Those who fast and gain no benefit have done so in the wrong way. Fasting is not to blame but the method followed. Such
as those who fast bodily without paying attention to the virtues that
accompany a fast. Or, those whos aim is fasting in itself as a the
target although it should be a means towards an end, the means of
giving the soul the opportunity.
Fasting is a period of intense spirituality,
a period for loving God, and adhering to Him. This love for he who
fasts helps elevate a person above body and its concerns. It a means of
soaring above the worldly things to taste the heavenly matters. It is a
period of sacred feelings towards God. At least it cultivates the
feeling of closeness and communion with God. It is a period of
spiritual struggle: with self, with God, and against the Devil.
The days of fasting are for spiritual strength and a period of storage.
the depth of spiritual fast, one gains spiritual strength that sustains
him during his period of no fasting. He who is honest for instance
during Lent, stores up spiritual stock that strengthens him throughout
the fifty sacred days following Lent, where neither fasting nor
prostration are allowed He who wants to fast in a spiritual manner,
should keep the following points in mind:
Fasting should be spiritual in aim and motive It
is not an obligation, for praise, or out of custom. We fast for the
love of God above materialistic and bodily things, to give the soul a
chance to grow.
Fasting should be a period of penitence and purity of heart: In
it, a person leads a holy life, acceptable in the sight of God,
confessing his sins, reproaches himself and then partakes of the Holy
- Fasting should be a period of spiritual nourishment accompanied by an effective spiritual agenda: To
use all the spiritual media available and to concentrate on spiritual
rather than bodily matters. Not to focus on the type of vegetable food
to be eating but on the sanctity of these days of fasting and what is
proper for them so that one's spirit may be strengthened
Fasting leads to the strength of the spirit, and the strength of the spirit leads to fasting.
Virtues which are intermingled, are gained through fasting
helps one stay up late because of the lightness of one's body. Staying
up late leads to reading and prayer. Spiritual reading also helps one
to pray. Spiritual work as a whole makes a spiritual person sit up
late. Reading is a source of contemplation. Contemplation strengthens
prayer which is also a source of contemplation.
is associated with prostration, which leads to humility and a contrite
heart. A subdued body through fasting also leads to a subduing of the
Fasting leads to virtues, which relate to the purpose of fasting.
Apostles for example, prepares one for service. Ninevehs fast, aims at
repentance. The purpose of a fast, such as Esther's, was to save her
people. There are those who fast for others and their fast embodies
love, sacrifice, and cooperation. These are all fasts, which relates to
with special virtues.
should remember in our fast that the Lord Jesus Christ fasted while He
was filled with the Spirit. As for us let at least fast so that we may
become filled with the Spirit.
Fasting accompanies repentance:
Days of fasting days are sacred and man lives them in holiness.
these days, the mind, heart and body must also be sacred. Fasting is a
period of training during which you attempt to approach God and at the
same time, sin pulls you away. Therefore, you must eliminate sin
through repentance to draw close to God.
fasting, your body abstains from food, and your soul abstains from
every earthly and worldly lust, and all passions that pertain to the
body. Through repentance therefore, you approach God. Ask yourself, are
you fasting this way?
Without repentance, God rejects and does not accept your fast.
You do not gain either heaven or earth and you torment yourself in
vain. If you want God to accept your fast, examine your sins, and
revoke them. God gave us as a symbol a lesson when He accepted the
baptism of repentance before he fasted.
Take the example of the fast of Nineveh:
The Bible says about the people of Nineveh that every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. (Jon 3:8). For this reason, God did not destroy them when He saw their works, that they turned from their evil way. (Jon
3:10). The bible did not say: "when He saw their as sackcloth or their
fast," but when he saw their repentance which was the principal element
of their fast.
In the Book of Joel, we see an example of repentance that accompanies fasting.
The Lord addresses the people through His prophet saying:
to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with
mourning." So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the
Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful. (Joel
2:12,13). It is clear that fasting was accompanied by repentance and
weeping. Therefore, it is not mere abstention from food. Rather, it is
inner emotions towards God.
In his fast, the Prophet Daniel offered the repentance of the whole nation.
He fasted, confessing to God, saying: We
have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled,
even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. O Lord,
righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face O Lord, to us
belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers,
because we have sinned against You. (Dan 9:5-8).
We therefore reconcile with God through fasting.
not say: How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? (Ps 13:1). You
should rather say: 'How long will I forget You, O Lord, forever? How
long will I hide my face from You?
purify and sanctify your soul. Prepare for these special days. Make
ready to have God residing in your hearts and not by merely abstain
If you are in sin, be reconciled with God, and if you are reconciled with Him, deepen your love for Him. If you removed sinfulness in a fast, continue in the same way afterwards.
is not confined to fasting alone, but made fit through fasting. Through
fasting, man heart is purified, and this purity continues with him.
In all this, be ready to strive against the Devil.
Joshua, son of Sirakh, told his son that if he set forward to serve God, he should prepare himself for all trials.
the Devil sees your fast and repentance, he becomes envious of your
spiritual acts. Thus, he fights you to deprive you of the fruit of your
labour and seeks every trick to bring about your downfall, saying: I
shall not leave you until you give up. Remember the words of the
Apostle Peter, who said, Resist him, steadfast in the faith. (1 Pet 5:9).
fasting is a period of spiritual warfare as was the case with Jesus
Christ. (Matt 4). It is also a period of triumph for him who shares it
Fasting accompanies prayer and worship:
Fasting without prayer is a bodily act. As such, it loses its spiritual nature and benefit.
does not mean depriving the body of food, which is a negative aspect.
The positive aspect manifests itself in giving the soul its
who fast without any spiritual act, such as prayer, contemplation,
spiritual reading, Psalms, Hymns, or prostration, their fast becomes a
useless burden. What is the difference between their fast and that of
the Buddhists and Hindus? What role did the Holy Spirit play in your
provides an opportunity for prayer. A prayer while fasting is more
profound than one hundred prayers conducted with a full stomach full
and a voice jolting mountains.
The Church teaches us that prayer and fasting are interrelated.
In the Lent Fraction during the divine Mass, the statement Through
prayer and fasting is repeated a number of times. When the Lord Jesus
Christ spoke about exorcising devils, He said: This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. (Matt 17:21).
Well-known fasts in the Bible were also bound to prayer.
when Nehemiah fasted, he said: When I heard these words, that I sat
down and wept, and mourned And I said: "I pray, Lord God of heaven,
let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the
prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night
(Neh. 1:4-6). He then started confessing his sins and the sins of his
people calling for the Lords intervention and mercy.
Ezra's fast was also accompanied by prayers. (Ezra 8:21,23).
Prophet Daniel's fast was accompanied by prayer and struggle with God.
He said, O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see
our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do
not present our supplications before You because of our righteous
deeds, but because of Your great mercies. "O Lord, hear! O Lord,
forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my
God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name. (Dan
In the fast of Nineveh, the people cried mightily to God (Jon 3:8).
Therefore, cry to God during your fast, lifting up your abased heart to Him.
confident that God will respond to your fast and clamour, and that when
He reproaches the winds and the waves, the sea will become calm. How
deep indeed are your prayers if conducted on sacred days from a humbled
hearts before God through fasting and purified by repentance. How much
more profound they become if accompanied by attendance to the Holy Mass
Train yourself while fasting in the love of prayer and the struggle with God.
In Chapter five, we have written out a up a guide for your prayer.
It is important in prayer, to submit your heart and thought to God.
Do not subdue your conscience with formalities and with shallow
readings not emanating from the heart, and then say: " I have fasted
and prayed!" God will blame you, saying: This people honours Me with
their lips, But their heart is far from Me. (Mark 7:6). Prayer is a
fellowship, thus, during your prayer and fasting feel that you are in
communion with God.
If consecrating a fasting means devoting it to God, then have you devoted your fasting period to prayer and spiritual work?
it a period of prayer, contemplation, spiritual storage, and devotion
to God and His company? Are your prayers double or triple those of your
regular days? If you have not devoted most of your time to God, have
you devoted your feelings and emotions to Him?
Fasting, accompanied by an intimate relationship with God, becomes spiritual enjoyment.
this kind of enjoyment, one tries to increase his fasts and his food
becomes heavy for him because causes him to use his body which took
some rest during the hours of abstention.
Fasting is accompanied by self-abasement and weeping:
is a period for an abased soul before God through repentance, tears and
humility. Thus one becomes aware of its weakness, knows that he is form
dust and ashes and appeals to the Higher Power.
When the body is humbled by hunger, the soul too is humbled.
Thus, it humbles itself while it bows down before God in obedience and
humility confessing its sins. Humility softens the heart of God and all
the dwellers of Heaven.
his humility and weakness, man renounces all. His heart is no longer
attached to any wordily lusts and he addresses God in a profound
The Holy Bible presents us with several examples of self-abasement in fasting
since God cannot bear to see the humility of His children before Him.
Examples abound in the Book of Judges where God saw the humility of His
people, descended, and saved them. (Judges 2). In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the Angel of His Presence saved them. (Is 63:9).
self-abasement and defeat, the people become humble and the Lord comes
need those who are humbled and to those with a crushed heart and He
The fast that the Prophet Joel ordered is a clear example:
He said: Gird
yourselves and lament, you priests; Come, lie all night in sackcloth,
You who minister to my God; Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred
assembly. (Joel l:13,14) Now,
therefore," says the Lord, "Turn to Me with all your heart,
Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly Let the bridegroom go out
from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room. Let the
priests, who minister to the Lord, Weep between the porch and the
altar; Let them say, "Spare Your people, O Lord, And do not give Your
heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. Why
should they say among the peoples, `Where is their God?' (Joel 2:12-17).
Here we see details of a integral fast.
Fasting, together with repentance (returning to God), prayer, self abasement, weeping, lamentation, shunning bodily desires, seclusion are all elements of fasting and no longer becomes mere abstention from food.
Another example is the fast of the people of Nineveh.
the people, even children and babies, fasted and neither ate nor drank
anything. They did not stop at that but humbled themselves before God,
covering themselves with sackcloth and ashes. Even the King himself
removed his crown and royal attire, did not sit on his throne but sat
with the people on sackcloth and in ashes and they all cried mightily
unto God. (Jon 3).
Such also was the fast of Nehemiah and that of Ezra.
Ezra, the scribe and priest, said: Then
I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble
ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our
little ones So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He
answered our prayer. (Ezra 8:21,23).
also said: I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was
fasting and praying before the God of heaven. (Neh 1:4). He said this
about himself, but as for the people, he said that they were assembled
with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads. Then those of
Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they
stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And
they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the
Lord their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they
confessed and worshiped the Lord their God. (Neh 9:1-3). Is this not
also an integrated fast: through prayer, weeping, lamentation, Bible
reading, repentance, confession, and abasing oneself in sackcloth and ash! Therefore, fasting is not merely abstention from food.
In the same way was the Prophet Daniel's fast.
said: Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer
and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to
the Lord my God, and made confession "we have sinned and committed
iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from
Your precepts (Dan 9:3-5).
In another fast, he says: I,
Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat
or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself (Dan 10:2,3). This fast constitutes the same elements as the previous fasts.
This is indeed the fast that the Prophet David referred to, saying: My clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting (Ps 35:13).
is no doubt that lamentation constrains the bodily lusts and removes
all desire for food. Moreover, humility opens the gates of Heaven.
Fasting accompanies seclusion and stillness:
following statement was repeated twice in the book of the Prophet Joel:
Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly. (Joel 1:14,2:15).
Call a sacred assembly, namely retire, so that you may find time for spiritual nourishment.
In seclusion, you keep silent, and since you have no one to talk to, you talk to God. However, do not remain secluded in sin or in
vain thoughts, but do so in order that your fast may not become visible
to anyone except to your Father in Heaven who sees in secret. Moreover,
one who fasts may be in such a state of asceticism, hunger, and
weakness that one is unable to make any effort. Seclusion is therefore
more suitable for him.
a person fasts, his soul is occupied with internal work with God.
Speaking hinders one's prayer, preoccupation and contemplation.
Meetings and visitations hinder one's devotion to God and may lead one
into making mistakes.
In fasting, the Lord Jesus Christ retired to the mountain, in seclusion with God, the Father, and devoted Himself to contemplation.
Fathers' fasted in the same way in the wilderness. As for you, retire
as best as you can, and if you are forced to mingle, do it within the
limits of necessity. Rid yourself of lost time and of every trivial
This brings to mind another fast which is:
Fasting of the tongue, thought, and heart:
Isaac said: the fasting of the tongue is better than the mouth's, and
the abstinence of the heart from lust is better than both fasts this
shows the importance of fasting of both the tongue and the mouth.
Many concern themselves with abstaining from food. God rebuked them, saying: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man. (Matt
15:11). In this way He shows us that wrong words are defiling. In the
same way, our teacher, the Apostle James, refers to the tongue which
defiles the whole body. (James 3:6). Is your tongue, thus, fasting with the rest of your body? And is your heart abstaining from lusts?
A fasting heart is able to make the tongue fast with it, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matt 12:34).
Lord also said, But those things which proceed out of the mouth come
from the heart, and they defile a man. (Matt 15:18). Moreover, A
good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good
things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil
things. (Matt 12:35). Therefore, if your heart abstains from sin, your
tongue will abstain from every evil word.
He who fasts the heart, can also make his body fast also.
what is important is for the heart and thought to abstain from every
wrong desire assisted by the fasting of the body, which is the least of
all. Therefore in your fast, control your tongue and in the same way
that you make your mouth refrain from food, make it refrain from bad
words. Control your thoughts and yourself.
Fasting accompanies self-control:
is commendable that you control yourself against every wrong desire
whether it comes to you from your inside or from warring devils, for he who rules his spirit is better than he who takes a city. (Prov 16:32).
Therefore, hold the reins of self-control in your hand.
In a bodily fast, your body longs for food. You say: No, and you succeed in applying this "No". Make therefore, this willpower include every thought, every wicked desire, every wrong behaviour, and every bodily lust.
for the person who only controls his food and is controlled by his
lusts, his fast is a bodily one. He who cannot control his bodily fast
is consequently unable to control himself from bad thought, lusts, and
Control of your lusts is proof of your asceticism and love of God.
Vanquishing the body:
fasting, say to the body: Let go of the soul and release it from your
bonds that it may delight in God. You fast that your soul may be
released from the bonds of the body. Desire for food is one of these
bonds. These are also other ties such as bodily lusts.
the body through fasting, is also accomplished by staying away from
marital relationships, provided it is done "with consent. (1 Cor 7:5).
As the Prophet Joel says about fasting, Let the bridegroom go out from his chamber, And the bride from her dressing room. (Joel 2:16), and as was said about king Darius when he cast Daniel into the den, he spent the night fasting; and no musicians were brought before him.
Even the mere adornment of the body was referred to by the Prophet Daniel in his fast. He said: nor did I anoint myself at all and till three whole weeks were fulfilled. and I ate no pleasant food. (Dan 10:3).
Vanquishing the body is not an aim in itself but rather a vehicle for the soul.
the body is necessary lest it should digress and lead to the
destruction of the soul. On this matter, the apostle says in earnest, But
I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have
preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1
Cor 9:27). When the body is vanquished, the soul takes control and the
body not resisting, but collaborating with it and submitting to its
Therefore, control your body and keep it wisely from all futile enjoyment, luxury, and lust.
It is not enough that you fast, for you also need to overcome the lust for food.
This leads us to asceticism in fasting as another virtue.
Man may abstain from food but craves it. Therefore there is no gain in abstinence from food but in renouncing it.
above the level of eating leads one to abstinence from and letting go
of food. In turn, this leads to the virtue of detachment. Nevertheless,
what should you do if you cannot accomplish renunciation and
If you cannot achieve renunciation and detachment, then at least give up something for the sake of God.
and Eve were required to keep away from one fruit. It was not an issue
of abstinence from food or one item of it but a sort of training to
renounce everything for God's sake…
As for you when you fast, what can you renounce for God's sake, for His love and for the preservation of His commandments?
is not is need of your renunciation of anything. However, by doing
this, you show your love for God in profound and practical way, and for
the sake of His love, you sacrificed your desires.
Fasting accompanies charity:
He who hungers while fasting sympathises with the hungry. For this mercy, God accepts his fast as He said, Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. (Matt
5:7). Out of its concern for charity, the Church chants the hymn of
Blessed are those who show mercy to the needy during Lent.
Out of His concern for charity, the Lord said in Isaiah's prophecy:
Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of
wickedness To let the oppressed go free Is it not to share your
bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who
are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide
yourself from your own flesh? (Is 58:6, 7).
During the age of martyrs and confessors, the Church used to preach that:
If you have nothing to give to those in need, then fast and offer them your food.
not fast to save food for yourself, but rather that you fast and give
the food you saved to the needy. It has been the custom for many
churches during the days of fasting to hold banquets for the poor so as
not to embarrass the poor by having them eat all by themselves, the
whole congregation eat together.
Fasting is accompanied by prostration:
Prostration is in fact a series of successive prostration accompanied by short prayers.
Church combines prostration with abstinence from food for a number of
hours. Thus, on days when abstinence is not allowed, – e.g. feast days,
Saturdays, Sundays, and the fifty days following Easter then
prostration are also not permissible. A belly full of food is not fit
spiritually or bodily for prostration. Prostration are therefore better
observed in the early morning or at any time during fasting before food
Prostration may be a form of self-abasement before God.
Every prostration, man rebukes himself before God for on of his sins and asks for forgiveness, saying: I have sinned, O Lord, in doing this or that, so please forgive me. I have desecrated Your temple, so please forgive me. Forgive me, for I am lazy, negligent…. etc.
Prostration may be accompanied by prayers of gratitude and praise. Spiritual preliminaries, such as self-examination or any spiritual reading to soften the heart, may precede prostration.