“Remembering Him as we fast may make it easier to endure those short 24 hours without food or drink ..” May we each learn to receive the blessings of obeying the law and covenant of the fast.
What is the Law or Covenant of the Fast?
The law is just all the things we are expected to do, in this case, the commandments of God. A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and a person or group of people, between Him and us. God sets specific conditions (the laws), and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions. We agree to live by his law and it becomes a covenant between Him and us. Jer 31:33 reads: “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Through latter-day revelation we learn that the Lord expects us to fast and pray often. D&C 88:76 says: “[..] I give unto you a commandment that ye shall continue in prayer and fasting from this time forth.” Elder Pratt in his Oct 2004 conference address entitled 'The Blessings of a Proper Fast' taught: “Fasting has always been a practice among God’s people. In our day it is a commandment given by the Lord to all members of the Church. In addition to occasional special fasts that we might have for personal or family reasons, we are expected to fast once a month on the first Sunday. [.. T]here are three aspects to a proper fast day observance: first, abstaining from food and drink for two consecutive meals or, in other words, 24 hours; second, attending fast and testimony meeting; and third, giving a generous fast offering. [..] For those who are physically able, fasting is a commandment. Speaking of our monthly fast day, President Joseph F. Smith said: “The Lord has instituted the fast on a reasonable and intelligent basis. … Those who can are required to comply … ; it is a duty from which they cannot escape; … it is left with the people as a matter of conscience, to exercise wisdom and discretion. … “But those should fast who can. … None are exempt from this [who are able]; it is required of the Saints, old and young, in every part of the Church” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 244)
“The fast day is a special day for us to humble ourselves before the Lord in fasting and prayer. It is a day to pray for forgiveness from our sins and for the power to overcome our faults and to forgive others.” (Gospel Principles: Fasting) Fasting is more than simply going without food, it is the Lord's way of providing for the poor among us. We get the opportunity to help them in the Lord's way. In return He promises us blessings and strength. As He said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40) and “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” (D&C 82:10)
Remembering the Fast
It strikes me that, just as with the sacrament, there is much symbolism in the Lord's commandment to have us participate in a fast each month.
With the partaking of the sacrament, we promise to 'always remember' Him. The symbols of the bread and the water remind us of His broken body and precious blood spilled for us. In completing a proper fast, we are further reminded of His sacrifice in accomplishing the Atonement for us.
We endure a short period of minor discomfort in not eating or drinking for 24 hours once each month. He, on the other hand, endured unimaginable pain for us all in the garden.
In conjunction with fasting, we learn to pray with more focus and intent. He prayed perfectly with all power and infinite effect for us.
After fasting, we are blessed to be able to give food and comfort to some of the needy through our individual fast offerings. With His sacrifice, he is able to provide resurrection to all and forgiveness on condition of repentance to each who chose to turn to him.
We gain spiritual power, insight and blessings from the Spirit through obedience to this practice. He obtained all power and oneness with His Father and with the Spirit with His obedience.
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, following the example of Him. However, we should not fast too frequently or for excessive periods of time.
Remembering Him as we fast may make it easier to endure those short 24 hours without food or drink .. you should find joy in the experience.
Fasting to express gratitude
On 26 December 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois, the Prophet Joseph Smith was unjustly arrested and summoned to Springfield, Illinois. The charges against him were dismissed on 6 January 1843, allowing him to return to Nauvoo. To celebrate, the Quorum of the Twelve set aside “a day of humiliation, fasting, praise, prayer, and thanksgiving” (History of the Church, 5:209, 244, 248).
President Gordon B. Hinckley, in an Oct 1994 conference talk, mentioned a letter he had received written by a woman who expressed her gratitude to the Lord. In her letter she wrote, “Most of my fasts are ‘thankful’ fasts” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 75). This idea of 'thankful' fasts was new to me, but agrees with all I have learned on the subject. Just as prayers are for more than just asking for bigger and better blessings, prayer and fasting are natural and proper ways we can express our gratitude to Him for all that we already have received. Remembering the symbolism of the Christ's Atonement as we fast helps me feel gratitude for the many blessings we enjoy now.
As a missionary we taught that the elements of prayer included these four elements:
1) Start the prayer with His name; “Dear Heavenly Father”,
2) Thank him for specific blessings you have received,
3) Tell him about your life, your troubles and ask for blessings desired, and finally
4) Close 'in the name of Jesus Christ'.
Perhaps we could consider using a similar formula for our fast day.
- Prepare. Start your fast with a prayer to Him, .. it is His day, His law.
- Show Gratitude. As you fast, take time to make a list, mentally or even on paper or in your personal journal, of the things for which you are grateful.
- Search, Ponder and Learn. Find quiet time to ask for direction in your areas of concern. Ponder the things you should do to help move forward. Attend the fast day testimony meeting. Pay your fast offerings. Wait for answers, they will come to you in your heart and in your mind.
- Close your fast with individual and family prayers.
A More Perfect Fast
D&C 59:13-14 “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.” The Lord equates fasting with rejoicing and with thanksgiving and so should we. D&C 59:15-18 “And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving, with cheerful hearts and countenances [..] the fulness of the earth is yours, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which climbeth upon the trees and walketh upon the earth; Yea, and the herb, and the good things which come of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens, or for vineyards; Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof [..]”. Not only are we able to provide for the poor with our fast offerings, we are promised blessings ourselves with 'the fullness of the earth'. Matt 6:16 “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” On this day, we are commanded to 'do none other thing' so that our fast may be 'perfect'. Perhaps we could skip the game or TV that night – forgo the worldly and focus on the spiritual – just a suggestion. Fasting in the right way brings us feelings of joy and rejoicing. Fasting the wrong way is just going hungry. The Spirit you feel during fasting perfectly will provide divine knowledge, comfort, guidance and power.
Attend fast and testimony meeting To help complete your fast, attend and participate in fast and testimony meeting in your home ward. You may feel prompted to bear your own testimony there, or you can participate by being present, listening intently, and feeling the spirit that comes from hearing other testimonies being born.
Complete your fast by giving a generous fast offering. “As part of the fast, members of the Church contribute a generous fast offering for the care of the poor and the needy. This offering should be at least the value of the two meals the Church member went without while fasting. These funds are used to provide food, shelter, and other necessities to people in need, both locally and worldwide. There is no standard donation amount for fast offerings. As you contribute generously to these funds, you will be blessed both spiritually and temporally for your desire to help others.” (Manual: Tithing and Fast Offerings) “A proper fast includes giving a generous fast offering, to help care for those in need. Fast offerings are first used to help those in the ward and stake where we reside. Bishops use these funds to provide food, shelter, clothing, and other life-sustaining aid to those in need.”.
Isaiah 58:6-8 “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? 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 [..].
Blessings of the Fast
We can fast for many purposes. As noted above, fasting is one way of worshiping God and expressing gratitude to Him. We can fast for ourselves as well as for others we care for. We can fast as we strive to humble ourselves before God and exercise faith in Jesus Christ. Through fasting we can gain strength to resist temptation. Fasting may accompany righteous sorrow or mourning. We can fast as we ask Heavenly Father to bless the sick or afflicted or struggling. We may fast to receive guidance in sharing the gospel and magnifying Church callings. Fasting may help us and those we love receive personal revelation and become converted to the truth.
Alma 17:3 describes the sons of Mosiah and Alma in this way. “But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.”
May we each learn to receive the blessings of obeying the law and covenant of the fast. Remember:
- Fast perfectly .. for 24 hours. Remembering Him and the Atonement as we fast may make it easier to endure those short 24 hours without food or drink ..
- Make your fasts ‘thankful’ fasts .. 1) prepare, 2) make gratitude lists, 3) search, ponder and learn from the spirit, 4) close your fast with prayer. A 'perfect fast' is fasting and prayer or in other words fasting and rejoicing.
- As part of your fast, attend and participate in your home ward fast and testimony meeting and giving a generous fast offering. Take time to ponder and hear.
- Complete your fast with sincere prayer.