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What Is Fasting? Why Do Church members Fast?

By Comeuntochrist.org
Family saying prayer on food

Physical and Spiritual Cleansing

For some in society, fasting means to go without all or some kinds of food or drink, but why would anyone ever choose to go without? Some people choose to fast as a way of occasionally cleansing their bodies of accumulated impurities, but did you know that fasting can be very cleansing for the spirit as well?

Fasting Has a Long History

The following statement from the Gospel Topics page on “Fasting” on LDS.org is helpful in understanding the history of fasting and why people have chosen to participate in this practice throughout the ages: “Fasting has been a practice of the prophets of God and members of His Church since ancient times. In Old Testament times, Moses and Elijah fasted (see Exodus 34:28; 1 Kings 19:8). For the Israelites, fasting was often used for certain occasions or for divine assistance. In New Testament times, Jesus Christ fasted 40 days and 40 nights in preparation for His ministry (see Matthew 4:1–4). He taught His disciples about the power and importance of fasting.”

Spiritual Tools

Through His prophets, Heavenly Father has taught His children about tools they can use to communicate with Him. Prayer is the most vital tool for sustaining an ongoing relationship with Heavenly Father throughout our lives, and when coupled with fasting, it becomes powerful.

There is an incident described in Mark in the New Testament when the Savior successfully casts out a menacing evil spirit from a young man after His Apostles failed to do so. When the Apostles later inquired of the Savior why they were unable to help the young man, the Savior answered, saying, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but prayer and fasting,” indicating that for His Apostles and for us, fasting combined with prayer is a powerful force.

There are times in life when we need more than simple prayer can provide, and fasting is another tool we can use to bring ourselves closer to Heavenly Father and receive the blessings He has for us. When we are seeking guidance and answers to our prayers, the Lord expects us to first do our part—all we can do—before He provides answers or relief for the challenges we face. This can be hard, but it can be viewed as evidence of our Heavenly Father’s love because it allows us to grow and get the most learning out of every experience. We must have our faith tried before we receive the blessings, much like the fact that we don’t receive an honest paycheck without performing an honest day’s work. Blessings are earned (see Ether 12:6 and 2 Nephi 25:23).

Fasting is a tool we can use to show the Lord we are humble and willing to sacrifice for much-needed blessings. It’s a tool that can improve our communication with our Heavenly Father and can improve both the physical and spiritual parts of us.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Fasting

Fasting is a practice that many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participate in, both individually and collectively. One Sunday of every month is called “fast Sunday,” when Church members are provided the opportunity to fast together, sometimes for a unified purpose; other times it’s simply an opportunity to undertake a personal fast.

Families, including children ages eight and older, are encouraged to go without food and water for two consecutive meals in a 24-hour period and are invited to donate the money they would have spent on those meals to the poor and needy with what’s called a “fast offering.” In this video, President Henry B. Eyring describes how these donations are distributed to bless the lives of people all over the world.