Fasting: What is the Point?


I hate to admit this publicly; it is not my favorite thing.

I started struggling with this concept when I was eight. My parents opted not to ease us into the world of fasting. When you were baptized you fasted.



Never had 24 hours seemed so long and so painful. I can honestly report that watching the hands of a clock does not make time pass any quicker.

My life was controlled by my fear of Fast Sunday. Each month I would hope some rogue, 24-hour illness would infect my body because sick people could not fast.

I was rarely that lucky.

My fear of the fast did not diminish with age. Karen would laugh at me each Fast Sunday early in our marriage as I donned my sackcloth and ashes and wore my long face.

I was the perfect fasting Pharisee.

Yet in spite of my fasting fetish, I persisted.

Each Fast Sunday I endured.

It never got any easier.

It never brought me joy.

I knew I was doomed to eternity in the Telestial Kingdom for surely they didn’t fast there. At least I would be among like-minded people, right?

A few years back, my mom told me of a family friend having serious struggles with some of his children. The voices of the world were overpowering his. As a result, his children were straying.

To combat these unseen forces of evil, this kindly father fasted every Sunday on behalf of his children.



Soon, our children entered the teen-age years. Some of them began to listen to the shouting of the world over the still small voice of reason. Concerned about their tragic trajectory, I remembered the example of that man who fasted each week on behalf of his children.

After much internal debate I decided to place the welfare of my children over my fear of and personal discomfort from fasting. I, too, made the decision to fast each Sunday.

I would love to report that fasting for a specific purpose was a magic wand that freed me from decades of pharisaical fasting.

It was not.

But overtime my inclination towards suffering was replaced by serenity during the many personal storms we faced.

While I am unclear if fasting on behalf of my children had any demonstrable effect on them, I know it had a positive impact on me.

So, what is the purpose of fasting? It must be more than discomfort and contending against the perpetual pangs of hunger.

In my mind, fasting can help us improve our relationship with God by providing us a simple, powerful, and constant reminder that despite all our efforts, we truly are wholly dependent upon God for all that we have.

This reminder of our dependency can act as a conduit for humbly tapping into His power to effect change in our lives and to bring comfort to the lives of others.