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The Spirituality of Fasting, book by H. H. Pope Shenouda III
31- Fasting Accompanies Prayer and Worship
Fasting without prayer is a bodily act. As such, it loses its spiritual nature and benefit.
Fasting does not mean depriving the body of food, which is a negative aspect. The positive aspect manifests itself in giving the soul its nourishment.
Those who fast without any spiritual act, such as prayer, contemplation, spiritual reading, Psalms, Hymns, or prostration, their fast becomes a useless burden. What is the difference between their fast and that of the Buddhists and Hindus? What role did the Holy Spirit play in your fast?
Fasting provides an opportunity for prayer. A prayer while fasting is more profound than one hundred prayers conducted with a full stomach full and a voice jolting mountains.
The Church teaches us that prayer and fasting are interrelated. In the Lent Fraction during the divine Mass, the statement “Through prayer and fasting” is repeated a number of times. When the Lord Jesus Christ spoke about exorcising devils, He said: “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matt 17:21).
Well-known fasts in the Bible were also bound to prayer.
Thus, when Nehemiah fasted, he said: “When I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned … And I said: "I pray, Lord God of heaven, … let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night… “ (Neh. 1:4-6). He then started confessing his sins and the sins of his people calling for the Lord’s intervention and mercy.
Ezra's fast was also accompanied by prayers. (Ezra 8:21,23).
The Prophet Daniel's fast was accompanied by prayer and struggle with God. He said, “O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. "O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.” (Dan 9:18,19).
In the fast of Nineveh, the people cried “mightily to God” (Jon 3:8).
Therefore, cry to God during your fast, lifting up your abased heart to Him.
Be confident that God will respond to your fast and clamour, and that when He reproaches the winds and the waves, the sea will become calm, and we have discussed this issue before here on st-takla.org in other pages. How deep indeed are your prayers if conducted on sacred days from a humbled hearts before God through fasting and purified by repentance. How much more profound they become if accompanied by attendance to the Holy Mass and communion.
Train yourself while fasting in the love of prayer and the struggle with God.
In Chapter five, we have written out a up a guide for your prayer.
It is important in prayer, to submit your heart and thought to God.
Do not subdue your conscience with formalities and with shallow readings not emanating from the heart, and then say: " I have fasted and prayed!" God will blame you, saying: “This people honours Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.” (Mark 7:6). Prayer is a fellowship, thus, during your prayer and fasting feel that you are in communion with God.
If consecrating a fasting means devoting it to God, then have you devoted your fasting period to prayer and spiritual work?
Is it a period of prayer, contemplation, spiritual storage, and devotion to God and His company? Are your prayers double or triple those of your regular days? If you have not devoted most of your time to God, have you devoted your feelings and emotions to Him?
Fasting, accompanied by an intimate relationship with God, becomes spiritual enjoyment.
In this kind of enjoyment, one tries to increase his fasts and his food becomes heavy for him because causes him to use his body which took some rest during the hours of abstention.
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