The Essence of Fasting. The Benefits of Religious Fasting. Spiritual, Mental, Emotional and Physical Dimension of Fasting. What Is the Proper Way to Fast?

Fasting has been widely practiced throughout centuries by the world religions. It has numerous benefits: spiritual, mental, emotional and physical.

However, there are many people perform fasting just out of religious obligation, rather than out of right intention and purpose. They perform fasting as a routine (yearly) activity and lose sight the true essence of fasting.

Here are some thoughts about fasting and prayer. Discover the benefits of fasting and the proper way to perform fasting.

1. The Big Picture

Nothing can be more effectual in uprooting all sin from the soul than these three kinds of satisfaction: prayer, fasting and almsdeeds. For since whatever is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, everyone can see that to these three causes of disease are opposed also three remedies. To the first is opposed fasting; to the second, almsdeeds; to the third, prayer.

These three things: prayer, fasting and mercy, are a single thing, each drawing life from the others. Let no one divide them, because alone they do not survive.
Fasting is the soul of prayer and mercy the life of fasting.
God we appease by prayer, our neighbour we satisfy by alms, and ourselves we chastise by fasting.
Doing penance through prayer, fasting, almsgiving, all spiritual and corporal works of mercy, and patient suffering of the ills of life (sickness or poverty or misfortune).

“Almsgiving”–that is, money or goods given to the poor and the destitute.
Food is abused not only by eating too much of it but also not sharing it with the poor.
By fasting, you learn through personal experience about what hunger, poverty, loneliness and discomforts mean to the less fortunate sections of society.
Holding your desire to eat reminds you of the unfortunate ones who might only have the chance to eat once in every two days or even longer.
Holding your desire of intercourse can forbear you from zina.
Holding your desire to get angry helps you be a gentle person.

Prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving (mercy), and righteousness.

2. Four Level of Fasting

There are four basic kinds of fasting:

  • Physical fasting from food and water,
  • Mental fasting or meditation,
  • Emotional fasting or rebirthing,and
  • Spiritual fasting or prayer.

There is flexibility in fasting relative to age, health, and circumstances.

3. Physical, Emotional and Mental Dimension

Physical Benefits of Fasting

  • Fasting is the best method of detoxification. It cleanses the body of toxins and impurities while healing the body from within.
  • Fasting facilitates rapid and safe weight loss.
  • Fasting gives a break to the digestive system. This in turn revitalizes and rejuvenates the digestive system.
  • Fasting revitalizes the cells and heals the body. It is a great method of healing and repairing different body parts.

The outward form of fasting is to abstain from food and water. Fasting simply is a rest from food. It is abstaining from allowing anything whether food or drink or any other thing to pass through the throat from the mouth, nose, ears or eyes.
It is an abstinence from satisfying the desires of the stomach and sex for the entire day with the intention of getting closer to God.
Fasting gives our digestive system a chance to rest from the daily grind of around the clock digestion.
Fasting is a matter of house cleaning, it increases energy and extends life. It help to regain control over our bodies.
It allows your body to rest and it lets your body choose what it wants to heal.

The main aim of fasting is to control the pleasures of the flesh. Fasting refers to starving the flesh, so that the soul can be fed. So you can abstain from any of the various things that your flesh is dependent on.
It’s about mortifying the flesh. You must forbear your mondial desires and passions.
It crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts – Galatians 5:24.

Conquering The Evil

Fasting is control not only of the mouth but also the heart, the tongue, the eyes, the ears, the hands, and the feet.
True fasting consists of driving out evil, controlling the tongue, abstaining from anger, giving up evil desires, slander, lying, false witness against others, and the like.
Those who fast ought most of all to keep their anger in check, learn the lesson of mildness and kindness, have a contrite heart, banish the flood of unworthy passions, and keep before their eyes the all-seeing presence of God.
Controlling the basic urges of thirst and hunger trains the human body to resist other forms of strong urges such as illicit relations or promiscuity.
Controlling and curbing our natural desires gives a strength to our will that comes into play throughout different situations in life.

Fasting disciplines ourselves to give up something, to be able to let go of a material object, or even let go of an immaterial flattery.  Fasting is a way to make sure that we don’t have any attachments (which are in a sense, false gods) to anything but God.  We need to know that we are dependent upon God alone, not any thing, not any praise, not any well running cars.  As long as we can’t give up something, as long as we can’t freely give away something if someone needed it, we are not fit for the kingdom of God (See Luke 9:57-62).  Fasting disciplines our souls so that we may be ready and willing to forego something when necessary.

The essence of fasting thus is to eschew all evil ways throughout the year. To drain yourself of all iniquities and afflictions.
And it is not only the consumption of food, but also of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, medicines, excessive television viewing, and many other wasteful activities.
No indulgence in carnal pleasure is allowed. Refrain yourself from carnal pleasure like sexual intercourse, releasing semen (of any degree) and vomiting.
Self denial and restraint from snuffing, smoking, fornication, sexual intimacy, drinking, etc.
To refrain from quarrelling, fighting, anger, evil communication, vain talk, back-biting and the rest of the vices.
To withhold the tongue from vain talks, lies, gossips and slander, cheating or conducting shady business transactions. Similarly, it also includes abstinence from committing any evil, shameful, wicked or sinful deed.
Evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, etc is defiling (Mark 7:18-23).
Once you starve those spirits of fornication, adultery, greediness and lust for mundane things, the Spirit of God will be revived in you.
Bad habits, negative thoughts, hurtful emotions, jealousy, anger, traumatic experiences and other such things can actually “Switch Off” the human brain. Interestingly, fasting, praying, meditation, and reading the Bible are all spiritual disciplines that help to switch your brain back on.

A brain that is jacked up by negative experiences, thoughts, and feelings, will never produce a wholesome, happy person.
On the other hand, when the brain is working right, it has unlimited potential.
When the brain works right, it helps you to be thoughtful, playful, romantic, intimate, committed, and loving with your partner.  When the brain is dysfunctional, it causes you to be impulsive, distracted, addicted, unfaithful, angry, and even hateful. Thus ruining chances for continued intimacy and love.

No one can acquire any power, no matter how little, unless through prayer and fasting.
Only through fasting and prayer were demons able to be driven out (Mark 9:27-29).
Jesus himself has shown us by his own example that prayer and fasting are the first and most effective weapons against the forces of evil (Mt 4:1-11).
As he taught his disciples, some demons cannot be driven out except in this way (Mt 17:20 and Mk 9:29).
Fasting is fighting, fighting against evil, and the battle is over your soul and your family members’ souls.  Be a strong man.  Demons are forced out by prayer and fasting.
Arm yourself like a man against the devil’s assaults.  Curb your appetite and you will more easily curb every inclination of the flesh.  Never be completely unoccupied, but read or write or pray or meditate or do something for the common good.”  –From The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis
Your prayers and fasting will help to deliver souls from satan’s temptation.

Righteous Deeds

This is the essence of fasting: that along with abstinence from food, we should practice abstinence from whatever is harmful, and should give close attention to spiritual duties and do good.
Often righteous deeds are expected – e.g.: recitation of the holy Qur’an attending sermons, performing nawafils, etc.
True fasting is not only a matter of abstaining but also of acting creatively and positively to help others and alleviate suffering, oppression, and ignorance in the world.
Fasting is the tool to fight selfishness and the desire to have an easy life, which we are not meant to have.

Transformation and Renewal

Fasting plays a constructive role in refining the human character. It turn you into a better person.
It is directed above all to conversion of heart.
Fasting is closely connected to prayer, it strengthens virtue, inspires mercy, implores divine assistance and leads to conversion of heart.
let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”   When the Holy Spirit changes the way that you think, He is literally transforming you into a new person.

Fasting is a workout for your soul.  It strengthens it and provides you freedom.  You will become disciplined and learn to only feed your soul with good things.
Fasting helps break the ties that bind us, leading us to perfection.

Renewing Your Mind Through Fasting & Praying (Rom. 12:1-2)

Always imploring the grace of the Almighty and seek profound inner conversion.

Fasting helps to humble man and brings us down to the level of the less fortunate. The fast allows the well-fed man to feel the hunger pangs that the poor cope with every day of their lives. Fasting fills the heart with compassion and makes even misers more openhanded with their wealth.

4. Spiritual Dimension

Spiritual Benefits of Fasting

  • Fasting strengthens and purifies the spirit.
  • Religious Fasting brings us closer to God.
  • Fasting gives strength to our prayers.
  • Spiritual Fasting increases will power.

Fasting is so much more than simply the denial of food, liquid and vice, such as cigarette smoking. It is a means of both spiritual and physical training.

Spiritual Exercises

Spiritual fasting re-births and regenerates our spiritual willpower by filling our inner knowing with the direct experience of new physical, emotional and spiritual strength.
Spiritual fasting cleans the body-mind and feeds the spirit, allowing our physical bodies to better extract the Divine cosmic energy from our normal biochemical energy sources.

In this process, the blockages are removed, we are naturally able to make a stronger connection with our light body, which is a powerful doorway to our cosmic body. In this way, it is not a denial of the body, but a special doorway to enhance our experience of our own Divinity.

Fasting is another form of worship found universally in the world religions.
Lastly, fasting and praying give us immense spiritual power that we cannot receive, understand nor conceive in the flesh. This power of course does not come from us, nor by us, but it is given to us through the Set-Apart spirit of our Heavenly Father (Mark 9:29).
When we are praying with fasting, the Holy Spirit come to us to instruct and guide us

Fasting is for the purpose of spiritual revival. It is like a rebirth. You has a chance to start their life anew.
It is a popular and effective methods of spiritual as well as physical cleansing and healing.

Spiritual fasting is necessary to strengthen mans spiritual constitution
The spiritual fast has rejuvenated, inspired, and empowered your spirit, mind, and body.
Spiritual Fasting unblocks the Divine source of youth, vitality, and transformation.
The power to rejuvenate physically, mentally, and Spiritually with rational fasting.
The aim of religious fasting is not to deprive the body of food and drink, but to purify one’s soul and to find God.

It is a total and complete surrender of one’s self to God.
Keeping a fast is a symbolic representation of our complete and pure submission to the will of Allah.
Essence of fasting is the focus on God and not self denial.
The entire essence of fasting is for one to attain greater heights of righteousness by getting closer to God through righteous deeds and keeping beastly desires under control.
Fasting is an affirmation of ultimate reliance on God and spiritual values, rather than on material goods and food.
Accompanied by prayer, fasting is a concrete act that declares that God is our priority and we are dependent on him as our life source. As you fast, focus on renewing your primary relationship with God–remembering God, loving him, thanking him, being mindful of your sins, asking for God’s mercy, and living in his presence with a sense of fervent faith and humble repentance.

Spiritual fasting is a great method of purifying the soul, and coming closer to God.
Through fasting, we search for peace of mind, spirituality and a certain closeness with God.
It brings us close to our Heavenly Father by completely relying on him.
So the power in fasting comes from relying on the Father to give us that life and to sustain us through his spirit. While we fast and pray we are completely relying on him for our very existence.

Fasting is used to prepare to meet God (cf. Ex 34:28; 1 Kgs 19:8; Dan 9:3); to prepare for a difficult task (cf. Jgs 20:26; Es 4:16) or to seek pardon for an offence (cf. 1 Kgs 21:27); to express grief in the wake of domestic or national misfortune (cf. 1 Sam 7:6; 2 Sam 1:12; Bar 1:5 NAB).

The practice of fasting made the faithful ready for nourishment of another kind: the food of the Word of God (cf. Mt 4:4) and of fulfillment of the Father’s will (cf. Jn 4:34).

In essence a time of fasting and praying can a reflect a hear that seeks forgiveness from our past sins and actions that contradict the words of our Heavenly Father.
When we fast we are in a state of spiritual humility but we are not be a state of ‘feel-sorry-for-me’ humility. After all we are in essence of the presence of our Heavenly Father and we are seeking both his forgiveness and the answers to our prayers and supplications.
Whoever fasts during Ramadan with faith and seeking his reward from Allah will have his past sins forgiven.

Fasting is a concept where one abstains from food, drink or sex in order to focus on spiritual growth. It refers to the denial of the needs of the flesh in order to enhance our spirit and get closer to God. Fasting is also supposed to increase the power of prayer manifold.
It is not just a means of starving the flesh, but of feeding the soul, and thus should be supplemented by prayer and deeds of goodwill and kindness.

Two purposes of fasting:
To make one cautious in life
To make one thankful to God (Quran, 2:183,185)

5. The Proper Way for Fasting

The believer is called to “give your bodies to God. . . Let them be a living and holy sacrifice. .”
Giving your bodies to God is another phrase for self-sacrifice, which is the essence of fasting, extended praying and in consecrations.  The body is “sacrificed” as you deny it the things that it craves and desires.
Be willing, at all times, to sacrifice anything for His sake; even if it involves relinquishing such basic necessities as food and water.

Fasting implies an attitude of faith, humility and complete dependence upon God.

Let us therefore discover anew the humility and courage to pray and fast so that power from on high will break down the walls of lies and deceipt:  the walls which conceal from the sight of so many of our brothers and sisters the evil practices and laws which are hostile to life.

To be in a state of complete humbleness and total affliction.
We fast and pray with a sincere and humbled spirit before our God.

You need to have a hunger for God, desiring God through fasting and prayer.  It is out of love for God, and as a sacrifice for our sins, especially for the sins of others.

Listen, you cannot fast without humbling yourself before God.
Fall on your knees and bring your supplications.

There must also be pursuit.
You must have right intention.

It were better you never fasted if your heart is not pure.

Other Thoughts

There are many ways we can fast.  A great place to start is with our words.
“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is prudent.”
–Proverbs 10:19
Conquering the tongue is better than fasting on bread and water.”–Saint John of the Cross

The practice of fasting looks to the past, present and future:
To the past, as a recognition of offenses committed against God and others;
To the present, in order that we may learn to open our eyes to others and to the world around us;
To the future, in order that we may open our hearts to the realities of God and, by the gift of divine mercy, renew the bond of communion with all people and with the whole of creation, accepting the responsibility which each of us has in history.”

Jesus Example

Jesus’ three temptations may serve as the key paradigm to the meaning of fasting.

Before beginning his public mission, Jesus, driven by the Holy Spirit, fasted for forty days as an expression of his trusting abandonment to the Father’s saving plan (cf. Mt 4:1-4). He gave precise instructions to his disciples that their fasting should never be tainted by ostentation and hypocrisy (cf. Mt 6:16-18).

Beware of a temptation that lapse into religious exhibitionism.
Fasting is not piling up merits before God, being inwardly proud, judging others who are not fasting, or parading our religiosity. It is a self-discipline that corrects bad habits, establishes inner direction, and renews our relationship to ourselves as people created in the image and likeness of God.

Fasting has also to do with a person’s fundamental relationship to the world, that is, the challenge of the right understanding and disciplined use of God’s gifts. The world and its allurements are always seeking to take the place of God in our lives and thus distort our own identity as persons.

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