Fasting was hard. Really hard. Going without food or water for 24 hours—that was a whole day! It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I could never do it. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon Church,” my family fasted every month on Fast Sunday. And it was hard.
I had been told that I was supposed to fast with a specific purpose in mind, but I could never think of a good enough reason, so I would use that as an excuse not to fast at all. Then, when I was in high school, life was suddenly getting more complicated. I had to make some big decisions about college and a career, and I was confused.
In The Church of Jesus Christ, we believe in and follow our Savior’s example in all things, including fasting and prayer. We believe these actions are important to increase our spirituality and help us draw closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I decided to follow what my parents and teachers had taught me, follow my Savior’s example, and fast and pray about my college decisions.
Jesus’ Example of Fasting and Prayer
In Mark chapter 9, a man comes to Jesus’ apostles, asking them to heal his son “which hath a dumb spirit” (Mark 9:17). But the disciples couldn’t cast out the spirit, so the man went to the Savior. Jesus cast out the spirit and healed the man’s son. The disciples later asked, “Why could not we cast him out?” Jesus replied, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:28-29). Jesus performed a miracle, and then said that it had come forth “by nothing but . . . prayer and fasting.” We can follow the Savior’s example in this, as in all things, and use fasting and prayer in our own lives.
Before the Savior began His mortal ministry, He went “into the wilderness” and “fasted forty days and forty nights” (Matthew 4:1-2). Not only did Jesus fast, he also “communed with God” (Matthew 4:2). After Jesus finished fasting and praying, He was tempted by Satan; however, He was able to resist Satan’s temptations and remain perfect.
In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus instructs His disciples how to pray, giving what is now known as the Lord’s Prayer. We follow Jesus’ example set forth here when we pray. Later, in John chapter 17, Jesus offers what is known as the intercessory prayer. He prays to His Father, and the Father of our spirits, for His disciples in a very beautiful prayer.
Fasting and Prayer Work Together
However, for fasting and prayer to truly benefit us, we must both fast and pray with a specific purpose in mind. For example, a person might fast for an ill family member or help making big decisions. Elder Perry, one of the Church’s living apostles of Jesus Christ, states that “fasting and prayer for a purpose brings forth a special spiritual power” (The Law of the Fast, April 1986 General Conference). Fasting is more than just a time to abstain from food and drink; it is a time of increased prayer for the purpose we have in mind. When we take extra time to pray and search the scriptures while fasting, we can have increased spirituality and receive the help and guidance we need.
The Book of Mormon, a book of ancient scripture testifying of Christ, tells of five young men who left their homes to bring others to Jesus Christ. When the men meet again after many years of testifying of Christ and bringing people to Him, they are very faithful and spiritually strong. The Book of Mormon says that the men 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” (Alma 17:3). Because the young men had fasted and prayed, they were blessed with increased spirituality and faith.
Fasting and Prayer in Our Lives
When I decided to fast and pray about my college decisions, I didn’t know if it would work. But I decided to give it an honest chance. For a few weeks, I prayed for help to make the decision of where to attend college. On Fast Sunday, I fasted for help to know which college to go to. I continued to pray every day for another couple of weeks. Then, when I visited each of the three universities I was considering, I felt an incredible peace on the campus of one university. I knew that university was the place I should go. It was far from home, and I didn’t know a soul, but I had fasted and prayed for weeks, and now I had my answer.
Fasting and prayer also gave me the confidence that my decision was right. Because I had fasted and prayed about which college to attend, I knew that the answer I had received from God was right. I had the strength to follow through, even though it was sometimes very difficult. Without fasting and praying about my decision, I would not have had the spiritual strength and faith to go so far away from home for college.
Fasting and prayer can be difficult. We may feel that we have nothing to fast about or for. We may feel that no matter what we do, God won’t answer our prayers. But Heavenly Father loves us, and will answer our prayers. When we follow the example of our Savior and fast and pray, we will receive the increased faith and spiritual strength that we need.
Megan is a graduate of BYU-Idaho and recently married member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is a writer and avid reader, and loves music, hiking, and her family.