Youth in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are building testimonies, and with more expected of LDS youth all the time, they are building them quickly. All that growing, spiritually and physically, means teenagers need to be fed—and, subsequently, fasting is hard.
But a spiritual feast will do more, in the long run, for growing testimonies than a well-balanced meal. The more a young man or woman—or anyone, really—understands about the promises that come with fasting, the easier it will be. Here are five things every teenager should understand about fasting.
1. Proper fasting includes sincere prayer
Fasting without prayer is just starving. The time a person spends fasting is more beneficial and will invite greater strength if he opens and closes his fast with a prayer and spends time in sincere prayer during the fast.
“We observe that in the scriptures, fasting almost always is linked with prayer,” Elder Joseph B. Worthlin said in a 2001 address. “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 the revelations of the Spirit. It can strengthen us against times of temptation.”
[pullquote]”We observe that in the scriptures, fasting almost always is linked with prayer. 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.” —Elder Joseph B. Worthlin, Former LDS apostle[/pullquote]
2. We should fast with a purpose
Fasting and praying for a specific purpose is an exercise in controlling desire—we continue to fast even when it is difficult because we want something else more than we want food. Choose a purpose that will motivate you to rely more heavily on God, to pray often, and to strengthen your faith. “Whenever hunger pains come, use them as a reminder to pray again about the purpose of your fast,” Elder Shayne M. Bowen counseled in 2009.
The Gospel Principles manual outlines several reasons a person might fast, including the following:
- To overcome weaknesses or problems
- For help or guidance for others, such as a family member who is ill and needs a blessing.
- To know the truth of things
- To help others embrace the truth
- For comfort in times of sorrow and mourning
- To help us become humble and feel closer to our Heavenly Father
3. A generous fast offering is important
The Church welfare program is funded largely by the generous fast offerings of ward members. Fasting can bring great spiritual strength to us as individuals, but it should also inspire us to be more charitable. Donating a fast offering is one way to do this, even if your generous offering is relatively small.
“Let this be an (example) to all saints, and there will never be any lack for bread,” the Prophet Joseph Smith taught. “When the poor are starving, let those who have, fast one day and give what they otherwise would have eaten to the bishops for the poor, and every one will abound for a long time. … And so long as the saints will all live to this principle with glad hearts and cheerful countenances they will always have an abundance.”
4. Fasting helps us subdue the natural man.
The natural man is a mortal one, and mortals need food. Fasting is a simple way to subdue the natural man in a small but significant way. We develop self-mastery as we learn to control our appetites and desires through fasting.
“When a person starts a fast, biochemical adjustments begin in the bloodstream to compensate for the lack of food,” the Times and Seasons reported in 1991. “A carbohydrate substance known as glycogen is released from storage areas in the liver and the muscles. The body uses glycogen as food to keep cells supplied with energy.”
Through these physical processes the body, in a way, submits to the spirit. “When the spiritual man is victorious,” Elder Bowen taught, “we experience greater sensitivity to the influence of the Holy Ghost.”
5. Fasting helps us bear testimony
Fasting makes the body temporarily weak, which can inspire humility. This humility invites the Spirit and prepares us to bear powerful testimony.
President Henry B. Eyring taught, “The fast also helps us to feel humble and meek so that the Holy Ghost may more easily be our companion. By our fast, we both keep our covenant to care for others and we prepare to keep our covenant to bear testimony.
“Those who have prepared carefully for the fast and testimony meeting won’t need to be reminded how to bear testimony should they feel impressed to do it in the meeting. They won’t give sermons nor exhortations nor travel reports nor try to entertain as they bear witness. Because they will have already expressed appreciation to people privately, they will have less need to do it publicly. Neither will they feel a need to use eloquent language or to go on at length.”