Why We Fast

"My son, if thou come to serve the Lord,
prepare thy soul for temptation." - Ecclesiasticus 2:1

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There are many reasons for fasting. Some of them are provided here.

To follow the examples of Christ and the Apostles.

  Jesus Christ fasted. (St. Matt. 4:1-11; St. Lk. 4:1-13; St. Jn. 4:30-34) The Apostles fasted, too. (Acts 13:2; II Cor. 6:5; 11:27) Early Christians fasted periodically. (I Cor. 7:5) We also should follow their examples and fast periodically. (Eph. 5:1; I Pet. 2:21; I Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:17)

To obtain victory over our sins.

  Fasting is a tool that we can use to gain control over our passions. (I Cor. 9:24-27) We must strive against sin (Heb. 12:3,4). Fasting is one way to do this. So, whenever we fast from food, we should fast from our sins, too. (Ecclus. 34:25,26) Furthermore, we should hunger and thirst after righteousness during a fast. (St. Matt. 5:6)

To obtain victory over the demons.

  Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness after His baptism. During this time, He was tempted by the Devil. (St. Matt. 4:1-11; St. Lk. 4:1-13) By doing this, He has shown us how to fight the demons and win. Fasting is one weapon that we can use in our spiritual warfare against the demons. It is said that the demons shudder at the fast.

To identify with the poor.

  The money that we save on food during a fast should be given to the poor.

To share in the sufferings of Christ.

  We fast in order to share in Christ's sufferings. (II Cor. 1:5-7; 4:10; Phil. 3:10; I Pet. 4:13) On Wednesdays we fast because that is the day of the week that Judas Iscariot went to the Jews and told them that he would help them capture Jesus if they would give him thirty pieces of silver. We fast on Fridays because Jesus Christ was crucified on a Friday.

For the souls of others.

  Christ fasted when He saw the spiritual needs of the Samaritans. (St. Jn. 4:27-38) We should fast for the salvation of others. The Apostles' Fast (which occurs in June) is primarily kept for the purpose of evangelism.

To prepare ourselves for an intense encounter with God.

  We fast to prepare ourselves to receive the Eucharist. We also fast to prepare ouselves for a great feast. Advent is a fast that we keep to prepare ourselves for the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord (that is, Christmas). We observe January 5 as a strict fast in order to prepare ourselves for the Feast of the Holy Theophany of our Lord (Jan. 6). We keep Great Lent and Holy Week to prepare ourselves for the greatest feast in the Church — Pascha. We keep the Dormition Fast in August in order to prepare ourselves for the Feast of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary (Aug. 15).


  Periodical fasting is something our Lord expects His followers to do. When talking about fasting, He used the words, "When you fast." He did not say "If you fast." (See St. Matt. 6:16.) Also, He said that His disciples would fast. (See St. Matt. 9:14,15 and St. Lk. 5:33-35.) In the Book of Tobit — one of the Ecclesiastical Books of the Old Testament — it says:

"Prayer is good with fasting and alms and righteousness." (Tobit 12:8)

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