by Blain M. Yorgason
The most common way of fasting is by abstaining from both food and water for a particular period of time—usually twenty- four hours.
This is an effective way of offering up sacrifice, especially when the cautionary instructions of Christ are remembered:
“When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. . . . That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." (Matthew 6:16, 18)
Not always does fasting mean going without food and water for a specific period of time.
As a teenage boy I worked frequently with my father in communities distant from our own. Our lunches were eaten in restaurants, and it soon became painfully obvious that for one week each month, Dad changed our menu. During that week we drank water instead of soda, I got no chocolate shakes, and there were no other "treats" for either of us. When I complainingly grilled him about this, he explained that it was his way of fasting, and that he hoped I would be willing to fast with him.
Of course, I was, mostly, and I learned over time that fasting from food and water made him so ill with migraines that, after much desperate prayer, he had at last felt inspired to fast in this manner (which fast was made easier if I was doing it with him). This sort of fast is consistent with the counsel of our modern prophets.
President Joseph F. Smith explained,
"The Lord has instituted the fast on a reasonable and intelligent basis, and none of his works are vain or unwise. His law is perfect in this as in other things. Hence, those who can are required to comply thereto; it is a duty from which they cannot escape; but let it be remembered that the observance of the fast day by abstaining 24 hours from food and drink is not an absolute rule, it is no iron- clad law to us, but it is left with the people as a matter of conscience, to exercise wisdom and discretion.In the scriptures I have read of at least two alternatives to the typical fast used by most of us today. One I will mention is what I call the Daniel fast.
"In those days I Daniel was [fasting] three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled" (Daniel 10:2-3)Daniel offered up this fast in order to obtain specific information from the Lord. God responded by sending Daniel a heavenly messenger—Gabriel—with even more than the sought-after revelation.
To determine when and how we should fast or offer up other sacrifice, we who seek purity of heart must obtain the mind and will of God. If through that source we are given directions that seem difficult, and yet if we are certain about the source of our instructions and inspiration, then obedience to the whisperings of the Spirit—the only true option—will bring us great blessings, drawing us ever nearer to the veil behind which we will one day see the face of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
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