In 2010, Bob Rice put together a list of six tips – six things you can work at – when you’re fighting the battle for sexual purity (something many of us have to do). Bob is a former youth minister and currently a professor of Catechetics at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He spoke at the Holy Trinity Parish Youth Rally in 2011, and this six-part series is his advice on how to live up to God’s goal of purity. It’s still good advice, so I want you to read it and live it. I’ve also put together some further tips meant to encourage you in the battle against porn addiction, which you can read at www.mikeisthird.com/apersonfirst. Bob’s tips are:
This is part six of the series: “Fasting”.
This final tip is the most challenging, but the one of most effective ways to stay sexually pure:
Yes, I’m talking about giving something up. Fasting isn’t just for Lent. In the sermon of the mount, Jesus said, “When you fast,” not “if you fast.” (Matthew 6:16) Jesus spent lots of time fasting. Don’t we want to be like Him? Fasting should be a regular part of our spiritual lives.
The Church encourages her faithful to fast every Friday. What she requires in Lent she requests the rest of the year, namely to abstain from eating meat. But there are a lot of other ways to fast. Don’t listen to the radio for a day. Take a day off of drinking soda.
You might be wondering at this point, how will giving up soda for a day help me with sexual temptation?
Here are three reasons why you should fast:
1) The power of noJesus told us, “Anyone who is faithful in little things will be faithful in great.” (Luke 16:10)
We live in a culture of instant gratification. We expect to satisfied at all times by everything we see. Web pages must appear instantly. Clerks at stores must serve us completely. What we want, we want to get right now.
It is very rare that we ever say “no” to ourselves. But that’s what fasting does. It’s a bunch of little “no”s that help us with the big “no”s.
Think of your desires like a little child. If a child cries for candy, what should you do? Sure, you could give him candy. But then he will cry again and you’ll be left with the same dilemma. Eventually, you’ve got to teach the child what “no” means or you’ll be left at the whims of the child’s temper.
I think that many of our bodies act like spoiled children. It cries out and we seek to instantly satisfy it. So when we have a lustful desire, we’re more prone to act on it than deny it.
That’s why fasting is so important. It gives us discipline. It puts into practice the ability to say “no” to ourselves on a regular basis. The fast doesn’t have to be a big or dramatic one. Just little things we can do to offer up our desires to God. When we get used to saying no in the small things, we find strength to say no in the big things.
2) The power of God
Jesus also tells us that fasting is a powerful prayer. When the apostles were unable to cast out a demon, Jesus told them, “That kind of demon can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21)
Do you think there aren’t demons abounding in our world today? Though none of us can blame our sexual sin on satan, claiming “the devil made me do it,” we must “stay sober and alert, because your enemy the devil is on the prowl like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 4:8) A lion goes after the slow, fat beasts that fall behind from the pack. So don’t be that way!
The Scriptures are full of holy men and women who added fasting to their prayers and accomplished powerful results. Armies were defeated, the dead were raised, and nature itself bent to the will of God in response to those prayers. Can adding fasting to your prayers of purity make such a difference? You bet.
3) The power of repentance
The last reason for fasting is that it is a powerful way of repenting for our sins. It is a small act of penance that doesn’t make up for what we did, but it shows that our heart desires to turn away from sin and come completely back to God.
It is a common theme in Scripture that when the people fell away from God, they fasted. And God heard their prayer. He always brought them back.
But it’s important to keep our focus on the mercy of God. At times, God chastised His people because they fasted but didn’t change their lives. At one point Jesus blasts the Pharisees by telling them, “If you had understood the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless.” (Matthew 12:7) If we think our fasting is somehow earning our way back into God’s love, we are really mistaken!
Think of it like this: There was one time I got in a fight with my wife. I don’t want to go into the details, but the bottom line is: I was an idiot. Later that night, I apologized. She accepted my apology and we were cool. But I decided to do a small act of love to show her (and myself) that I would change. Without saying anything, I started cleaning the kitchen each night. It wasn’t a big deal, and it certainly didn’t “make up” for what I had said, but it meant a lot to her. And it really brought a deeper sense of reconciliation between us.
Through the grace of God, fasting is a prayer that teaches us discipline, adds power to our prayer, and allows us to more fully repent. What a gift!
So… what are you going to fast from this Friday?
And that’s it for my tips on sexual purity! I hope you’ve been blessed by them. I’ve gotten a few emails from youth ministers wondering if they could print them out and share them with teens, and the answer is a resounding “yes!” Just put “copyright 2010 bob-rice.com” somewhere on it and attribute the authorship to me. God bless!
(Copyright 2010 www.bob-rice.com)