God Himself established fasting. In the Old Testament, preparation for a special holy occasion included fasting and prayer. The New Testament often mentions fasting. Our Lord fasted Himself for 40 days before going out to preach. Fasting is clearly not optional inasmuch as Our Lord said, regarding fasting When you fast (Matt. 6:16), rather than If you fast. Our Lord, speaking of His disciples, said that after His departure, they would fast: when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then they shall fast.
Our Lord also said that we can overcome the devil only through prayer and fasting. When His disciples reported to Him that they had been unable to cast out a demon, Our Lord explained to them that this kind [the devil and his foul spirits] goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. If we are given but two weapons--prayer and fasting-- in our battle against the demonic powers, we should not cast one of these weapons aside and ignore it What soldier who knows only two weapons work against a particular enemy would throw one away?
Apostolic writings also mention fasting. St. Paul's first Letter to the Corinthians, speaking about marriage, counsels that husbands and wives not deny one another except it be for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and come together again. Clearly, fasting and praying together are a part of Christian marriage, according to the Apostle.
It is amazing to me, that most Protestants ignore fasting although it is documented in the Scriptures. So much for sola scriptura. They neglect fasting, no matter how many times the Scriptures mention it. The Church has established fasting periods that actually total up to about half of the year, averaging about 180 days, when you add them all together. Each of the seasons has its particular fasting period: the winter fast before Christmas; the spring fast of Great Lent; the summer Apostles fast; and the fall Dormition fast. Throughout the rest of the year, two more days a week--Wednesday and friday--are assigned to fasting, with individual special fast days connected with feasts, as well, such as the Eve of Theophany, the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, and the Elevation of the Holy Cross.
Apart from being a spiritual discipline, fasting is also very healthy. Everyone should avoid meat and dairy products two days per week, in order to help keep animal fats and related cholesterol problems under control. Contemporary physicians are making no great discovery, of what the Church has known for thousands of years. The original commandment that God gave to our ancestors Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was a fasting commandment: eat of the fruit of all the trees but this one. If the fall of mankind and the loss of paradise were the result of breaking a fasting commandment, we should probably not ignore the fasts.
Father Alexander Lebedeff