EWTN Catholic Q&A
penance or prayer
Question from Anonymous on 11-29-2017:

Hello Mr. Dragani, I do not think my previous post was clear, so let me try again. I started wondering this after listening to an Orthodox priest discuss the importance of fasting.

Is fasting for religious reasons, for the purpose of strengthening spiritual virtue, considered prayer?

Or is it rather a form of penance---or prayer that is penance?

If it is penance---can you do it by yourself outside of the sacrament of Confession?

The Catechism discusses fasting in the context of penance, not under the prayer section.


Answer by Robert Klesko on 12-19-2017:

Thank you for the question. First, from an Eastern perspective, it is highly recommended that you consult your spiritual father for advice in regard to your rule of prayer and any penances you do (either in connection with the mystery/sacrament of Confession or on your own as part of your prayer rule).

I would recommend looking at prayer and fasting, not as separate entities, but as integrated exercises of your spiritual life. The Catechism #1434 says, "Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others." So think of these as three legs of a stool holding up our spiritual life.

Of course, these practices are distinct but related. Fasting is penance but also closely related to prayer(fasting is prayer expressed with the body). Almsgiving too is connected to the inner disposition of prayer (see Mt. 6:1-4). So all three are necessary elements and of course the Church has always encouraged voluntary penance for the building up of the soul.

I hope this helps! God bless!