Since the first days of the church, the age-old spiritual practice of fasting has been an integral part of Christ’s main message from the Gospel.
In the Acts of the Apostles leaders of the church received an enthusiastic response from their people when they urged them to pray and fast to discern God’s will and to pray for answers to their problems (Acts 13:1-3).
A quick search on how often prayer and fasting are mentioned in the sacred Scriptures is astounding. We easily see how prayer and fasting are almost synonymous to each other throughout the Bible.
Fasting on bread and water is learnable and even lovable. What is being given up in the body God returns in Spirit, resulting in a newfound closeness to God and a reinforcement of prayer.
The fruits of fasting
To people of our time, and to most of the faithful who take up the practice and habit of fasting, Wednesdays and Fridays are days of bread and water. This is what the early church asked for mainly to unite ourselves to the poor. The best fast is on bread and water.
Through fasting and prayer, people have stopped wars, suspended the laws of nature, even natural disasters. Look at the prophets of the Old and New Testaments. Even the Hindu Gandhi was able to bring peace to India through fasting. Imagine what Christians might accomplish in the name of Jesus Christ.
From the church’s perspective, it is not an option. More than an option it is a basic necessity for anyone who wants to walk the church’s path of conversion and make it safe through this time of intensified spiritual warfare.
This fruit comes about because fasting draws the human soul closer to God. What is being given up in the flesh comes back in Spirit. The empty space (in stomachs) God fills up with his presence, which is why a great many people have discovered they pray better on fasting days than on other weekdays.
Pray for the desire and inspiration to make fasting a part of your life with an open heart. By fasting and renunciation we become stronger in faith. Draw closer to God’s Son, Jesus, through prayer and fasting.
Starting out slowly and having the body adapt to a practice of fasting is better than starting out too hard, only to give up after a short time. To begin with, half a day on bread and water is a good way to start. Then add a piece of fruit. Gradually the body will adapt, the initial dizziness will leave and be replaced by a newfound closeness to God.
Throughout the process, drinking lots of water will serve to make eventual minor headaches go away. If you add a teaspoon of pure sea salt to a glass of water it usually takes the headache away.
The bread should be chosen with care. White bread contains too few nutrients to suffice on fasting days. Bread with whole grains works better and is a lot healthier. Further on the matter of health, fasting on bread and water two times a week is not dangerous or unhealthy in any way.
Some people who have problems with gluten use gluten-free bread or do a fruit fast or something compatible for them. The main purpose is to make a sacrifice of prayer using fasting.
The season of Lent is a good time to take up this spiritual discipline. However, don’t make fasting exclusive to Lent. Find every opportunity possible throughout the year to fast. You will not be disappointed. You will feel like you have finally learned the secret to a healthy life.
The Rev. James Williams is pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Salida.