My mission days where I really learned what it means to fast.
A full fast for us is considered 24 hours. We believe that fasting combined with prayer can strengthen us spiritually and bring us closer to God. Usually Mormons fast with a purpose- for help in some way, for understanding, for peace, for comfort, for health. There are a million reasons why someone would want to fast- it is basically an extra strong prayer going up to God.
In my teenage years I didn't fully understand fasting and struggled with it immensely. I didn't see the connection- how does me not eating food equal feeling closer to Heavenly Father? I had a couple of experiences on my mission and since I have been home that have given me a better understanding of it. Fasting is a sacrifice- we are showing to God that we are willing to sacrifice for Him and to feel closer to Him. Going without food and water makes us feel humble and vulnerable, often allowing us to be more receptive to the spirit. Fasting shows Heavenly Father that we are willing to rely on Him for our needs, not on ourselves. It is a way for us to tell God that our spiritual needs are more important than our physical needs.
We believe that fasting helps in a myriad of other ways as well. Fasting improves our lives and gives us added strength. It helps us live other principles of the gospel because it draws us nearer to the Lord. Fasting teaches self control and gives us extra spiritual power.
However, there are times when it is advised not to fast. When you are pregnant or nursing are some of those times. My body needs constant nourishment when it is growing a baby or feeding a baby and so for the past year, I have not fasted. To be honest, the first few months I loved it. An excuse to stuff my face to my heart's delight while everyone else was going without. Yipee!
Lately, though, I have started to miss those blessings that come from fasting. Yesterday our Sunday school lesson was on Esther and how she saved her people from a practical genocide. We talked about how she and all the Jews fasted for three days before she went in unto the King to ask him to save the Jews. The fast gave her the strength to be able to complete such a daunting task and softened the heart of the king.
I shared with those ten year old tikes some experiences I have had fasting. The most recent experience was in July. The Sunday before I had June Big my brother let me know that my mom, siblings, and siblings' spouses would be fasting that Sunday for me. The knew the baby was breech and that there could be some complications. They fasted for a healthy baby, a safe procedure, and healthy mom. I had been so nervous about having that baby leading up to that day. That fast from my family combined with a blessing from Greg left me calm as a cucumber the morning I went to have June. All the stress, anxiety, worry, was gone. I was so happy and felt so at peace, and was just so ready to meet my little girl. I look back on that and think of the power that it gave me to have all of my family fast for me.
All of this to say, that yesterday it struck me especially hard how much I have missed fasting. I know that it is for sure not a good idea for me to go without food or water for 24 hours while nursing June. But I have been thinking about doing some kind of modified fast, or in some way still honoring the "spirit of fast." Any of you out there who have tried to do some kind of fast while you are nursing or pregnant? I would love some ideas. I am missing that extra spiritual strength and peace that comes from fasting.
I'd also be interested to know if any of you from other religions fast and what that looks like in your faith. And even if you don't belong to a certain religion but believe in God, you can still fast, you know. It is basically a way to gain spiritual strength and show your reliance on God, no matter what you believe. I'm sure He wouldn't mind.