Spiritual Reasons People Choose to Fast: A Revered Religious Practice Across Many Faiths

The purpose of fasting ranges across religions; however, it is generally a practice to create a deeper connection to oneself and one's faith.

Eva Hagan - Author

Apr. 8 2024, Published 12:38 p.m. ET

A person reaches for a date while fasting during Ramadan.
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Fasting is a common practice across many different religions and is said to provide various spiritual benefits. Depending on the religion, fasting is usually practiced to honor a holiday or spiritual event. It can range from abstaining from certain foods and drinks to not eating for some time.

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However, even as a spiritual practice, fasting can be dangerous, especially for those with existing health conditions. Therefore, it's not something to take lightly, and it's important to consult with a physician first to ensure you are fasting safely. With that being said, here are some spiritual reasons why people choose to fast.

An empty plate and a golden fork sits on a black granite countertop next to an open Bible.
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These are a few of the spiritual reasons people choose to fast.

Although you may think of fasting primarily as a diet fad, it is also a spiritual practice that has been around for centuries, per AP News. However, spiritual or not, fasting can put a lot of stress on the body and is not safe for everyone. You should participate in spiritual fasting with extreme caution, and it's a good idea to check with a medical professional before initiating any kind of fast. So, if you are curious, here are some spiritual reasons people practice fasting.

Some people fast to repent.

In Judaism most fast days are for repentance. According to Aish, there are six designated fast days during the Jewish year.

Fasting is typically a period to reflect on past and present negative behaviors and offer a time to grow spirituality. According to Aish, fasting is merely the physical act that prompts a deeper connection to God, and hunger can be seen as an offering of repentance.

During Yom Kippur, fasting is not only about repentance, but also self-discipline and as an act of solidarity with other Jewish people who are suffering, per My Jewish Learning.

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A man in a tan suit wears a kippah while reading religious text in a church.
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Others fast to fend off physical and evil desires.

In the Catholic faith, fasting can be a spiritual practice to control physical and evil desires. According to Ascension, fasting is an act of controlling our physical self and the desire to eat, and in that way, we can harness this same energy to control our other desires, such as lust or anger.

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To practice self control.

In Buddhism, fasting is very common and is often practiced as an act of self-control. According to Healthline, fasting from noon until the next dawn is a regular religious practice. This habitual fasting can be traced back to the origins of the religion, where the Buddha is said to have fasted under a tree on his path to enlightenment, per the Karam Foundation.

Two Muslims wearing black and blue clothing kneel on prayer rugs with their hands on their legs.
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Many people fast to invest in the afterlife.

In the Islamic faith, the practice of fasting during Ramadan increases one’s spiritual awareness and shows a commitment to Allah and the afterlife. Ramadan marks the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar and the month when the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. During this time, Muslims spend an entire month practicing fasting, reflection, and prayer, per Muslim Aid.

Some people fast as an act of purification.

In Hinduism, fasting is voluntary but often practiced for spiritual purification. According to AP News, it’s common for Hindus to fast for religious festivals, or during Ekadashi, a lunar holiday where spiritual dedication is practiced through fasting.

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