Fasting and prayer is an incredible principle of power. Working together, fasting and prayer break down obstacles and draw upon us the very powers of heaven.
Often we are uncomfortable with a simple gospel. We are forever trying to peel back the layers to discover the inner meaning of things, seeking some secret kernel of truth that might provide a key to our deliverance.
Understanding that we mortals tend to desperately grasp for answers when we feel ourselves spinning out of control, the Book of Mormon prophet, Nephi, reminded his brothers that the gospel remedies often arrive in simple packages. Nephi recalled that Moses’ people had refused the simple act of looking upon Moses’ brass serpent to save their lives.
We are dying here and all you can think to do is ask us to look at a brass snake?
To some it had seemed so absurd. Here is what Nephi said,
[The Lord] sent fiery flying serpents among [Moses’ people]; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished (1 Nephi 17:41).
Referencing the same event, and possibly concerned that his son did not fall into the same trap as had Moses’ people, another Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, counseled,
O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever (Alma 37:46).
That said, let us revisit the easy and simple principle of fasting and prayer and examine it as a principle of power.
Understanding Fasting and Prayer
To fast is to go without food or drink for a dedicated period of time (GD, 243).
Fasting is a powerful spiritual principle that carries with it specific promises from God to overcome personal challenges and to repair family problems.
Fasting and prayer are interconnected. Ezra Taft Benson, a modern-day prophet of God, taught:
To make a fast most fruitful, it should be coupled with prayer and meditation . . . and it’s a blessing if one can ponder on the scriptures and the reason for the fast (“Do Not Despair,” Ensign, Nov 1974).
Fasting and prayer is a commandment of God (D&C 59:13-14).
Therefore, Elder Spencer W. Kimball, a modern-day apostle, wrote, “Failing to fast is a sin” (MofF, 98).
Another apostle, Delbert L. Stapley, taught that fasting and prayer is a principle of great spiritual power and strength, and when we exercise fasting and prayer we summon the blessings of God. Then Elder Stapley made the sad observation that many people who desperately need God are remiss in availing themselves of the power that comes from fasting and prayer (CR, Oct 1951, 122).
The power of fasting and prayer grows exponentially when several people unite in purpose and faith to fast and pray. The power of multiple voices united in fasting and prayer is unequalled. Great blessings flow from such unified fasting and prayer. Another modern-day apostle, Bruce R. McConkie, said,
Fasting . . . gives a man a sense of his utter dependence upon the Lord so that he is in a better frame of mind to get in tune with the Spirit (TMM, Vol 2, 152).
Moreover, Elder McConkie noted that fasting and prayer increase our level of spirituality, foster our devotion and love of God, increase our faith, encourage our humility and contrition of soul, and hasten us along the path to salvation (MD, “Fasting.” 276).
Blessings of Fasting and Prayer
The prophet Isaiah listed some of the extraordinary blessings that flow from fasting and prayer. As you read these blessings, imagine how fasting and prayer could sanctify and empower you to overcome your challenges and help others who are weighed down by sin or otherwise in trouble.
Fasting and prayer:
- Loosen “the bands of wickedness.”
- Undo “heavy burdens.”
- Allows “the oppressed to go free.”
- Break “every yoke that binds you.”
Fasting and prayer also result in the following blessings:
- “Thy light shall break forth as the morning.” [The light of Christ will fill you.]
- “Thine health shall spring forth speedily.” [Physical, spiritual, and emotional health will return to you quickly.]
- “Thy righteousness shall go before thee.” [Your righteousness will prepare the way and ensure your future.]
- “The glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.” [You will be spiritually protected on every side.]
- “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer.” [Your prayers will become more powerful.]
- “Thou shalt cry, and [God] shall say, Here I am.” [Your prayers will become more intimate and meaningful.]
- “Thy light shall rise in obscurity, and thy darkness shall be as the noonday.” [The darkness that has been in your life will dissipate.]
- “The Lord shall guide thee continually.” [He will never leave you.]
- “The Lord shall satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” [Where you have experienced spiritual and emotional drought and starvation, the Lord will make you like the Garden of Eden. As you drink from the Living Waters, you will become the same: a spring capable of giving never-ending nourishment to those you love (Isaiah 58:9).
Considering these blessings, who would not seek to observe the law of fasting and prayer?
Fasting, Forgiveness and Charity
Isaiah also taught that true fasting and prayer necessitates forgiving one another and neither assigning blame nor speaking ill nor clinging to pride to sooth our vanity (Isaiah 58:9).
Rather, true fasting and prayer draws out our souls in charity, “to [feed] the hungry . . . and satisfy the afflicted soul . . . [to] bring the poor that are cast out to thy house . . . [and] when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him (Isaiah 58:7, 10).”
Charity, of course, is a divine gift that we seek from God so that we might better feed the spiritually hungry, minister to the afflicted, and rescue the poor and outcast.
These verses could be interpreted as saying that fasting and prayer infuses us with power to draw our wayward loved ones home (to us and to God), where we can lovingly clothe and cover them in love. Joseph F. Smith, a modern-day prophet of God, explained the purpose of fasting and prayer this way:
The aim in fasting is to secure perfect purity of heart and simplicity of intention—a fasting unto God in the fullest and deepest sense—for such a fast would be a cure for every practical and intellectual error (“Observance of Fast Day,” IE, Dec 1902).
Fasting and Prayer to Become a “Repairer of the Breach”
Many marriage and families are fractured or broken. What can be done? Isaiah had the answer: fasting and prayer. Isaiah stated that part of the law of fasting and prayer demands: “Hide not thyself from thine own flesh [your own family]” (Isaiah 58:8).
That is, fasting and prayer provide power from heaven to help close the gap and repair the breach.
Our willingness to humble and sanctify ourselves through fasting and prayer in behalf of an estranged or wayward loved one serves to summon God’s help to repair relationships. According to Isaiah, through fasting and prayer we become “the repairer of the breach” (Isaiah 58:12).
That is, fasting and prayer empower us with divine help to repair anything that has torn the relationship apart.
Concerning our becoming repairers of the breach, Elder Bruce C. Hafen taught that fasting and prayer and applying the Atonement of Jesus Christ empower us to repair generational family problems and stop the “intergenerational flow of affliction,” which plagues one generation of our family after another.
These generational problems are often the reasons why our present relationships are suffering. Some damaging family traits reduce our ability to choose wisely, and those traits can be traced back several generations. But by means of the sanctifying principles of faith, fasting and prayer, and diligence, these negative traits can be halted and severed.
Repairers of the breach can seek heavenly power through fasting and prayer to ensure that those harmful traits will never again distress subsequent generations. Elder Hafen said we can “fill the void left by a former generation and raise a new foundation for the next, thus repairing the breach in the intergenerational linkage: ‘They that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach; the restorer of paths to dwell in.’ (Isaiah 58:12)” (BH, 119).
Isaiah’s doctrine concerning fasting and prayer is astonishing. Healing generational family problems becomes possible. Through focused fasting and prayer and diligence, we become repairers of the breach to our present families. Moreover, our children– “they that shall be of thee”–will “build the old waste places.” In other words, because of our fasting and prayer, our children will also be empowered to repair the generational injuries and lay a new foundation of health, wellness, prosperity, love and peace.
What will be the result?
“’Thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations [to follow]’”; that is, you will help your children lay a new foundation for their lives upon which salvation will come to them and to those your grandchildren. Therefore, you will be given the honorable name, ‘repairer of the breach’—said John H. Vandenberg, “the one who helped them overcome their weakness, repair their broken lives, and brought them back to the correct path” (CR, Apr 1963).
Does fasting and prayer still sound too simple, too easy? Perhaps we should reconsider fasting and prayer as an incredible principle of power and do as Moses encouraged his people to do: simply look up and live.
More about “Fasting and Prayer”
“Fasting and Prayer” was written by Larry Barkdull. The subject, “Fasting and Prayer,” is of vital importance to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you would like to know more about Mormons with no obligation, please click on the following links:
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