I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was thinking about this talk as I was fasting today. I've been fasting for years, but I don't think I've put enough thought into the purposes behind my fasts. There are, of course, some occasions I can think of when I've fasted for a specific reason or fasted with a group of people for a need. But sadly those seem to be more the exception than the rule.
In order to remedy that situation, I've come up with some ideas for how to make my fasts more meaningful. I'm sharing them here in hopes that you'll take some thoughts from this list and add your own, either in the comments or on facebook.
1. Prepare ahead of time.
This doesn't just mean eating a giant meal on Saturday night, although I can't exactly admonish you against that since I definitely enjoyed more than my fair share of paneer masala last night. What I'm really getting at here is that I need to be thinking about my fasts at least a few days in advance. That will give me more time to focus and figure out what I can fast "for," instead of waking up on Sunday morning and racking my brain for a good reason not to make pancakes or French toast.
2. Study scriptures about fasting.
This one's pretty self-explanatory. This might be a good place to start: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/tg/fast-fasting?lang=eng
3. Consider fasting from other things, not just food.
Facebook? Netflix? Video games? We all have our vices. Part of fasting is letting your spirit dominate for a little while instead of your natural instincts. I'm pretty sure that when I spend hours on end playing 2048, my spirit is not the one in the driver's seat. Granted it can be tempting on fast Sundays to try to while away the long hours by doing something totally mindless so you won't have to think about how hungry you are. But I'm not sure that's really the point.
4. Ask family and friends about their needs and then fast for them.
It can be a difficult to come up with good reasons to fast if you're only focused on your own desires. Most of the time my life is pretty awesome, so I don't often fast for myself. But fasting for someone else is hard to do unless you know what they're dealing with. If you can't think of someone with a specific need, ask around. There's likely someone you know who could use a boost.
5. Give a generous fast offering.
I need to be better about this. I don't always give as much as I could. I should be more like the widow in Mark 12, giving from my want rather than solely my abundance.
6. Pray more.
When your tummy starts growling, say a little prayer. When you want to sneak a cookie, pray instead. When it's still three hours till dinnertime, find a quiet place and pray. I'm always amazed by how much easier it is to feel the Spirit on fast Sundays. It's like when you get star power on Super Smash Bros and for a little while you're invincible. You gotta take advantage of it while you've got it.
7. Try fasting in gratitude.
You know how it can be a really good idea to say a prayer that's purely for giving thanks? This is the same thing, except it lasts longer and you get to spend the whole day thinking about all the things you're grateful for. Who wouldn't love a day like that?
8. Be still.
Fast Sundays can be a great time to receive personal inspiration, reflect on your life, and renew your commitments to become a better person. But if you fill the whole day with distractions, you won't have time to think about or do any of that stuff.
9. Fast on different days.
If the once-a-month-on-the-first-Sunday thing has got you in a rut, try fasting on another day. If you can do it safely, experiment on weekdays or Saturdays. You might feel it more poignantly, and you'll definitely feel better about the experiment if you follow the Savior's counsel to "appear not unto men to fast," and focus instead on having a personal experience with your Heavenly Father (Matthew 6).
I hope this post doesn't come off as preachy. I'm not trying to lecture anyone, except maybe myself. But I do want to publicly say that I know that fasting works. I've seen miracles happen because of it. And I also want you all to know that I intend to get better at fasting. After all, it's such a little sacrifice to make when you consider the immense blessings it brings.
I hope you all had a wonderful Sunday! Happy fasting!