May Wheeler shares her heartfelt reflections on fasting and Fast Sunday. How could she find more joy in fasting?
Fasting is a law that the Lord has restored in the latter days. In obedience to this law, we, as a church, once each month, fast on the first Sunday. We are instructed that a proper fast day observance includes abstaining from food and drink for two consecutive meals.
Sounds easy enough right?
So then I’m left to ponder and self-reflect on why I struggle so much with this. I know this is something that’s good for me, that Heavenly Father wants for me. Why am I not finding as much joy in it as promised?
I can only speak for myself, but I’ve narrowed it down to a few ways I may be fasting wrong and perhaps talking about my mistakes will help someone else out, too.
Lack of Preparation: 24 hours/2 meals/ no water
My first problem is thinking about it or being reminded of it by my kids Sunday morning when I should have really had it on my mind Saturday night.
Gospel Principles reminds us that fasting for 24 hours includes 2 consecutive meals and abstaining from drinking water. If I intended to partake in a proper fast, I should have planned ahead the night before not to eat any snacks or drink any water after my evening meal.
Elder Carl B. Pratt of the First Quorum of the Seventy also notes a second problem: “If we are guilty of taking our fast day for granted or simply fasting Sunday morning instead of making it two complete meals -24 hours- we are depriving ourselves and our families of the choice spiritual experiences and blessings that can come from a true fast.”
Forgetting to Pray
In addition to forgetting about fasting in the first place, another problem in my fast comes from forgetting something else—Prayer!!!!
We should be opening our fast with a prayer and closing the fast with a prayer.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught, “Without prayer, fasting is not complete fasting; it’s simply going hungry. If we want our fasting to be more than just going without eating, we must lift our hearts, our minds, and our voices in communion with our Heavenly Father. Fasting, coupled with mighty prayer is powerful. It can fill our minds with revelations of the spirit and strengthen us against times of temptation.”
Have A Purpose
When a fast sneaks up on me, often I just don’t eat in order to not get in trouble with more righteous family members. At those times I don’t have a purpose to my fast other than “to be seen of men”—or my kids or my husband.
But there’s always something to be fasting for.
You can fast for guidance in your life,
-for a loved one who is struggling,
-for people in your ward,
-for church leaders like your Bishop or the Brethren,-for missionaries,
-you can even ask someone else you know what they are fasting for and fast along with them.
Elder Pratt said it this way: “If all we do abstain from food and drink for 24 hours and pay our fast offering, we have missed a wonderful opportunity for spiritual growth.”
Be of Good Cheer
In our home, we don’t talk to each other much during fast Sunday until AFTER DINNER because we are all so grumpy and hangry. But in 3 Nephi 13:16-18, we are reminded that we should fast with a cheerful countenance.
“But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father, who is in; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”
Whining or complaining about fasting, even to ourselves, shortchanges us of potential blessings we could have received for our efforts.
Other Elements to Remember
I know this does not cover every potential problem one might encounter when trying to participate in a proper fast. There are other elements to remember such as fast offerings, which are used to care for the poor and needy, and attending our church meetings, which are equally as important and will enhance our fasting experience.
“It’s Fast Sunday”
In closing, I just wanted to share a quick story. After finding out what my topic was, I didn’t share with my family. I was just pondering to myself. Then my wonderful inlaws came to visit and my mother-in-law is amazing at creating crafts with my kids. So they decided to make little tiles with messages on them. Myla, without hestitiation, said she wanted her tile to say “It’s Fast Sunday, because mom and dad always forget.”
I, of course, had a mom fail moment realizing how obvious my shortcomings are to my children. But I also knew in that moment that Brother Aronica was inspired to have me speak on this topic for me, because I needed to be reminded the most. And my sweet daughter innocently and lovingly allowed the Lord to inspire her and drive the point home by putting it in black in white.
In feeling like kinda a failure, the upside to the story is that my other sweet girl, Cyri, chose the words “Love is Spoken Here’’ on her tile. I was touched and cried inside. I instantly felt Heavenly Father’s love. He knows me. He knew that my heart would break a little when I read the truth in Myla’s tile but the words on Cyri’s tile was such a tender mercy and confirmation that I am not perfect but I also haven’t completely failed and to keep trying whether it be at having more sincere fasting or other parts of my life.
Brothers and sisters, I have a testimony that a fast done right is a window to the blessings of heaven and our efforts are seen by the Lord.