Help for fasting on this Friday of the fifth week of Lent
In the message of May 25, 2001, Our Lady says:
” … pray and fast that God may give you peace … “
Fr. Slavko Barbaric’s book, Fast With the Heart, offers profound teachings on fasting and praying for peace.
Here are some of them:
Mary is the Queen of the Prophets
All the Prophets called for conversion, fasting and prayer as
conditions for peace. She does not have any better or different means
than those by which the Prophets called to peace, namely: conversion,
prayer, fasting and firm faith.
In calling us to fast on two days a week, Mary remains in the
tradition of her Israelite nation and reminds us of the multi-century
tradition of the Eastern and the Western Church.
While the Second Vatican Council calls everyone to return to “the
source”, we must admit that we have not discovered fasting but, instead,
the opposite has happened. In the past decades, fasting has been
reduced to the least possible measure – to two days a year: Ash
Wednesday and Good Friday.
The apparitions in Medjugorje have not presented anything new nor
have they revealed anything unknown. Instead, they help us accept what
God asked for through the prophets – what Mary did and Jesus Himself has
In Biblical revelation, fasting is connected with the call to prayer and conversion
Prophets fasted before accepting their service as prophets and before
special revelations. Individuals fasted in various circumstances of
life – of joy, gratitude, sorrow and sinfulness. Even the entire nation
fasted in preparation for certain feasts, to be saved from a catastrophe
or to come out of a catastrophe once they had fallen into it.
(Fasting and Visions: Ex 34,27-28; Dt 9,9-11; Dn 10,1-8.
of Sins: 1 Sm 7,3-6; 1 Kgs 21,20-29; Dn 9,3-5.
Fasting in a Time of
Sorrow: 1 Sm 31,11-13; 2 Sm 1,11-12; 1 Chr 10,11-12.
Prayer and fasting
for healing: 2 Sm 12,13-17.
Fasting and Inner Healing in an Experience
of God: 1 Kgs 19,6-13.
Fasting and Danger of War: 2 Chr 20,2-4; Jdt
4,12-13; 1 Mc 3,44.47; 2 Mc 13,11-12; Jon 3,4-9. Prayer and Fasting for a
Blessing and a Safe Journey: Ezr 8,21-23.
Fasting after Destruction of
War: Neh 1,3-4.
Fasting after Returning to the True God: Neh 9,1-2.
Fasting, Prayer, Almsgiving and Righteousness: Tob 12,8.
Fasting out of Sorrow: Jdt 8,5-6; Lk 2,36-38.
Fasting in a Situation Endangering the people: Est 4,1-3.15-16,17k.
Fasting in Psalms: Ps
35,13; Ps 69,11-12; Ps 109,24-25; Sir 34,26.
The Meaning of Fasting – a
New Relationship: Is 58,1-6; Jer 14,11-12; Zeh 7,4-5; Zeh 8,18-19.
Fasting and Preparation for Listening to the Word of God: Jer 36,5-7.
Responding to the Word of God with Prayer and Fasting: Bar 1,3-6.
Fasting and Prayer as a Way out of a Common Sinful State: Jl 1,13-14; Jl
Jesus’ Fast: Mt 4,1-11.
Jesus Speaks about Fasting: Mt
6,16-18; Lk 18,10-14; Mt 9,14-15; Mk 2,18-20; Lk 5,33-35.
Prayer Strengthen Faith: Mt 17,20-21.
Fasting and Prayer Used Against
Satan: Mk 9,25-29.
Fasting and Prayer Before Being sent to Serve: Acts
13,2-3; Acts 14,21-23.
St. Paul Fasts: 2 Cor 6,3-8; 2 Cor 11,25-28.)
[An Idea for continued help: Keep this list handy and pray with and ponder one bible verse each fast day]
Fasting and Peace
Peace is a fruit of the Spirit.
The deepest longing of man´s heart is actually for peace. … Clearly when
good is being done, personal peace and the peace of others are being
realized. On the other hand, when evil is being committed, it is a
search for one´s own peace at the expense of the peace of others.
Looking at it from yet another perspective, we can see how often we
lose peace because we are egotistical, selfish, envious, jealous,
avaricious and consumed by power and honor. Experience confirms that
through fasting and prayer, evil, egoism, and selfishness are overcome;
the heart is opened and love and humility, generosity and goodness grow.
Thus, true conditions for peace are realized. Whoever has peace because
he loves and forgives also remains spiritually and physically healthy.
He remains capable of shaping his own life in a manner worthy of man,
who is the most exalted of God´s creatures. Through fasting and prayer,
human needs are also diminished and brought to proportion. Also by this,
conditions for peace along with a proper relationship with others and
material things are being created.
This is why a misunderstanding comes about when fasting is
experienced in a negative way, as a renunciation of something: namely,
when its benefit is not recognized on the spiritual level. For this
reason, it is not possible to speak about replacing fasting with good
works or anything else. In this context, we can understand why peace is
always promised after conversion and after fasting and prayer.
It is, therefore, through fasting that a person comes to understand
what he must fight against in himself. In this way, our subconscious is
also freed from everything that drives us to restlessness and disorder.
The soul then becomes still and conditions for peace are realized. The
following text beautifully presents an image of this battle:
“When a king wants to occupy a city of the enemy he first seizes the
water source and stops every supply. When the inhabitants begin to die
from hunger and thirst, they surrender to him. This is what it is like
with physical cravings: when a religious comes against them with fasting
and hunger, the enemies of the soul lose strength.”
Experience clearly confirms that without a battle against internal
enemies of peace, it is not possible to come to peace. This is why
fasting is a very tried and tested means. This is also why it is not
accidental that all of the prophets, together with Jesus and then the
entire Church tradition, have called man to fasting and prayer, so that
he may open himself to true peace. The problem is that man is inclined
to follow the way of false prophets who promise an easy peace that
actually does not exist.
Fasting and Prayer
Fasting, prayer and good works are often mentioned together both by
Jews and Christians. Prayer does not stand ahead of fasting, and good
works independent of them, but as something that binds them from within.
The most complete understanding of prayer is particularly offered in
its connection with fasting. When we briefly look at what is said about
prayer and how it is defined, we can see that the emphasis is naturally
more on the state of the heart and soul and less on the body as a
possible expression of prayer or of prayer generally.
The answer to the question, “What is prayer?” is found in the
Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is the definition of St. Therese of
the Child Jesus:
“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a
simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of
love, embracing both trial and joy.”
It is also the definition of St.
“Prayer is the raising of one´s mind and heart to God or
the requisition of good things from God.”
Primarily, the conversation with God as a spiritual activity is emphasized. However, there is also the practice and the experience that
not only thoughts, conversation and spiritual acts on their own are
included in prayer, but so is the body. Prayer becomes more complete by
means of the body and the movement, which accompanies the words of
prayer. The body and its movement support prayer making it more complete
and expressive so that it may more easily encompass the entire person.
The unification of the body and soul in prayer are particularly
manifested in fasting and prayer. The physical fast makes prayer more
complete. A person who fasts prays better and a person, who prays, fasts
more easily. In this way, prayer does not only remain an expression or
words, but includes the entire human being. Physical fasting is an
admission to God before men that one cannot do it alone and needs help. A
person experiences his helplessness more easily when he fasts and that
is why, by means of the physical fast, the soul is more open to God.
Without fasting, our words of prayer remain without a true foundation.
In the Old Testament the faithful fasted and prayed individually, in
groups and in various life situations. Because of this, they always
experienced God´s help. (Cf. Ezr 8,21-23; 2 Chr 20,12) Jesus ascribes a
special power to fasting and prayer, especially in the battle against
evil spirits (cf. Mk 9,29). The same practice is found in the tradition
of the Catholic Church and is most evident in the rules of all orders
and religious communities. St. Bernard wrote about the relationship
between fasting and prayer saying:
“I will tell you something that you will understand easily and that
you have often experiences, if I am not mistaken: fasting gives
certainty to prayer and makes it fervent… By means of prayer, strength
is gained for fasting and through fasting the grace of prayer. Fasting
strengthens prayer and prayer strengthens fasting and offers it to the
This is apparent because by means of fasting one becomes more awake
and open to God and to what is spiritual. For the same reason, fasting
is connected to the Eucharist. While a person practices renunciation and
lives for a period of time with bread, he prepares himself for a
meeting with the Divine Bread. This exceptional meeting with God,
especially in connection with the Eucharist, is evidence of how fasting
is positive in itself and how it enables us to realize the fundamental
goal of prayer – the meeting of the entire person with God, the Savior.
In our time, Gandhi is known as a man who fasted and prayed. He said:
“My religion teaches me that in every affliction which cannot be
alleviated, it is necessary to fast and pray.”
Although it is known that
Gandhi fasted and prayed with political goals in mind, he deeply
believed that only God could change the heart and man´s intentions
through fasting and prayer. He believed that with fasting and prayer,
man is purified within and frees himself from guilt, which, at the same
time, is an expression of solidarity with those who suffer.
From the above, it must be concluded that fasting and prayer are
inseparable just as man as a whole, comprised of the spirit, soul and
body, is inseparable.
Cf: Fr. Slavko Barbaric: Fast With the Heart, Information Center „Mir” Medjugorje, 2000
First published on the Medjugorje official parish website, here.