Prayer and Fasting

Brother John Raymond
February 13, 1994

	This week the Church begins the Season of Lent. This Season
 reflects Our Lord praying and fasting for forty days in the desert.
 Everything Jesus did has significance for our instruction and
 example. The Church encourages us from Our Lord's example to spend
 this Season like Him in fasting and prayer.
	There is a link between fasting and prayer. Both complement each
 other. Eating is something very important to us. It is necessary for
 life. But we are both body and soul. Sometimes, and this all too
 easily happens, the needs of the body take over. As a bumper sticker
 I saw correctly put it: "Do you live to eat or eat to live?" Our
 Lord's response to one of the devil's temptations to change rocks
 into bread was that food isn't everything in life. (Mt 4:3,4)
	Fasting from food forces us to look to the spiritual. It helps us
 to focus our attention on the one thing necessary - sitting at the
 Master's feet in prayerful attention. Fasting disciplines the body
 to "sit still" for a while. It strengthens our will to say to the
 body, "Hey, I'm in charge, not you." 	Another aspect of fasting that
 helps one pray is that it leads one to greater humility. "I humble
 myself with fasting," says the Psalmist. (Ps 69,11) The weakening of
 our body through fasting causes us to realize our dependence on God.
 Our prayer becomes more intense as we call to God from our need and
 weakness. Sickness of the body often has the same effect.
	On the other side of the coin, we have to pray to be able to
 fast. Some of us may feel we cannot fast. Well, pray for the grace
 to be able to fast. Our Lady at Medjugorje said that the best form
 of fasting is on bread and water. It is nice to give God the best.
 Don't say, "that's too hard for me," without praying for help and
 giving it a try. Of course for some this may really not be possible
 because of sickness, hard physical work, etc. In that case do your
	We should be encourage by the example of Anna the prophets. St.
 Luke tells us that she was of great age. Yet, this did not inhibit
 her as she lived at the Temple "with fasting and prayers worshipping
 night and day." (Lk. 2:36,37) I know for myself in the past I had
 the wrong idea of what it meant to fast. It really means to deny
 oneself something, not necessarily food. As Our Lady of Medjugorje
 has mentioned, not watching TV is a form of fasting. The prophet
 Isaias tells us that works of charity are forms of fasting such as
 sharing one's food and clothes with the poor. (Is. 58:6-11)
	I think our present society's emphasis on the pleasure of food as
 a form of entertainment can make food fasting especially hard. I
 must say that it has been my experience that on such fast days one
 will have a record number of chocolates, donuts and every other form
 of dessert offered by others. "Oh, just have one, it won't hurt" has
 been the downfall of fasters and dieters. Pray to Jesus to give you
 the grace to resist as He did in the desert. He was tempted and
 overcame it.
	These are just some thoughts on the relationship of prayer with
 fasting to encourage one to do both, especially this Lent. I am sure
 there are many more reasons for the importance of joining these two
 practices. One thing I do know is that this special combination has
 a very long history. Our Lord's example, the Church and Our Lady's
 apparition messages all encourage us to do it. Therefore, it must be
 important. Why not try it this Lent?