Fasting is one of my favorite doctrinal topics, and one that I’m actually incredibly fired up about most of the time. The LDS Church holds a Fast Sunday once a month that keeps us in the habit of regularly fasting, or going without food or water for two meals (or for 24 hours, depending on the person). We can then donate the money we would have spent on those two meals for those who can’t afford to have any. Beyond this basic, surface explanation of fasting there is SO much to this simple act than meets the eye.
Isaiah 58 has become one of my favorite sections of the Bible, a passage I find oddly exciting and invigorating. The entire chapter is dedicated to describing what a fast should be and then laying out all of the incredible blessings that come from it. Let’s look at some of Isaiah’s words.
A Proper Fast – What Are Your Motives?
To start the chapter, Isaiah brings up the way that the Israelites are currently fasting, and questions if this is the way God intended the fast to be:
4 Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?
Basic Principle: Fasting is not to look holier to those around us, to be seen as going without sustenance and suffering for it, nor should we be complaining about how hungry we are the whole time looking for sympathy or whatever it might be.
The proper reasons for fasting are laid out as such:
6 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?
7 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?
Basic Principle: The main reasons for fasting are to help people in need by giving up those funds, and also to help ourselves loose those ties and bands that keep us in bondage. As we sincerely fast, not for our own glory before men, but to strengthen our connection with Christ and to help our fellow men, we unlock the promised blessings.
Blessings of the Fast – What Does It Do?
So for a lot of people Isaiah is a pain, but I think the language in these next verses is some of the most beautiful in all of the scriptures. He describes in poetic language some of the blessings that can come as we wholeheartedly fast. The scriptures read:
8 ¶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 rearward.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
10 And 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:
11 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.
Basic Principle: We will be blessed with health, the glory of the Lord bearing us up, a stronger connection to the Lord in our prayers as we seek answers and blessings, we will be filled with light, have continual guidance from the Lord, and be given the things we need. These and more are the blessings God promises us as we seek to cheerfully and wholeheartedly keep the commandment to fast.
Conclusion – Fasting as a Superboost
In class, we talked about how fasting is a chance to realign the power struggle between the physical body and the spirit, allowing for the spirit to be stronger than the body. I realized this a few years ago, and this principle has guided me a lot as I’ve truly fasted with real intent since then. Keeping a regular fast has helped me to know that I am strong enough to deny some of the worldly wants in order to be closer to the Lord and gain those much more important spiritual needs. Fasting is a beautiful principle, and I have so much faith in the practice of it, because of what I have seen happen in my life. In my mind, I always think of fasting as as superboost to my spirit, where there is extra power behind a prayer (of any kind), and where I can better hear the voice of my Lord giving me that guidance I so desperately need. This is something I have seen and felt personally countless times.
I know fasting is given to us as a commandment for a reason, and I have so much faith in the power it brings into our lives. I know the more experiences each of us have with meaningful fasts, the greater desire we will have to continue to do it. I know if ever I am feeling weak-spirited and in need of extra help, I am just a fast away from where I want to be. I need the strengthened connection with God that comes from fasting, when it feels like everything else seeks to weaken my connection with my Heavenly Father, and I am grateful that He gave us a tool to bring this beautiful superboost to our spiritual efforts.