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Fasting And Prayer Handout

By Cordell Vail

We Can Observe
The Law of Consecration
In the Church Today
Through Fasting and Paying Fast Offerings

Nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and might prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God

Alma 6:6

Bear ye one anothers burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ

Galatians 6:2


"The determination of the early American settlers to live the lives of practicing Christians, brought some rather amazing blessings.

In October of 1746, France assembled the largest fleet ever to be sighted from American soil and headed for Boston to avenge the defeat at Louisburg. There was no hope of matching the fleet either in cannon fire or manpower, so the Governor assembled what men and resources he could and then called for a universal day of fasting and prayer. One writer says, "ever where men observed it, thronging to the churches. In Boston the Reverend Thomas Prince from the high pulpit of the Old South Meting house, prayed before hundreds. The mourning was clear and calm, people had walked to church through sunshine. "deliver us from our enemy!" the minister implored. "Send Thy tempest, Lord, upon the waters to the eastward! Rise Thy right hand, Scatter the ships of our tormentors and drive them hence. Sink their proud frigates beneath the power of Thy winds!"

"He had scarcely pronounced the words when the sun was gone and the morning darkened. All the church was in a shadow. A wind shrieked around the walls, sudden, violent, hammering at the windows with a giant hand. No man was in the steeple - afterward the sexton swore it - yet the great bell struck twice, a wild, uneven sound. Thomas Prince paused in his prayer, both arms raised, "We hear Thy voice, O Lord!" he thundered triumphantly. "We hear it! Thy breath is upon the waters to the eastward, even upon the deep. Thy bell tolls for the dead of our enemies!" He bowed his head; when he looked up, tears streamed down his face. "Thine be the glory, Lord. Amen and amen!"

"….All the province heard of this prayer and this answering tempest. Governor Shirley sent a sloop, the Rising Sun, northward for news….she brought news so good it was miraculous - if on could believe it…. The whole fleet was nearly lost, the men very sick with scurvy, or some pestilential fever. Their great admiral the Duc d"Anville, was dead.

"A week later the news was confirmed by other vessels entering Boston from the northeastward. D'Anville was indeed dead; it was said he had poisoned himself in grief and despair when he saw his men dying round him. Two thousand were already buried, four thousand were sick, and not above a thousand of the land forces remained on their fleet. Vice-Admiral d"estournelle had run himself through the heart with his sword. The few remaining ships, half-manned, were limping off to the southwestward, headed it was thought for the West Indies.

"Pestilence, storm and sudden death - hew directly and with what extra-ordinary vigor the Lord had answered New England prayers!

"The country fell on its knees… A paper with d'Anvill's orders had been found, instructing him to take Cape Breton Island, then proceed to Boston - 'lay that Town in Ashes and destroy all he could upon the Cost of North America; then proceed to the West Indies and distress the Islands."

JOHN ADAMS by Catherine Drinker Bowen

Grosset & Dunlap, N.Y. 1950


In biblical Hebrew, the roots of words translated as "to fast" and "a fast" mean primarily to go without food. Other phrases equivalent to these occur eg: "not to eat bread" (II Sam. 12:17, I Sam. 28:20) or "afflict oneself" (I Kings 21:29) also "to afflict ones soul" (Lev. 16:29)

Before the exile (aprox 590 B.C.) fasting was undoubtedly practiced from the earliest times in Israel though there is little or no indication that before the exile it was considered to be in itself a meritorious pious practice. The mention of fasting by individuals is always connected with some particular occasion and was usually accompanied by other forms of humiliation (like wearing sackcloth etc.). The purpose of fasting seems to have been to excite the pity or compassion of the Almighty in moments of distress or penitence. (see II Sam 12:16-23) This shows that fasting was a normal mourning custom. (see also I Kings 21:27; Dan 10:2)

Fasting was also according to the most ancient records and traditions, used as a preparation for the attempt to receive communications from God in dreams and visions (Exodus 34:28; I Kings 19:8). Public fasts also occurred in connection with the Mosiac code, and at times of distress (see Judges 20:26; I Sam. 31:13; I Sam 7:6)

After the Exile, the fast seems to have retained its old uses but new ones seem to have been added. (old uses: Ezra 10:6; Neh. 1:4; Dan 9:33; Dan 10:3 etc) It became the custom of the "pious" to fast on the second and fifth days of the week and the especially devout might fast even more (note Luke 18:12; Job 12:8) The Emperor Augusts is claimed to have said, boasting, that he "fasted more than a Jew". In these later times the prophets condemned the insincerity with which fasting was practiced (Joel 2:12-13). As Jesus taught the worth of fasting, as of any other act, lies in the devotion of which it is an expression, without such devotion it is of itself meaningless.

A typical fast in old testament times was for a single day, with abstinence lasting until sunset. Sacrificing was commonly practiced as well during times of fasting. (Lev. 16, Judges 20:26). Other practices during fasting, and fasting from water and wind are mentioned (I Sam 7:6; Dan 10:3; Jonah 3:5, 7-8); II Sam 12:16; Isa 58:1-5, Joel 2:12-13; Zechariah 7:1-7)



Matt 4:2 Jesus fasted 40 days & nights before beginning his ministry

Matt 6:16-18 Christ's advice on how to fast - part of sermon on the mount

Luke18:10-14 parable of the pharisees - fasting to be done only in righteousness

Matt 12:40-45 Some things can be accomplished only by a combination of fasting and prayer

Acts 10:30 Cornellus the centurion was fasting when the angel appeared to him

Acts 13:1-3 Early church apostles fasted before making the decision on who would take Judas' place


Matt 4:2, and

Matt 12:40-45 Gain extra strength

Acts 10:30 Seeking truth and information

Acts 13:1-3 For help in making decisions

Matt 9:14-15 For mourning purposes


Matt 6:16-17 Appear not unto men to fast

Luke 14:12-14 Let your father in Heaven give you a reward not man

Luke 18:10-14 fast not to exalt yourself


Omni 1:26 Teaches us the necessity of continuing in fasting and prayer

Mosiah 27:14 Prayer and fasting can influence others to know the truth

Mosiah 27:22-23 Alma and the Priests were able to give Alma the yonger strength by fasting and praying or him.

Alma 5:45-46 Receive a testamony by fasting and prayer

Alma 6:6 Commanded to fast and pray for others

Alma 8:26 Alma used fasting to get back into the city and to meet Amulek

Alma 10:7 Amulek reactivated by Almas fasting and prayer for him

Alma 17:3 much prayer and fasting brings spirit of prophecy and revelation and the powere to teach with the authority of God.

Alma 45:1 Fasting and Prayer is a way to worship and express joy

Heleman 3:34-35 fasting and Prayer bring purification and sanctification through humility and faith

3 Neph 13:16-22 The Savior's explanation of the correct way to fast

4 Nephi 1:12 The need to continue to fast and pray and meet together


"Let us not forget that brothers and sisters [helping poor and needy], in this age when the matter of living from the labors of somebody else is almost universal. It wont last. When you get more idle than there are workers, there won't be enough to go around. We must be builders of character in our distribution as well as in our production….When we make all of these work [the three welfare programs of the church] brothers and sisters, as they should be to the blessing of those who give and the glorification of those who receive, we will be ready for the coming of the savior….

Marion G. Romney

Welfare Session

April 1973

The very foundation of the welfare services program is to help people help themselves. In connection with this, properly used, every human need can be met through the welfare services program.

Marvin J. Ashton

welfare Session

April 1974

Last year we drew on the tithing funds of the Church for nearly three million dollars [for welfare]. Imagination doesn't have to wander very far to bring you face to face with the serious problem we are facing concerning our responsibility to the poor and needy.

Von J. Featherstone

Welfare Session

October 1974

I think we should be very generous and give, instead of the amount we saved by our two meals of fasting, perhaps much, much more - ten times more where we are in a position to do it. I know there are some who couldn't.

President Spencer W. Kimball

Welfare Session

April 974

We ought, and we must do better. If we will double our fast offerings, we shall increase our own prosperity, both spiritually and temporally….

Pres. Marion G. Romney

Welfare Services Meeting

6 March 1974


And now behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you, do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need - I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith."

Alma 34:28

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

James 1:27

If you would qualify so that in times of trouble you could call and the Lord would say, "here I am" the Lord gave the answer through his prophet isaiah; You must observe the fst day of the Lord and deal out your "bread to the hungry… and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh" (see Isaiah 58:3-16)

President Harold B. Lee

Era Dec 1968 page 72

Yes the law of the fast is a perfect law, and we can not begin to approach perfection until we decide to make it a part of our lives…. The world needs self-discipline. You can find it in fasting and prayer. Our generation is sick for lack of self-control. Fasting and prayer help to instill this virtue. We all have need to overcome the powers of the adversary. His influence is incompatible with fasting and prayer.

Robert L. Simpson

Conference Report

October 1967 page 16-19

Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment.

D&C 104:18


Many specific reasons for fasting are found in the scriptures. It is a general obligation imposed by revelation upon church members in good standing (D&C 59:13-14; 88:76; Luke 5:33-35; 2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27). It is itself a form of the true worship of God (Luke 2:37; Acts 9:9; Alma 45;1; 4 nephi 1:12). It is proper to fast for the sick (2 Sam 12:16); for special blessings (Mosiah 27:22-23) to gain a testimony (alma 5:45); to gain revelation (alma 17:3; 3 Nephi 27:1; exodus 34:28: Deut 9:9,18); for the conversion of nonmembers to the truth (alma 6:6; 17:9); for guidance in the choice of church officers (Acts 13:3); as an accompaniment of righteous mourning and sorrow (Alma 28:2-6; 30:2; Helaman 9:10); as a means of sanctifying one's soul (Helaman 3:35); and for guidance along the path leading to salvation (Omni 1:26). Temples are houses of fasting and prayer (D&C 88:119; 95:16; 109;8,16). To be acceptable, fasting must be done correctly (Matt 6:16-18; 3 Nep 13:16-18). (also see Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine pages 287-8, 243-4).


Many specific reasons for fasting are found in the scriptures. We are told that fasting will help us to feel humility which enables us to then pray in faith. Fasting therefor should be done in secret not before the world (see Matt 6:16-18). The Lord invites us to fast with promised blessings from Him for doing so (see D&C 59:13-14; 88:76; Luke 5:33-35; 2Cor 6:5; 11:27). It is itself a form of the true worship of God (see Luke 2:37; Acts 9:9; Alma 45:1; 4 Ne 1:12). He tells us it is proper to fast for the sick (see 2 Sam 12:16); for special blessings (see Mosiah 27:22-23) to gain a testimony (see Alma 5:46); to gain revelation (see Alma 17:3; 3 Ne 27:1; Exodus 34:28; Deut 9:9,18); for the conversion of non-members to the truth (see Alma 6:6; 17:9); for the guidance in the choice of church officers (see Acts 13:3); as an accompaniment of righteous mourning and sorrow (see Alma 28:2-6; 30:2; Helaman 9:10); as a means of sanctifying one's soul (see Helaman 3:35); as a way to bring a special, personal communication between you and the Lord (see 3 Ne 13:16-18); and for guidance along the path leading to salvation (see Omni 1:26). We are also told that temples are houses of fasting and prayer (see D&C 88:119; 95:16; 109:8,16) For further information about fasting, see also Joseph F. Smith, Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th Ed., [S.L.C.:Deseret Book Co., 1939], pg. 243-4, 287-8 and the Topical Guide in the back of the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James version of the Bible.

"Overeating clogs the system with deleterious waste products. When such a condition exists, a short fast is useful as a means of restoring the body to its normal active state."

President David O. McKay,

Conference Report, Apr. 1932.

"I want to say to you, my good brethren, we cannot have the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we ought to have it if we do not fast as the Lord required it of us; not extensive fasts, but the fast which has been set apart which we should do in wisdom."

President Joseph Fielding Smith,

Conference Report, Apr. 1940.

"The law of the fast is another test. If we merely go without food to supply welfare funds, it is much of the letter, but IN REAL FASTING, for spiritual blessings, come self-mastery and increased spirituality. 'Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for everyone that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.' (Luke 18:10-14) Are we interested in what we can get or are we interested in what we can give?"

President Spencer W. Kimball,

Conference Report, Oct. 1951.


3. We have afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? ……………. Dont

4. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate ………………………………………….. Don't

5. Is it such a fast that I have chosen ……..………………………………….. Dont

Afflict soul/bow head/sackcloth/ etc..

6. Loose the bands of wickedness, to undo ……………………………….. Do

heavy burdens, let oppressed go free,

break every yoke.

7. Deal bread to hungry, bring poor to your …………………………………… Do

house, cover the naked, hide not thyself

from own flesh.

8. Light shall break forth as morning, health shall ……………………………. Blessing

spring forth speedly, righteousness shall go

before thee, glory of Lord be thy rereward

9. Call and Lord shall answer, cry and He …………………………………….. Blessing

shall say "here I am"

10. Light shall rise in obscurity, thy ………………………………………………. Blessing

darkness be as the noonday

11. Lord shall guide thee continually, ……………………………………………. Blessing

satisfy thy soul in drought, make fat

thy bones, shall be like a watered

garden, be like a spring of water

whose waters fail not

12. They that shall be of thee shall build ………………………………………… Blessing

the old wast place, thou shalt rise up

the foundations of many generations,

shall be called the repairer of the

breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.

Some other scriptures on fasting:

Alma 26:21

21 And now behold, my brethren, what natural man is there that knoweth these things? I say unto you, there is none that knoweth these things, save it be the penitent.

Alma 26:22

22 Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing--unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance.

Mosiah 4:20

20 And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.

Mosiah 4:21

21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

Enos 1:15

15 Wherefore, I knowing that the Lord God was able to preserve our records, I cried unto him continually, for he had said unto me: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive in the name of Christ, ye shall receive it.

D&C 88:62

62 And again, verily I say unto you, my friends, I leave these sayings with you to ponder in your hearts, with this commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall call upon me while I am near--

D&C 88:63

63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

D&C 88:64

64 Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you;

D&C 88:65

65 And if ye ask anything that is not expedient for you, it shall turn unto your condemnation.

D&C 50:27

27 Wherefore, he is possessor of all things; for all things are subject unto him, both in heaven and on the earth, the life and the light, the Spirit and the power, sent forth by the will of the Father through Jesus Christ, his Son.

D&C 50:28

28 But no man is possessor of all things except he be purified and cleansed from all sin.

D&C 50:29

29 And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done.

D&C 50:30

30 But know this, it shall be given you what you shall ask; and as ye are appointed to the head, the spirits shall be subject unto you.

D&C 29:5

5 Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I am in your midst, and am your advocate with the Father; and it is his good will to give you the kingdom.

D&C 29:6

6 And, as it is written--Whatsoever ye shall ask in faith, being united in prayer according to my command, ye shall receive.

"Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES DILIGENTLY, that they might know the word of God...

"But this is not all; they had GIVEN THEMSELVES TO MUCH PRAYER AND FASTING: therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God...

"And it came to pass that they journeyed many days in the wilderness, AND THEY FASTED MUCH AND PRAYED MUCH that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of His spirit to go with them, and abide with them, that they might be an instrument in the hands of God to bring, if it were possible, their brethren, the Lamanites, to the knowledge of the truth...."

Alma 17:2,3,9.

"...nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and JOIN IN FASTING AND MIGHTY PRAYER IN BEHALF OF THE WELFARE OF THE SOULS WHO KNEW NOT GOD."

Alma 6:6

Mosiah 27:14

14 And again, the angel said: Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.

Mosiah 27:20

20 And they rehearsed unto his father all that had happened unto them; and his father rejoiced, for he knew that it was the power of God.

Mosiah 27:21

21 And he caused that a multitude should be gathered together that they might witness what the Lord had done for his son, and also for those that were with him.

Mosiah 27:22

22 And he caused that the priests should assemble themselves together; and they began to fast, and to pray to the Lord their God that he would open the mouth of Alma, that he might speak, and also that his limbs might receive their strength--that the eyes of the people might be opened to see and know of the goodness and glory of God.

Mosiah 27:23

23 And it came to pass after they had fasted and prayed for the space of two days and two nights, the limbs of Alma received their strength, and he stood up and began to speak unto them, bidding them to be of good comfort:

Mosiah 27:24

24 For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.

Some other statements on fasting by general authorities:

"I have had problems which it seemed I could not solve, and I have suffered in facing them until it seemed I could not go further if I did not have a solution to them. After praying AND ON MANY OCCASIONS FASTING FOR A DAY EACH WEEK OVER LONG PERIODS OF TIME, I have had answers revealed to my mind in finished sentences. I have heard the voice of God in my mind and I know His words."

Marion G. Romney

Melchizedek Priesthood Manual

1976-1977, pg. 39.

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