in their faces when I walked up to
their door with my wagon nearly spilling over with needed supplies. I remember
how the children smiled. I remember how the mother wept. And I remember how
the father stood, head bowed, unable to speak.
These impressions and many others forged within me a love for the poor, a love
for my father who served as a shepherd to his flock, and a love for the faithful
and generous members of the Church who sacrificed so much to help relieve the
suffering of others.
Brothers and sisters, in a sense, you too can bring to a needy family a wagon
brimming with hope. How? By paying a generous fast offering.
Parents, teach your children the joys of a proper fast. And how do you do that?
The same as with any gospel principle—let them see you live it by your example.
Then help them live the law of the fast themselves, little by little. They can fast
and they can also pay a fast offering if they choose. As we teach our children to
fast, it can give them the power to resist temptations along their life‘s journey.
How much should we pay in fast offerings? My brothers and sisters, the measure
of our offering to bless the poor is a measure of our gratitude to our Heavenly
Father. Will we, who have been blessed so abundantly, turn our backs on those
who need our help? Paying a generous fast offering is a measure of our
willingness to consecrate ourselves to relieve the suffering of others.
Brother Marion G. Romney, who was the bishop of our ward when I was called
on a mission and who later served as a member of the First Presidency of the
Church, admonished: ―Be liberal in your giving, that you yourselves may grow.
Don‘t give just for the benefit of the poor, but give for your own welfare. Give
enough so that you can give yourself into the kingdom of God through
consecrating of your means and your time.‖ 12
The deacons in the Church have a sacred obligation to visit the home of every
member to collect fast offerings for the poor. President Thomas S. Monson once
related to me how he, as a young bishop, began to sense that the young
deacons in his ward were complaining about having to get up so early to collect
fast offerings. Instead of calling the young men to task, this wise bishop took
them to Welfare Square in Salt Lake City.
There, the boys met a disabled woman operating the switchboard. They saw a
blind man placing labels on cans, and an elderly brother stocking shelves. As a
result of what they saw, President Monson said, a penetrating silence came over
the boys as they witnessed the end result of their efforts to collect the sacred
funds that aided the needy and provided employment for those who otherwise
would be idle. 13
As members of the Church, we have a sacred responsibility to assist those in
need and to help relieve their heavy burdens. Observance of the law of the fast
can help all people of all nations. President Gordon B. Hinckley asked: ―What
would happen if the principles of fast day and the fast offering were observed
throughout the world[?] The hungry would be fed, the naked clothed, the
homeless sheltered. … A new measure of concern and unselfishness would
grow in the hearts of people everywhere.‖ 14
Fasting in the proper spirit and in the Lord‘s way will energize us spiritually,
strengthen our self-discipline, fill our homes with peace, lighten our hearts with
joy, fortify us against temptation, prepare us for times of adversity, and open the
windows of heaven.
Listen to the rich blessings prophesied for those who live the law of the fast:
―Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say,
Here I am. … The Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in
drought, … and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water,
whose waters fail not.‖ 15
As we live the law of the fast, we not only draw nearer to God through prayer, but
we feed the hungry and care for the poor. Each time we do so, we fulfill both of
the great commandments upon which ―hang all the law and the prophets.‖ 16
I know that Jesus the Christ lives. I know that President Gordon B. Hinckley is
our prophet, seer, and revelator. And I bear solemn witness of this reality. I also
bear witness that He who had compassion for the ―least of these‖ 17 looks with
love and compassion upon those today who ―succor the weak, lift up the hands
which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.‖ 18
I raise my voice in testimony and promise along with the great Apostles that have
preceded us that those who live the law of the fast will surely discover the rich
blessings that attend this holy principle. Of this I bear solemn witness in the
name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1. Matt. 22:37–40.
2. D&C 42:29.
3. Will a Man Rob God? (1952), 207–8.
4. The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (1988), 331–32.
5. History of the Church, 7:413.
6. Alma 45:1.
7. See Alma 17:2–3.
8. Mosiah 4:26.
9. See Alma 34:28.
10. Eph. 2:19.
11. Morm. 8:37.
12. ―The Blessings of the Fast,‖ Ensign, July 1982, 4.
13. ―The Way of the Lord,‖ Ensign, Nov. 1977, 8.
14. ―The State of the Church,‖ Ensign, May 1991, 52–53.
15. Isa. 58:9, 11.
16. Matt. 22:40.
17. Matt. 25:40.
18. D&C 81:5.
Neil K. Newell, ―Fast Offerings: Blessings We Give, Blessings We Receive,‖
Ensign, Oct 1998, 16
Through generous fast offerings, we not only help those in need but also open
the windows of heaven for blessings to be poured out on us.
“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among
thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and
departed, leaving him half dead” (Luke 10:30).
Gerry was constantly in trouble. Out of work. Spending money he didn‘t have.
Always asking others for more. He started drinking, and it wasn‘t long until he
was heavily into drugs.
―When he walked into my office,‖ the bishop said, ―he looked so sick, I thought he
would die right there. Thick red sores covered his face, neck, and arms. Half his
front teeth were missing. He was dirty, his clothes were torn, he smelled, and I
had to resist the inclination to shrink away from him.‖
―Can somebody help me?‖ Gerry asked.
Never had the bishop seen anyone weep so freely and so genuinely. Tears
flooded his eyes and fell down his cheeks.
―I‘ve destroyed my life,‖ he sobbed. ―Can anybody please help me?‖
“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when
he saw him, he had compassion on him” (Luke 10:33).
The Larsens hadn‘t been to church in years. In fact, only a few members knew
who they were. They kept to themselves and did not answer their door unless
they knew who was calling. But the bishop had a nagging feeling about the family
and wondered how they were doing, so he decided to pay them a visit.
No one answered when he knocked, but the bishop knew the Larsens were
home, so he took a seat on the porch and waited.
For nearly an hour he waited.
Finally, the door cracked open an inch, and a small voice asked, ―Can I help
When he explained who he was and that he had come to visit, the door closed.
Again, the bishop took a seat on the porch.
Ten minutes later, the door cracked open again and a voice asked, ―Do you want
to come in?‖
The bishop felt pleased to meet with the Larsens but was distressed when he
entered the house. The only piece of furniture in the bare room was a stained
and torn couch. As he spoke with the family, he learned they were sleeping on
blankets on the floor. The father had been injured six months ago and was
unable to return to work.
The family had eaten the last of the food, and it would be another week until the
next disability check would arrive. The look in the children‘s eyes told the bishop
that experiencing hunger was not unusual for them.
“And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and
set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him”
When Brother and Sister Lippman accepted callings as missionaries assigned to
Welfare Services, they were excited about the opportunity to work with people in
the ward—not that it hadn‘t caused some initial fear, but the more they
considered it, the more they appreciated it as an opportunity to serve others. The
bishop assigned them to visit with five families to see if there was anything they
could do to help.
That‘s how they met the Hall family—Brother and Sister Hall and five young
children all living in a one-room apartment in an unsafe part of town. Kitchen,
bedroom, dining room, and living room were all combined into the small space in
which they lived.
The father worked two jobs, but that still wasn‘t enough to improve the family‘s
situation. With five children and the cost of food, housing, and medical bills, they
had tried to make the best of their situation.
Blessings of the Fast
While the people in each of the above stories differ in many ways, they all have
one thing in common: their lives, along with the lives of many others, have been
blessed and enriched as a result of giving or receiving fast offerings. Fasting and
giving a generous offering for the relief of those in need strengthens and edifies
us and offers opportunities for rich spiritual experiences.
The process of fasting, of going without food for a little while, helps us both
physically and spiritually. ―Periodic fasting,‖ explained President Ezra Taft
Benson, ―can help clear up the mind and strengthen the body and the spirit.‖ 1
President Heber J. Grant promised that ―every living soul among the Latter-day
Saints that fasts two meals once a month will be benefitted spiritually and be built
up in the faith of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ—benefitted spiritually in a
wonderful way.‖ 2 President Joseph F. Smith said that ―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.‖
Fasting, however, has another purpose besides benefiting us personally. Elder L.
Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, ―An important reason
for fasting is to contribute the amount saved from the meals not eaten to care for
the poor and the needy.‖ 4
Showing compassion to those in need and giving of our abundance to help
others is an ancient principle. The Lord commanded Moses, ―Thou shalt not
harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt
open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need‖
Isaiah, in his day, suggested the same. ―Is not this the fast that I have chosen?‖
he asked. ―To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to
let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy
bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house?
when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him?‖ (Isa. 58:6–7).
The Saints of Alma‘s day offered an example for all ages: ―In their prosperous
circumstances, they did not send away any who were naked, or that were
hungry, or that were athirst, or that were sick, or that had not been nourished;
and they did not set their hearts upon riches; therefore they were liberal to all,
both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, whether out of
the church or in the church, having no respect to persons as to those who stood
in need‖ (Alma 1:30).
In these latter days, the Lord has restored the law of the fast as a pattern for
caring for the needy. President Brigham Young explained, ―Before tithing was
paid, the poor were supported by donations. They came to Joseph and wanted
help, in Kirtland, and he said there should be a fast day, which was decided
upon. It was to be held once a month, as it is now, and all that would have been
eaten that day of flour, or meat, or butter, or fruit, or anything else, was to be
carried to the fast meeting.‖ 5
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, ―Let this be an [example] to all saints, and
there will never be any lack for bread: When the poor are starving, let those who
have, fast one day and give what they otherwise would have eaten to the bishops
for the poor, and every one will abound for a long time. … And so long as the
saints will all live to this principle with glad hearts and cheerful countenances
they will always have an abundance.‖ 6
Something as basic as paying a generous fast offering can have a profound
effect in blessing the lives of those in need. President David O. McKay taught
that fasting and giving fast offerings provides ―an economic means, which, when
carried out by a perfect and active organization, will supply the needs of every
worthy poor person within the confines of the organized wards and branches of
the Church.‖ 7
President Gordon B. Hinckley has said that if the principles of fast day and the
fast offering were observed throughout the world, ―the hungry would be fed, the
naked clothed, the homeless sheltered. Our burden of taxes would be lightened.
The giver would not suffer but would be blessed by [this] small abstinence. A new
measure of concern and unselfishness would grow in the hearts of people
everywhere. Can anyone doubt the divine wisdom that created this program
which has blessed the people of this church as well as many who are not
members of this church?‖ 8
Some members may not know that fast offerings are used exclusively to feed the
hungry, clothe the naked, and relieve the suffering of others. Glen L. Rudd,
formerly of the Seventy and author of Pure Religion, a history of Church welfare,
explained in an interview: ―When you see a mother filling her empty shelves with
food and realizing she can feed her children, that‘s when you get a sense of the
sacred nature of fast offerings. Fast offering funds aren‘t sacred until they are
used to bless someone‘s life.‖
As a steward in the Lord‘s kingdom, the bishop has the responsibility to seek
inspiration in determining who receives assistance. Elder Rudd has said: ―The
welfare program was not instituted only for worthy people. It was instituted to
bless everybody, the worthy and the unworthy. To help center them and change
their lives. The whole purpose of welfare is to help people be better, happier, and
to experience more joy.‖ 9
In Gerry‘s case, the bishop knew that fast offerings were at his disposal to help
this broken man in his desire to put his life in order once again. He could literally,
as the Samaritan in Jesus‘ day, ensure that the man‘s wounds were bound up,
provide nutritious food to help restore his body, and take him to a place where he
could rest and heal. Counseling would be available through LDS Social Services.
And when the Larsens‘ bishop left their home, he felt confident that the family
would not go hungry. He knew that he held in trust the fast offerings which faithful
members of his ward had offered for this very purpose. Additionally, through the
Church welfare system, the bishop could supply the Larsens‘ cupboards with
food from the bishops‘ storehouse, he could furnish the home with beds and
mattresses from Deseret Industries, and he could refer the older children who
were looking for work to LDS Employment Services, where they could not only
seek available jobs but receive training in interviewing, job finding, and résumé
Steps toward Self-Reliance
In all cases, however, the bishops knew they must do more than merely relieve
present distress. They were to do what they could to teach principles of self-
reliance so that people could, in the future, not only help themselves, but in time
help others as well. This is one of the primary reasons the welfare program of
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is so successful in helping
people lift themselves.
One of the first steps a bishop takes as he works with families in need is to
examine the resources available to them from members of their extended family.
For example, an elderly widow‘s roof was leaking, and with her limited income
she could not afford the repairs. As she counseled with her bishop, he suggested
they explain the problem to her children and see if there was anything they could
The children decided to help. One said although he couldn‘t climb a ladder and
work on the roof, he could care for the yard. Another offered money. Others
offered labor. The bishop provided some of the roofing materials, and then the
children, with help from members of the ward, came together and repaired the
roof. The children felt pleased that they could work together and perform this
service. The love the mother felt for her children as a result of this experience
became a foundation for bringing the family closer together.
A primary goal of assisting families is to help them plan, prepare, and work for
the day when they can live without needing help from others. ―It is clear,‖
President Joseph F. Smith said, ―that plans which contemplate only relieving
present distress are deficient. … Our idea of charity, therefore, is to relieve
present wants and then to put the poor in a way to help themselves so that in
turn they may help others.‖ 10
Families who receive help from a bishop are expected to (1) work to become
self-reliant so that they, in turn, can help other people; and (2) where they are
able, perform some activity that will benefit someone else in return for the
Sister Larsen, for example, was offered the opportunity to help in the
meetinghouse doing some cleaning. The boys pulled weeds and cared for a few
of the widowed sisters‘ yards. Since Gerry had worked on and off as a
handyman, he was put to good use helping the elderly who were in need of home
When bishops use fast offerings in the Lord‘s way to help those in need, miracles
can happen. Gerry quit alcohol and drugs. His health improved and he began
helping with Scouting and youth activities. The Larsens became active in the
Church and never forgot the kindness of the bishop who came at the time they
needed help the most.
The Hall family began to see that there was a way out of their one-room
apartment. On assignment from the bishop, Brother and Sister Lippman helped
arrange visits to the dentist and doctor. An optician provided glasses for the
mother. For the first time in years, she could read to her children. The food and
clothing the bishop provided helped them save some money. After a year,
Brother and Sister Lippman helped them find a low interest home-buying
program for which they could qualify. Today the Hall family lives in their own
home. They are active in the Church and are preparing to go to the temple. And
they give encouragement to other families who feel hopeless and helpless and
“Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37).
Back when John and Shirley Merrill were trying to survive graduate school, they
watched as others extended a helping hand to people in need. They wanted to
do the same.
But 30 years of marriage had been filled with the wonders and distractions of a
busy life. Four of their six children needed braces; three went on missions; two
played sports; one danced. Between play performances, nights of tending fevers,
and days of struggling to bring in enough money to support the family, they
hardly had time for themselves, let alone for much else.
Now, as their last son stepped on the plane to begin his mission, the Merrills
were faced with an empty home for the first time. As they drove home they
reminded each other of how they had wanted to do something significant for
others in need. But Shirley had developed a painful arthritis that prevented her
from being very mobile, and John still had another seven years before retirement.
However, they knew that in their own city there was suffering and hunger. How
could they reach out and help the homeless? the hungry? the cold? One Sunday,
as they sang the opening hymn in sacrament meeting, these words had a
profound impact on them:
Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care,
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread,
My roof’s safe shelter overhead,
That he too may be comforted. 11
They realized that although their circumstances might keep them from doing
some of the things they had planned, one thing they could do was increase the
amount they paid in fast offerings.
President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency, reminded
the Saints that ―it is incumbent upon every Latter-day Saint to give to his bishop
on fast day an amount equivalent to the food that he and his family would
consume for the day and, if possible, a liberal donation to be so reserved and
donated to the poor.‖ 12
―Sometimes we have been a bit penurious,‖ President Spencer W. Kimball said,
―and figured that we had for breakfast one egg and that cost so many cents and
then we give that to the Lord. I think that when we are affluent, as many of us
are, … we ought to be very, very generous … and give, instead of the amount we
saved by our two meals of fasting, perhaps much, much more—ten times more
where we are in a position to do it.‖ 13
The Merrills came to discover that as they increased their fast offering, they were
blessed in rich and wonderful ways. They felt nearer to the Lord and felt in a
powerful way the blessings promised by Isaiah: ―And the Lord shall guide thee
continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou
shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not‖
Elder Harold B. Lee, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, ―If you
would qualify so that in times of trouble you could call and the Lord would … say,
‗Here I am,‘ … you must observe the fast day of the Lord and deal out your
‗bread to the hungry.‘ ‖ 14
Elder Marion G. Romney, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught: ―I
believe the most practical way to protect one‘s self and family against economic
need is to make liberal contributions for the support to the Lord‘s poor according
to the law of the Gospel. I am not promising you riches, but I am telling you that
this is the most practical way to protect yourselves and families from actual need.
―I believe that it is consistent with the laws of Heaven that one‘s right of reliance
upon the Lord for protection against want is in direct proportion to his own
liberality in sustaining the Lord‘s poor.‖ 15
The Savior urged those who followed him to be mindful of the poor and to have
compassion on those who suffer. Thus, he immortalized a Samaritan who, as he
was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, encountered a man who had been
robbed, beaten, and left on the side of the road to die. Never mind that the man
was a Jew, despised by many of the Samaritans. Never mind that a priest and a
Levite had previously passed by, ignoring him. Never mind that stopping to help
was inconvenient, time consuming, and costly. The Samaritan ―had compassion
on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and
… brought him to an inn, and took care of him‖ (Luke 10:33–34).
One of the ways we can follow the Samaritan‘s example and follow the Savior‘s
counsel to ―do likewise‖ (Luke 10:37) is to open our hearts and have compassion
on those who suffer and are in need.
As we give generous fast offerings, we literally feed the hungry, bind up the
wounds of the sick, and clothe the naked. By so doing, we not only bless the
lives of others, but we open the windows of heaven and qualify ourselves to
receive additional choice blessings from the Lord.
[illustration] The Good Samaritan, by Del Parson
[photos] Photography by Craig Dimond
1. In Conference Report, Oct. 1974, 92; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, 66–67.
2. Deseret News, 18 June 1932, 1.
3. ―Observance of Fast Day,‖ Improvement Era, Dec. 1902, 147.
4. In Conference Report, Apr. 1986, 39; or Ensign, May 1986, 31.
5. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young (1997), 150.
6. History of the Church, 7:413.
7. ―On Fasting,‖ Improvement Era, Mar. 1963, 156.
8. In Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 73; or Ensign, May 1991, 52–53.
9. Interview with author.
10. Gospel Doctrine (1939), 237.
11. ―Because I Have Been Given Much,‖ Hymns, no. 219.
12. In Conference Report, Oct. 1988, 55; or Ensign, Nov. 1988, 45.
13. In Conference Report, Apr. 1974, 184.
14. ―Make Our Lord and Master Your Friend,‖ Improvement Era, Dec. 1968, 72.
15. ―A Practical Religion‖ (address to seminary and institute faculty, Brigham
Young University, 13 June 1956), 15.
Neil K. Newell is a researcher-writer for the Church Welfare Services
Why do we hold fast and testimony meeting on the first Sunday of the
Glen M. Leonard, ―I Have a Question,‖ Ensign, Mar. 1998, 60–61
Glen M. Leonard,president of the Farmington Utah Stake and director of the
Museum of Church History and Art.
For half a century, beginning in the 1830s, fast and testimony meetings
convened on Thursday, following a practice approved by the Prophet Joseph
Smith. No written directive or explanation can be found that explains why that
day of the week came to be used. In latter-day revelation, the Lord commands
the Saints to ―continue in prayer and fasting‖ (D&C 88:76). Revelation to the
Prophet Joseph Smith linked prayer and fasting in two contexts—one with
Sabbath observance and the other with anticipated worship in the Kirtland
Temple (see D&C 59:9–14; D&C 88:76, 119).
In combining prayer and fasting, the Lord restored a practice enjoyed by faithful
people in earlier dispensations. References to fasting in the Old Testament, New
Testament, and Book of Mormon emphasize the purposes of fasting: drawing
closer to the Lord and seeking special blessings from him through prayer (see
Esth. 4:16; Isa. 58:3–7; Alma 5:46; and 3 Ne. 27:1).
In 1985 Elder Howard W. Hunter, then of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,
noted that the formal observance of regular public and private fasts was not
established until after the children of Israel left Egypt (see Ensign, Nov. 1985,
72). During Zachariah‘s reign in Israel, the people observed specific monthly
fasts. By the time the Savior began his ministry, many pious Jews were fasting
two days a week. Of greater importance to the Savior than specific times and
places was his admonition that fasting be observed in a spirit of sincerity (see
Many Christian denominations observe fasts, including observances tied to
specific days. Fasting is also observed by peoples in other religions outside
Judaism and Christianity.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught the importance of fasting as a means of
preparing oneself to approach Heavenly Father in prayer in times of special need
(see Joseph Smith, The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon
W. Cook , 37, 109, 255). However, a regular fast observance in the
restored Church emerged gradually.
For a year following the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, prayer meetings were
held in the temple each Thursday under the direction of the Prophet‘s father,
Joseph Smith Sr. Once a month, one of those prayer meetings was designated
as fast meeting. In these meetings, members prayed for the sick and spoke of
their deepest spiritual feelings. At some of these gatherings, the gifts of prophecy
and speaking in tongues were manifest (see Andrew Jenson, The Historical
Record, June 1886, 79–80; Kenneth W. Godfrey, Audrey M. Godfrey, and Jill
Mulvay Derr, Women’s Voices: An Untold History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830–
1900 , 60–61).
Elsewhere in Ohio in the 1830s, fast meetings were held on other days of the
week as needed. For example, in Columbiana County, in eastern Ohio, members
gathered in October 1837 for a Monday morning fast meeting following a
weekend conference (see Elders’ Journal, Oct. 1837, 15). Later that month,
members met in a Saturday fast meeting (see Elders’ Journal, Nov. 1837, 31).
Special fast meetings convened at other times during the early years of the
Church. While Joseph and Hyrum Smith were in Liberty Jail, their father called a
prayer and fast meeting that began at sunrise and continued until late afternoon
to ask ―the Lord to bless them and enable them to bear the cruelties that they
had to suffer and pass through‖ (―Autobiography of John Lowe Butler: 1808–
1861,‖ typescript, 16).
As the Saints moved from Ohio to Missouri and then into Illinois, fast meetings
continued on an occasional basis in response to specific needs (see History of
the Church, 4:389; 5:252; 7:264). In May 1845 the Quorum of the Twelve
Apostles reemphasized the need to fast regularly and to donate to the bishop for
the care of the poor (see History of the Church, 7:264, 413). From then until the
mobbings of September 1845, monthly fast meetings were held in Nauvoo on the
second Thursday of the month during the early part of the afternoon (see Diary of
Hosea Stout, ed. Juanita Brooks , 1:43, 47, 51, 57).
The exodus west interrupted the practice of regular fast meetings, but specific
needs prompted designated fasts from time to time. During the drought of 1855–
56 in pioneer Utah, President Brigham Young established a regular fast to help
ease the suffering caused by hard times. He designated the first Thursday of
each month for the observance. The food thus saved was distributed among the
poor, averting calamity resulting from food shortages due to drought, severe
winters, grasshopper infestation, the influx of LDS immigrants, and the large
numbers of California-bound gold seekers in need of supplies (see B. H. Roberts,
A Comprehensive History of the Church, 4:109–10).
From time to time during his presidency, President Young reiterated the
importance of fast day as a means of supporting the poor through donations. He
also reminded the Saints that Joseph Smith had established the first Thursday of
the month as fast day in Kirtland. ―All that was to be eaten that day, of flour, of
meat, or butter, or fruit, or anything else, was to be carried to the fast meeting
and put into the hands of a person selected for the purpose of taking care of it
and distributing it among the poor‖ (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A.
Widtsoe , 169).
Toward the end of the century, economic changes in the working world made it
difficult to attend a daytime Thursday fast meeting. In 1896 Hyrum M. Smith, then
a missionary in England, wrote to his father, President Joseph F. Smith, then
second counselor in the First Presidency, about the difficulty members faced
getting excused from their jobs to attend Thursday fast meetings. Workers had
no paid leave, and ―when these came from the pits, they had to go home, bathe,
and change their clothes‖ (see Joseph Fielding Smith, ―Prayer and Fasting,‖
Improvement Era, Dec. 1956, 895). He asked if Sunday would be a more
The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve prayerfully discussed the
question and felt guided to change fast meeting to the first Sunday of each
month. In announcing the change, President Wilford Woodruff and his counselors
said they recognized the need to make the meeting more accessible to all
members throughout the world. The change became effective on 6 December
Activities that had become part of the fast meeting continued: administering the
sacrament, bearing testimonies, blessing children, confirming new members, and
relieving the needs of the poor and ill (see James R. Clark, comp., Messages of
the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols.
Another change taking place in the 1890s in Utah was the transition from a barter
economy to a cash economy. As the Saints began to pay their tithes and
offerings mostly in cash, the deacons were assigned to call monthly on the
homes to collect the fast offerings. Members were no longer expected to bring
their offerings to the fast and testimony meeting (see Ensign, Nov. 1974, 15).
The First Presidency, along with local Church leaders, began to call other fasts
as needed. For example, Church leaders called special days of fasting and
prayer to raise funds to help complete the Salt Lake Temple (see ―The Salt Lake
Temple,‖ Contributor, Apr. 1893, 280–81). On 23 December 1889, Church
members observed the 84th anniversary of the Prophet Joseph Smith‘s birth with
fasting and prayer aimed at softening opposition toward the Church (see
Comprehensive History of the Church, 6:218–19). In the Salt Lake Temple in
1899, President Lorenzo Snow introduced a new emphasis on tithing during a
special fast meeting and solemn assembly of the priesthood of the Church (see
Comprehensive History of the Church, 6:358–60).
Several fasts in this century have supported humanitarian efforts. During a fast in
January 1921, the Saints contributed toward helping millions of hungry children in
Europe and Asia (see Messages of the First Presidency, 5:171, 188–89). Similar
fasts were held following World War II. In 1985 two special fasts were held for
hunger relief and community development in Africa, South America, and other
areas (see Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. ,
While the time and method of observing the fast and of making fast offerings
have changed, the eternal principle has remained intact: ―to continue in prayer
and fasting‖ as a way to draw close to the Lord and to seek his blessings for
those in need as well as for ourselves.
Howard W. Hunter, ―Fast Day,‖ Ensign, Nov 1985, 72
If it were not for general conference, we would be attending fast day services in
our own wards today because it is the first Sunday of the month. Not only would
we be attending the service, but we would be fasting in compliance with the
established practice of members of the Church. In this respect, The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unique, although the principle of fasting has
been observed down through ecclesiastical history.
It seems to be impossible to determine, from the records that are available to us,
the circumstances under which fasting originated in ancient times, or what its
purpose was in the beginning. Nevertheless, we find reference to it as having
been practiced in the earliest of times as an expression of grief or emotion. It was
associated with serious and heartfelt sorrow for sin, with times of mourning, and
with occasions of strong emotion.
The early Israelites practiced fasting, although there are very few references to it.
Usually such references as are made are associated with some particular
occasion or in connection with attempts to receive communications from God, as
was the case of the fasting of Moses and Elijah. (See Ex. 34:28; 1 Kgs. 19:8.)
Prior to the period of the exile, there are few records of fasting by the people of
Israel as a whole, except those fasts held for the needs of special occasions
such as the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. (See 1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Sam. 1:12.)
There were other public fasts to seek divine assistance before wars or battles.
(See Judg. 20:26; 2 Sam. 14:24; 2 Chr. 20:3.) It can be presumed that Moses
fasted because he mentioned fasting, without advocating any particular fast in his
After the period of the exile, however, both public and private fasts began to be
observed, sometimes accompanied by weeping and wearing sackcloth and
ashes. The most prominent fast was the annual Day of Atonement. It also
became a custom of the pious in Judaism to fast on two days of the week—the
second and fifth days, which were the days Moses went up and came down from
Approaching the Christian era, we find a great devotion to fasting among the
extreme groups of the Jews, particularly the Pharisees; but Jesus did not instruct
his disciples by setting down any specific requirements regarding the nature or
frequency of fasting. In his Sermon on the Mount, however, he said: ―When ye
fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance.‖ (Matt. 6:16.) This would
indicate that there should be sincerity when fasting was observed. He himself
had fasted forty days and forty nights. (See Matt. 4:2.)
Many of the things established by the early Church during the time of Christ were
changed and corrupted after the death of the last of the Apostles. Fasting and
prayer had been matters of voluntary observance, but eventually they became
subject to ecclesiastical rules and regulations which all communicants were
expected to follow and observe under pain of excommunication for the
When the early colonists settled the eastern seaboard of this country, they did
not follow the customary fasts of the churches from which they had departed.
They established their own fast days, many of which have been perpetuated to
the present time. Some of these fast days were supported by legislative bodies
or public officials.
Many of the early members of this Church were from New England or had a
background of the religious culture of the colonists, and fasting was part of their
religious beliefs. Because of this background, it may be that many of them felt the
need of close communion with their Heavenly Father. They followed the teaching
of the Lord by fasting in secret (see Matt. 6:17–18), but no mention is made of
this principle in the early history of the Church.
Modern revelation as contained in the Doctrine and Covenants makes little
mention of fasting and gives no specific instructions regarding it. A year and a
half after the Church was organized, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a
revelation which mentions observance of the Lord‘s day and incidentally refers to
fasting, without additional comment. This is the portion of the revelation that
makes mention of it:
―And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy food be prepared
with singleness of heart that thy fasting may be perfect, or, in other words, that
thy joy may be full.
―Verily, this is fasting and prayer, or in other words, rejoicing and prayer.‖ (D&C
This is an echo from Old Testament times, and the principle of fasting in the spirit
of prayer is confirmed in this dispensation.
The following year came a more explicit revelation on the subject from the Lord in
which he said, ―Also, I give unto you a commandment that ye shall continue in
prayer and fasting from this time forth.‖ (D&C 88:76.)
Prior to this time there had been no observance of a fast in the Church on any
regular basis. The wording of this revelation that ―ye shall continue in prayer and
fasting from this time forth‖ would seem to suggest the institution of fast
meetings, but apparently there were none until the building of the Kirtland
Temple in 1836.
The only other mention of fasting in modern revelation is in reference to the
building of the Kirtland Temple and in the prayer of dedication, in which the
temple is referred to as ―a house of prayer, a house of fasting.‖ (See D&C
88:119; D&C 95:7, 16; and D&C 109:8, 16.) There is frequent mention in the
Book of Mormon of fasting, but these are ancient writings, as are those in the
Bible. The scriptures of this dispensation give us little information.
We do not know when fasting was adopted in the Church as a regular
observance, but there are records that indicate that some fast meetings were
held in the Kirtland Temple on the first Thursday of each month in the year 1836.
There is no indication that these fasts were associated with donations to the
poor, except a remark made by Brigham Young more than thirty years later in the
Old Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. He had this to say:
―You know that the first Thursday in each month we hold as a fast day. How
many here know the origin of this day? Before tithing was paid, the poor were
supported by donations. They came to Joseph and wanted help, in Kirtland, and
he said there should be a fast day, which was decided upon. It was to be held
once a month, as it is now, and all that would have been eaten that day, of flour,
or meat, or butter, or fruit, or anything else, was to be carried to the fast meeting
and put into the hands of a person selected for the purpose of taking care of it
and distributing it among the poor‖ (Journal of Discourses, 12:115.)
Although Brigham Young indicated that this was the decision that was made,
there is no record that it was ever observed.
There were occasional fasts held in Nauvoo with some special objective in view,
but no fasts on a regular basis. It was not until 1845 that a fast was held in
Nauvoo to provide for the poor. In the History of the Church we find this notation
made by Brigham Young:
―Thursday, 15 … Fast Day: all works were stopped. Meetings were held in the
several wards and donations made to the bishops for the poor; enough was
contributed to supply the wants of the poor until harvest.‖ (History of the Church,
Special fast days for various purposes were held during the exodus from
Nauvoo, and after the Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, some fasts were
held on the first Thursday of the month. It cannot be determined with any
certainty when fast days became established on a regular basis, but during the
difficult years of 1855 and 1856, because of prolonged drought and famine, the
exceptionally hard winter, and the plague of grasshoppers, many of the Saints
were in desperate circumstances. This is what Brigham H. Roberts wrote of it:
―To meet the very great demands of charity upon Latter-day Saints in those trying
years, our fast day came into existence; the servants of the Lord instituted the
first Thursday in every month as fast day, with a view of taking what was saved
by this sacrifice and minister unto those who otherwise would be in want. This
plan of meeting that emergency became an established institution.‖ (in
Conference Report, Apr. 1913, p. 120.)
Prior to this time the poor had been sustained by donations, but now the care of
the poor became associated with fast day and what was donated became known
as fast offerings, which were brought to the monthly fast meetings. From this
early period when the Saints came to the valleys of the mountains to 1896, a
regular fast day was held on the first Thursday of each month, and offerings were
brought and given largely in kind.
In the early days when the membership of the Church was small, the holding of
fast day on Thursday was not a problem, but as time went on it caused
employees to take time from their work to attend fast meeting, merchants had to
close their businesses, and many other difficulties resulted from weekday
observance. A decision was made by the First Presidency and the Twelve that
the monthly fast meeting should be held on the first Sunday of each month. The
first Sunday of December, 1896, was the date set for the change. From that time
to the present—nearly a century—the fast day has been observed, in most
instances, on the first Sunday of the month as a religious practice.
Members of the Church may fast at any time as they have a need, but the fast
contemplated on the day referred to as fast day, as defined by President Joseph
F. Smith, ―is that food and drink are not to be partaken of for twenty-four hours,
‗from even to even.‘ ‖ From even to even has been given the meaning of going
without two meals—from the evening meal on the night before to evening meal
on fast day. President Smith went on to say:
―In addition, the leading and [principal] object of the institution of the fast among
the Latter-day Saints, was that the poor might be provided with food and other
necessities. It is, therefore, incumbent upon every Latter-day Saint to give to his
bishop, on fast day, the food that he or his family would consume for the day, that
it may be given to the poor for their benefit and blessing; or, in lieu of the food,
that its equivalent amount, or, if the person be wealthy a liberal donation, in
money be so reserved and dedicated to the poor.‖ (Improvement Era, Dec. 1902,
Are we not wealthy if the Lord has blessed us with something we can share with
To discipline ourselves through fasting brings us in tune with God, and fast day
provides an occasion to set aside the temporal so that we might enjoy the higher
qualities of the spiritual. As we fast on that day we learn and better understand
the needs of those who are less fortunate.
May the Lord bless us as we live his commandments and share with our brothers
and sisters, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Fasting between cultures
"He wants nothing at all to do with you if by your fasting you court Him as if you
were a great saint, and yet meanwhile nurse a grudge or anger against your
Jesus speaks of the hypocrites who fast so that other people are impressed. Fasts are not
for getting others to say, "wow, this is one holy dude". Fasts are between yourself and
God. Even a fast as an act done publicly with others (as, for instance, in Lent, Ramadan,
or Yom Kippur) is not about showing non-believers or fellow believers how holy you are.
They are not the point; the relationship between you and God is the point of a fast. (The
same can be said of most of those who rhapsodize about fasting in their sermons. Talk is
getting cheaper with each new day.)
Preparation for big steps/deeds : 1 Samuel 14:24; Judges 20:26 Acts 13:2-3
(Barnabas and Paul called as a team)
How does fasting help us prepare? By helping us put even our
most basic urges and needs into a lower priority than the task
at hand, so we can put our whole selves into it.
What effects make fasting useful for preparation?
Jesus fasted 40 days in the desert. That led to the temptations,
the first of which was to use his powers to make food for
himself. Since he was in a fast period preparing himself for the
ministry and the trial ahead of him, feeding himself would
have made the preparation incomplete. The task ahead was
way too important. He had to maintain focus on what God was
Paul spent much time isolated after conversion; as a good Jew,
periods of fasting were a part of that time.
In Didache 7.4, days of fasting were specified for the ones being
baptized and the ones baptizing them.
In some Jewish traditions, the bride and groom fast in
preparation on their wedding day up to the time of the
ceremony. Then, of course, they feast.
Most religions use fasting, usually as self-discipline and preparation. They use it
defeating evil spirits which show forth in the desire for material
a discipline for one's 'evil' bodily (material) nature, to force it to
submit to God.
a way to become one with the experience of Christ's suffering
by way of one's own suffering.
You don't need to fast to be saved, at least not according to Scripture.
Stop fasting for preparation when the time has come to do what you're preparing for.
Fasting from food is not dieting.
Fasting is not for self-punishment.
It is also not right to harm yourself in a way that might make you a burden to others
who would have to give you physical care.
Don't fast when it's time to celebrate and have fun. Jesus' disciples generally didn't
fast on the usual Jewish fast days, because they were with One who was so great they had
to use all the time and energy they could muster to sink into Him. They fasted after He
was gone, as part of their standing as apostles before God for the whole Church.
While fasting is a useful tool, it is important to recognize that it is a tool only. Its
purpose is limited, and it can become useless and even selfish if it does not
deepen our compassion and teach us how to more fully love God and our
"Fasting is the greatest remedy--the physician within!"--
Philippus Paracelsus, famed Swiss physician, alchemical genius of the Middle
Ages, and one of three Fathers of Western Medicine, with Greece's Hippocrates
and Galen who, like fellow Greeks Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle,
practiced and prescribed prolonged fasting. Plato said he fasted "for greater
physical and mental efficiency," just as Pythagoras, often described
as the first pure mathematician, wouldn't even introduce his advanced students
to his higher theorems and tenets until they'd done 40-day fasts.