A question came up in a conversation on another blog about the purpose of fasting. In our church, we fast the first Sunday of every month. There are many benefits to fasting:
My doctor once asked me, when I was having health problems, if I ever go without eating. I told him that I fast one day a month. He said, "Well, that can actually be good for you!" It acts as a cleanse of our bodies.
While we do save money on the food we would have eaten, this monetary benefit isn't for us. We take that money and give to the bishop to use to help those in our congregation who are in need. We are encouraged to give at least the cost of two meals, but much more if we are able. The contributions are voluntary, and are kept private.
Fasting helps us to learn to put our bodies in subjection to our will. It helps us learn self-control, and discipline. But more importantly, it humbles us, and puts us in a better position to commune with God.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, "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. 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." (Ensign July, 2001)
--Fasting teaches us compassion
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin further taught, "When we fast, brethren and sisters, we feel hunger. And for a short time, we literally put ourselves in the position of the hungry and the needy. As we do so, we have greater understanding of the deprivations they might feel. When we give to the bishop an offering to relieve the suffering of others, we not only do something sublime for others, but we do something wonderful for ourselves as well. King Benjamin taught that as we give of our substance to the poor, we retain “a remission of [our] sins from day to day.” (Ensign, July 2001)
Here are some blessings of fasting that are promised in the scriptures:
"Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;...And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." Isaiah 58:9,11
35Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
36Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38This is the first and great commandment.
39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Matt 22:36-40
"As we live the law of the fast, we not only draw nearer to God through prayer, but we feed the hungry and care for the poor. Each time we do so, we fulfill both of the great commandments upon which “hang all the law and the prophets.” Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin