Fasting: More Than a Rumbling Stomach
For some, “fast Sunday” is more a wish for the day to go by quickly than a title for the day we worshipfully forgo food. As stomachs rumble and energy droops, it’s easy to forget why we went without breakfast that morning. It becomes purely a duty rather than a means to come nearer to God. Over the years BYU devotional speakers have shared insights on the many reasons we fast and how fasting can build a deeper connection with our Father in Heaven.
To Give Thanks
“Three hundred sixty-four years ago, Governor William Bradford declared a three-day fast, and a small group of pilgrims gathered to ‘worship and give thanks to God.’ . . .
“. . . In our hearts, is there sufficient thankfulness to really give praise to our benevolent Father? Does this thankfulness result in showing any true gratitude? . . . Or are some of our prayers and our lives like those described by the poet Robert Burns— ‘Three mile prayers and one-half mile graces’? Have we learned to say thank you and to show thank you? . . .
“Thankfulness may indeed be measured by the number of words we use. Gratitude, however, must be measured by the nature of our actions.”
—Dee F. Andersen, “Thanks-Living,” 26 November 1985
To Show Humility
“Fasting [is] going without food or drink so that the senses are sharpened, the mind is alert, and humility is deepened. Awareness of our total reliance on God is a great boon to understanding and experiencing things of the Spirit. The Master fasted for forty days after his baptism. Moses fasted for forty days in the mountain before he received the commandments written by the finger of the Lord. I am not recommending forty days or five days or even two days in succession, but I am recommending twelve days a year and perhaps an additional day here and there as the Spirit directs. There is a special power that comes to the spirit through fasting.”
—Hartman Rector Jr., “The Talent of Spirituality,” 11 December 1979
To Receive Revelation
“There are times when it is needful to fast so that we can receive personal revelation. Alma had a great desire to know the truthfulness of the doctrines. To know with a surety, he prepared himself through fasting and prayer:
“Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me. [Alma 5:46]
“The sons of Mosiah prepared themselves by the same means: ‘They had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the . . . spirit of revelation’ (Alma 17:3).”
—L. Lionel Kendrick, “Personal Revelation,” 20 May 1997
To Bear Testimony
“The closing of this day, a fast and testimony day to most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, brings to an end the fasting, praying, singing, learning, and testifying activities conducted in Mormon congregations throughout the world. It is conceivable that many members will mark this day as just another Sabbath. For others, particularly those who actively participated in the bearing of personal testimony, this day will be recorded as something special and memorable. . . .
“As this day of stated testimonies closes, I wonder about tomorrow. I wonder if the Monday, the Tuesday, the Wednesday, and the other work days to follow will be filled with unstated testimonies. It is one thing to acknowledge evidences of a supreme being and to testify of God’s existence, but it is a far better thing to live in accord with his divine will.”
—Carlos E. Asay, “A Cloud of Witnesses,” 6 May 1979
To Receive Blessings
“If you’ll . . . go to the Lord with prayer, with fasting, you’ll get everything you need answered. Whatever will be for your good and benefit you shall receive, because the Lord loves his children. He loves all of his children. I think he loves them all equally. . . . He loves all his children, and he wants to bless them. . . . He delights to do it.”
—Hartman Rector Jr., “How to Know If Revelation Is from the Lord,” 6 January 1976
To Gain Strength
“All of the following men drew themselves away—most of them in fasting and mighty prayer—to receive direction and the strength to do what must be done. Moses on Mount Sinai, Nephi, Enos, Joseph Smith, and President Kimball—to name but a few—all formed a solid partnership with their Creator. All were feeling inadequate. All had monumental assignments or decisions to make. Even the most extraordinary being on this earth, Christ Himself, found it necessary to draw Himself away for 40 days before commencing His life’s work. At the end of this time a partnership had been forged that would sustain Him through Satan’s temptations and, finally, through His unimaginable suffering.
“How much greater is our need? I venture to say that every man and woman sitting behind me on this stand, as well as many of you in this assembly today, have already formed this partnership and through it have experienced extraordinary miracles.”
—Lawrence P. Vincent, “Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Miracles,” 4 November 2003
To Resist Sin
“It is not enough simply to try to resist evil or empty our lives of sin. We must also fill our lives with righteousness. We must engage in activities that bring spiritual power. . . . Fasting for specific strength or special blessings can strengthen us beyond our normal ability. . . . We must do more than simply remove the negative influences from our lives. We must replace them with righteous activities that fill us with the strength and determination to live as we should.”
—Ezra Taft Benson, “The Law of Chastity,” 13 October 1987