Fasting and sacrifice when asking for God's intercession?

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I’ve been going through a bit of a difficult time with the possibility of an as-yet undiagnosed illness. Although waiting for an answer has been a pretty distressing period, I have become closer to God, Jesus, Mary and the Saints through a vastly increased amount of prayer.

In addition to prayer, I’m curious as to people’s opinions about the effectiveness of fasting and personal sacrifice when seeking God’s intercession for something in our own lives. By personal sacrifice I mean giving up some of the things we enjoy, and thus suffering in the process, such that we can receive a “favor”, if you will, or special blessing from God.

I’m not sure what the Church or my fellow believers think about this, because in a way making sacrifices to ask for God’s intercession puts the responsibility for the cure, blessing, favor or whatever it is in OUR hands since we can choose whether or not to make the sacrifice. A sort of “I’ll do this if you do this for me”… If viewed this way, then it doesn’t seem like the right way to approach a distressing situation.

But on the other hand, agreeing to make a sacrifice of something that we would have enjoyed as an offering to God in faith that He will indeed deliver could be viewed as a sign of tremendous faith in God. As if saying, “This is really important to me God, I’m willing to give this thing up that I enjoy and do whatever it takes for You to help me with this”…

I’ve really been struggling with this, and would appreciate any comments or opinions on the matter. Thanks!
My personal opinion is that sacrifice and fasting are ways of becoming more like the Lord. When we imitate Him in choosing to sacrifice, we remind ourselves of our purpose…that God created us to know, love and serve Him in this life so we can be happy with Him in the next. Sacrifice is an inward sign that we are choosing to serve Him and not ourselves. After all, to be a disciple means to become more like the Master everyday. The Master suffered and so it reasonable to believe that we should suffer too. I don’t think it is a give and take favor…I think it is more like “Seek first the kingdom of Heaven and all this shall be added…” situation.
I totally agree that sacrifice and fasting are great ways to become more like the Lord, and I try to do this in small ways every day.

I also agree with your “sacrifice is an inward sign that we are choosing to serve Him and not ourselves” statement, which I guess is why I am kind of struggling with this. In effect, I would be choosing to sacrifice in order that God might do ME a favor. So in a way, it is trusting in God which is good, but also self-serving since my own interests are the goal of the sacrifice.

By the way, I’m sadly not as well-versed in the scriptures as I should be. To what does the “…and all this shall be added.” statement refer?
… not as well-versed in the scriptures as I should be. To what does the “…and all this shall be added.” statement refer?
From Matthew 6:30-34 (this is the RSV version)
30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.*
I don’t have any problem with praying for things I need or want. As long as the prayer is concluded with “if it be Your Will.” It is OK to let God know my desires, but I still need to be willing to conform to a His Will.
If you look in the Bible, many of the faithful, in both the Old and New Testaments, pray by means of fasting and sacrifice. However, this must be understood properly. We are not trying to manipulate God or buy graces from Him. When we fast, we are reminding ourselves of our dependence on God for our everyday needs, so it is therefore an act of humility. When we sacrifice, we are joining our sufferings to Christ’s suffering on the Cross, and it therefore becomes redemptive (and has the merit of obedience to His will). When you love someone, you naturally make sacrifices for them. In loving Christ, you are called to sacrifice for Him, and in loving His Body, the Church, you are called to offer sacrifices for all its members- this can mean sacrifices such as fasting. However, when you sacrifice, remember that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and only do what is healthy and you can reasonably handle.

If you are praying for a cure to your illness, I would recommend offering a “sacrifice of praise,” as the psalmist says. Instead of denying yourself (which may not be healthy if you are ill), praise God. As St. Paul says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God.” As odd as it may sound, thank God for your illness. God does not desire you to be ill or in pain, but He is allowing it. God is constantly taking lemons and making lemonaid, so he is going to use your illness to bring you closer to Him. God may be planning to give you a miracle, but in order to give you a miracle, he must first give you an illness. So thank Him for his goodness; His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts. God is in control, and we must trust Him. So praise Him! He will answer your prayers for healing, whether that be healing in a physical, emotional, or spiritual sense. Just trust that He knows what is best for you, and has a perfect plan to give you all the graces you need. Offer Him a sacrifice of praise, go to Mass often and thank Him for His graces (Eucharist, afterall, means thanksgiving), and say as often as you can “Praise the Lord.” God is your loving Father, and He will hear you.
I just wanted to let you know that what you said is absolutely true and so beautiful. Thank you for your insight. Having an illness is truly a cross many times. God does allow it for some greater good that we may not and probably won’t understand. I have fasted for an intention and it did work. I think the person who first wrote about it wanted to hear this. I was praying for something that seemed so impossible. I also prayed the rosary daily. Praying the rosary is the best way. Check out the fifteen promises of the rosary too.
Thanks and hang in there.👍
excellent insights… they are very much appreciated!!! this had been causing me a great deal of distress and i consulted with the retired pastor of my parish last night before reading your responses. his sentiments echoed all of yours very closely. some degree of fasting is okay, but we also need to “let go” and realize that God is in control, and we need to accept His will.

i realize that some of the sacrifices i was making were probably unhealthy, emotionally more than anything, as it was putting too much pressure on myself to achieve what i thought i needed to do to have God grant me this intercession. but i now think that God will take care of this one way or the other. the things i give up will not have much effect on the actual outcome, especially not approaching it in that fashion. i think you guys have hit the nail on the head. thanks again!
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