Religious Fasting

The scriptures mention fasting in several places, and it’s a common practice within my own Church. However, I realized I’m not very familiar with fasting traditions in other religions and denominations. I’m aware of Lent, which seems related to fasting, since it involves abstaining from a specific thing for a period of time. And I know some other religious holidays are associated with fasting, such as Ramadan for Islam and Yom Kippur for Judaism. I was curious to learn about anyone else’s experience with fasting, specifically as relating to a religious practice or tradition, including how fasting is generally observed within your religious tradition,and/or any of your personal experiences or feelings on fasting. :slight_smile:

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka LDS or Mormons), we are encouraged to fast at least once a month for a specific purpose, provided one is physically able to do so. It typically involves going without food and drink for two consecutive meals over a 24 hour period. (So for example, after dinner, you could begin your fast, then go without breakfast or lunch the following day, and ending right before having that day’s dinner.) However, those who have difficulty with this kind of fast can modify it to whatever they are able to do. It’s more than simply abstaining from food or drink; we fast for a purpose by beginning with a prayer asking God for a specific blessing or help overcoming a particular trial. Temporarily setting aside our body’s physical needs gives us an opportunity to focus more on our spiritual needs, and to exercise temperance and self-control. Finally, when we fast, we donate to the needy an amount at least worth what we would have spent on food during the fast, though if able members are encouraged to donate more. These “fast offerings” are specifically set aside for helping the needy. I volunteered my time as a financial clerk for my congregation some years ago, and while I can’t go into specifics for privacy reasons, I can say that I’ve seen fast offerings used to help people with food, medical expenses, housing, and counseling.

To me, fasting has been a source of comfort and personal strength from time to time. I’m a person who loves to eat… sometimes a little too much if I’m being honest. :sweat_smile: Not that there’s anything wrong with enjoying good food of course. But fasting is an opportunity to practice setting aside some of the things I want in order to focus on something more important, and also to keep in mind that there are those who have greater need than I.

Most of the fasting I do is for Lent, and it’s not usually of food. My diet is so weird and irregular what with my job, it would be hard to pull off anyway! But I think the idea of fasting by abstaining temporarily from something is good. It helps focus on God, and remind you of the value of His gift (specifically the one you fast from).

But there’s no reason Lent has to be the only time one fasts!

Fasting is something that was done in my non-denominational, possibly tending apostolic, church growing up.

There was never a set time to do it or anything like that. It was typically done when one wanted to be closer to God. One was meant to spend the time one would have spent eating in prayer instead. It was also often done if one had a particular issue that one wanted to pray about/get answers for etc.

It was encouraged as a way of showing devotion to God but we were never expected or forced to do it.