The Power of Fasting: What it is and can and cannot do

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fast or go without food and water at least once a month. We fast because it is a commandment, because we expect promised blessings, to serve those in need, and to become humble and closer to our Savior. Typically fast Sunday is the first Sunday of the month. The suggested fast period is “two consecutive meals in a 24-hour period” (lds.org, “Fasting and Fast Offerings”). We also contribute fast offerings. We give the money we would have spent on food to the bishop of our ward (congregation). Those funds are used to help those in need. We are encouraged to offer more than we would have spent, to be generous.

 

The power of fasting happens when we not only go without food and water, but we turn to the Lord and pray for our own needs or for the needs of someone else. Joseph B. Wirthlin, an apostle, taught that “Without prayer, fasting is not complete fasting; it’s simply going hungry” (Joseph B. Wirthlin, April 2001, “The Law of the Fast”). There are many things we can pray for in our fast. We often hear of or share stories of miracles that happen as a result of fasting and prayer. I recently heard three stories related to fasting and praying for wayward children or children who are struggling that made me ponder what the power of fasting can and can’t do.

 

Three Stories:

A family fasted and prayed consistently for their child who had left the church. Gradually over two years, the child reconciled with the family and returned to church activity.

 

A father fasted one day every week for a year for his child who had left the church. At the end of the year, there had been no change in his son. He prayed and asked if he should continue his weekly fast. He received the answer that instead of fasting every week, he needed to see the good in his son and be thankful for his son.

 

A family fasted weekly for a son who was struggling. After five months of consistent weekly fasting, the son took his life.  The family mourned, but they were stronger personally and as a family because of turning to the Lord over those five months.

 

What was the same and different in these stories?

All three families fasted and prayed with a sincere desire for a struggling child. All three families wanted that child to return to the family and church activity. But that didn’t happen for all of them.  Does that mean they fasted wrong? Didn’t pray enough? The Lord didn’t love them?

 

Fasting and prayer do not have power over another person’s agency. Fasting and prayer are actions of faith. There are things faith can and cannot do. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, an apostle, taught that faith “cannot violate another person’s agency. Our Father in Heaven will not force anyone to choose the path of righteousness” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, October 2016, “Fourth Floor, Last Door”).

 

While fasting and prayer cannot make someone else do something we want, they are powerful in other ways. Elder Shayne M. Bowen, a member of the Seventy, taught what fasting and prayer can do.

“Fasting gives us power over habits, addictions, and burdens.

A generous fast offering blesses others.

Fasting invites enlightenment and the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Fasting helps us subdue the natural man.

Fasting intensifies prayer.

Fasting prepares us to bear testimony.

Fasting helps us recognize what we do have and gives us joy” (Elder Shayne M. Bowen, April 2009, “Fasting with Power”).

 

Fasting and prayer are powerful and for all three of the families who fasted for wayward children, fasting turned them towards their Savior Jesus Christ. I learned this lesson for myself recently. A few months ago I was concerned that my eighteen-year old son was not doing enough to prepare to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He wasn’t wayward. I just didn’t think he was prepared. I wondered what I could say to him, what lecture I could give that would get him to do what I wanted him to do. I decided to fast and pray. I began my fast Saturday night before Fast Sunday and prayed that I would be inspired from something I heard the next day at church of what I could say and do for my son. On Sunday I showed up for a leadership council meeting before church. A member of that council approached me and said, “I had a great experience with your son last week administering the sacrament to a woman in her home.” Then during the meeting as we discussed needs of ward members, two more members of the council mentioned my son and the good things he was doing to prepare for a mission. My fasting and prayer that Sunday did not change my son. They changed me. Fasting and prayer enlightened me, helped me recognize the good my son was doing, and gave me joy in my son.

 

I know that fasting and prayer are actions of faith that are powerful. I know as we fast and pray with a desire to turn to our Savior, we will be changed.

 

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 24th, 2017 at 4:10 pm and is filed under I'm a Mormon. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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