We didn’t sing this song in Sacrament meeting this morning but it’s the one Hymn title that comes to mind when I am thinking about fasting. I don’t have this particular hymn memorized but I’m adding it to my list of things to do….maybe even this week.
In fasting we approach thee hereAnd pray thy Spirit from aboveWill cleanse our hearts, cast out our fear,And fill our hunger with thy love.
Thru this small sacrifice, may weRecall that strength and life each dayAre sacred blessings sent from thee—Fill us with gratitude, we pray.
And may our fast fill us with careFor all thy children now in need.May we from our abundance share,Thy sheep to bless, thy lambs to feed.
This fast, dear Father, sanctify—Our faith and trust in thee increase.As we commune and testify,May we be filled with joy and peace.
I did fast today as I have many of the first Sundays of the month over the last 35 years since I’ve been baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. But I’ve always had questions about if I’m doing it right.
The missionaries, as I learned about the restored gospel, taught me the way to pray. They taught me to read and study the scriptures every day. My visiting teachers taught me how to love my sisters and serve them. I have learned to be a leader in this church by watching others lead in loving and patient ways.
But fasting has been a sort of mystery to me. I know that you begin your fast with a prayer, addressing Heavenly Father and talking to him about the purpose of your fast. Then you fast for 24 hours and skip two meals. The cost of the meals you would have eaten are given as a fast offering to feed those in need. At the end of the fast and before your next meal you pray and thank God for his blessings. Over the length of the fast there should be regular prayers again focused on the purpose of the fast.
That’s what I know and I have been doing that, imperfectly and unsurely for a long , long time. But I always question if I’m doing it right.
Carl B Pratt of the First Quorum of the Seventy said in October 2004 General Conference:
The purpose of our fast may be a very personal one. Fasting can help us overcome personal flaws and sins. It can help us overcome our weaknesses—help them become strengths. Fasting can help us become more humble, less prideful, less selfish, and more concerned about the needs of others. It can help us see more clearly our own mistakes and weaknesses and help us be less prone to criticize others. Or our fast may have a focus on a family challenge. A family fast might help increase love and appreciation among family members and reduce the amount of contention in the family, or we might fast as a couple to strengthen our marriage bonds. A purpose of our fast as priesthood holders might be to seek the Lord’s guidance in our callings, as President Hinckley has demonstrated, or we might fast with our home teaching companion to know how to help one of our families.
Throughout the scriptures the term fasting is usually combined with prayer. “Ye shall continue in prayer and fasting from this time forth” is the Lord’s counsel (D&C 88:76). Fasting without prayer is just going hungry for 24 hours. But fasting combined with prayer brings increased spiritual power.
When the disciples were unable to cure a boy who was possessed of an evil spirit, they asked the Savior, “Why could not we cast him out?” Jesus responded, “This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:19, 21).
So, I wonder if I’m not overthinking this whole thing? Why am I making it more complicated than it sounds like it is? I do know the steps. And today, as I am pondering my sacrifice through fasting I feel an affirmation that it has been acceptable to the Lord.
Elder Shayne M Bowen of the Seventy in April 2009 General Conference said:
What if there were a way to overcome our habits, addictions, and burdens? What if there were a way to gain sufficient confidence in the Lord that you could call down the powers of heaven? What if there were principles you could teach your loved ones that, if applied, would allow them to overcome personal weaknesses and draw closer to God?
As we properly understand and live the law of the fast, these desired blessings can be ours.
“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?” (Isaiah 58:6).
Our Father will free us from the bands of wickedness, He will lift our heavy burdens, and He will let the oppressed go free. In fact He promises to empower us to break every yoke. What an enabling promise, to have the power to break every yoke!
Proper and consistent fasting can help us overcome sins, bad habits, and addictions. Is there any of us who would not want to be freed from the personal burdens we carry? Fasting allows us to avail ourselves of this cleansing and purifying power.
The key is to develop the faith and spiritual strength necessary to receive the blessings of fasting.
So here’s what I know today after seriously thinking all of this over. I think the words Proper Fasting is the things that always tripped me up.
But what is proper fasting? It is meaningful prayer.
It is not moping around and drawing attention to yourself because you’re hungry, “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.
“But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast” (Matthew 6:16–18).
It is going without food or drink for the full 24 hours.
It is a generous fast offering. 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
I’m doing it right, most of the time.
The other thing I learned today is that it’s ok to fast for things you personally need. It’s ok to worry about your own self. Your own spirituality, physical body, and growth.
Joseph B. Worthlin taught,
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
One thought on “In Fasting We Approach Thee”
This gives me an excellent idea for my upcoming lesson on fasting in Gospel Principles class in a couple weeks. Thanks!