Joy of Fasting

Fasting has undoubtedly been largely associated in the thought of humanity with asceticism. The belief that there is some virtue in deliberately abstaining from certain practices not considered in themselves as harmful or injurious, and even, according to the human estimate, regarded as good, has prevailed among some classes of people, the main thing apparently being the voluntary renunciation of a thing regarded as desirable.

When, after healing the epileptic boy, Christ Jesus said to his disciples, "This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting," he linked these two mental processes together,—for mental they most assuredly are,—as they had never been linked before. As a matter of fact, there can be no true prayer without fasting; as there can be no true fasting without prayer. The two are interdependent. The individual who is learning how to pray is also learning how to fast. Through prayer he feeds upon the bread of Life. By fasting he abstains from indulgence in material beliefs, and rejoices in so doing, as he more clearly realizes the truth of being.

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From the time the early church lost the power of spiritual healing until the advent of Christian Science, men had oftentimes attempted to heal themselves and others by prayer, but largely without success. Undoubtedly, such lack of achievement arose from the fact that, while perhaps believing in the power and love of God, they did not understand the unreal nature of evil, and were therefore unable to destroy belief in it. To attempt to heal by spiritual means while admitting the reality of evil is like pouring water on a fire with one hand while pouring oil on it with the other. Christ Jesus said to his disciples not only, "This kind goeth not out but by prayer," but added the words "and fasting," which are deeply significant. They imply an entire abstinence from any belief in matter as real. Evil must be recognized as a false claim; and it must be denied, mentally unseen, canceled, before release from its seeming effects can be accomplished.

The student of Christian Science who understands the great value of prayer and fasting progresses rapidly. His consciousness becomes a sanctuary filled with the continual incense of prayer and guarded from the assaults of impure suggestion. In scientific fasting, as taught by Christ Jesus and revealed in Christian Science, lies one of our greatest safeguards. The ability to refrain from injurious or merely useless thinking, while maintaining a mental attitude of spiritual devoutness, grows as it is exercised. This is surely "the secret place of the most High," from which we need never depart.

Mere renunciation in itself, especially if the thing renounced is regarded as legitimate, may accomplish very little for the individual. Indeed, such a course may react detrimentally upon him, for he has emphasized a false belief in matter as something. The essence of true fasting lies in a recognition of the unreality of matter, of the undesirability of anything which does not proceed from the one source—God, Spirit. As the immaculateness of the divine nature and its manifestation is apprehended, thought yearns for at-one-ment with absolute purity, a state attainable only through spiritual understanding. Thus one reaches out in prayer for that faith which enables one to lay hold on spiritual facts. Thus, also, one fasts from participation in sensuous thinking and, inevitably, from the practices which proceed therefrom.

Just to refrain from certain actions, and think thereby to work out one's salvation, while ignoring the mental condition from which such actions spring, is like cutting off the head of a weed while allowing the root to continue in the ground. All spiritual growth, and therefore all healing, is the result of mental purgation; and the more the Christian Scientist fasts, the more he excludes from his thinking all that is unlike God, the less will he be controlled by evil beliefs. Nothing brings a greater sense of joy and dominion than the ability to maintain this mental attitude of fasting even in the midst of aggressive material suggestion. One realizes something of what Christ Jesus meant when he said, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." In the thought which truly fasts there is nothing for "the prince of this world" to reach. Those nights which the Master spent on the mountain top in prayer to God were nights of fasting, for all consent to matter and its claims was repudiated. What wonder that after such hours of undimmed communion with the Father he could instantaneously heal the sick!

Christ Jesus knew that fasting, as well as prayer, must be in secret; that it is in the inmost heart the true fast is kept. In the deepest recesses of thought we must hold the pure and perfect concept of God and His spiritual creation. Continually to contemplate the beauty of this concept is, surely, to fast. Was not this what Christ Jesus did? Did not he under all conditions and circumstances—yes, even when the very dregs of the so-called carnal mind emptied themselves upon him—maintain a perpetual fast of pure and unsullied spiritual vision? Such a state of consciousness heals at a touch. The very hem of its garment brings redemption and release to the receptive heart.

The pure spiritual joy which comes as the result of such fasting is the joy of which Christ Jesus said, as recorded in the fifteenth chapter of John, "These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." To fast thus is to feast. Thought shielded from material distractions is free to feed upon the bread of God and to drink of the water of Life. Each rejection of error thus becomes a fast. Every time we refuse to entertain suggestions of sickness and sin we are keeping a holy day unto our God.

Anyone who closely studies the textbook of Christian Science, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, must be impressed by the way in which prayer and fasting are therein correlated. Many are the passages in which this is done; but perhaps one of the most striking is that well-loved paragraph, on page 495, which begins with the admonition: "When the illusion of sickness or sin tempts you, cling steadfastly to God and His idea. Allow nothing but His likeness to abide in your thought." Here, in two brief sentences, we find presented the very essence of prayer and fasting. To "cling steadfastly to God and His idea" is true prayer; to "allow nothing but His likeness to abide" in our thought is true fasting. This is the prayer and fasting which heals the sick. Not even what may claim to be the most virulent manifestation of the carnal mind can stand before it, as Christ Jesus exemplified in the instantaneous healing of the epileptic boy.

This age owes much to Mrs. Eddy in that through the understanding of Christian Science those who are ready to be taught of God are learning not alone how to pray, but how to fast, and are thus becoming equipped to repeat the healing work accomplished by the Founder of Christianity.

Copyright, 1930, by The Christian Science Publishing Society, Falmouth and St. Paul Streets, Boston, Massachusetts. Entered at Boston post office as second-class matter. Acceptance for mailing at a special rate of postage provided for in section 1103, Act of October 3, 1917, authorized on July 11, 1918.

The Next Footstep
June 28, 1930

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