Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Much Prayer and Fasting

Posted by robf on July 18, 2007

One thing that strikes me is the idea that we should be engaged in “much prayer and fasting” like the Sons of Mosiah (Alma 17:3)–especially if we want to be able to teach “with power and authority of God”. So here’s my question–how much prayer and fasting is enough?

Many of us pray several times a day. However, if your prayers are like many of mine, its more like leaving a message on God’s answering machine. Something like,

“Heavenly Father, it was another long day and I’m pretty tired. Thanks for all the help. Help keep my family safe. If you want me to do anything special, just leave me a message on my machine. Thanks!”

My suspicion is that no matter how many times I pray like this, its not really “much prayer”. The times where I’ve felt the closest to the Spirit and gotten the most answers to prayer were when I would regularly pray for at least 30 minutes at a time. Admittedly, its been awhile since I’ve prayed that much. From the scriptures, what can we really learn about how often we should pray, how long we should pray, and how to make those prayers meaningful communications with our Heavenly Father?

Same with fasting. I think many of us raised in the Church, with years and years of monthly fasts under our belts, may become a bit complacent with this tool? What do the scriptures tell us about how to make our fasts more meaningful? And does once a month qualify as “much” fasting?

What are your favorite scriptures about praying and fasting and how do they help you determine what might qualify as “much” prayer and fasting–the type of prayers that can bring us “the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation” and allow us to teach “with power and authority of God”?

4 Responses to “Much Prayer and Fasting”

  1. Robert C. said

    robf, I totally relate to the quickie prayer. Although I think long, sustained prayers are occasionally important, I’m inclined to think that what is more important is whether we have a prayerful attitude in the way we live.

    One of my seminary teachers once said that a good measure of our spirituality is what we think about when we don’t have anything really pressing to think about (if that makes any sense). I think this view is consistent with scriptures such as “look unto me in every thought,” “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ,” “pray always,” etc., and I think it’s helped keep me from feeling unnecessary guilt when I only have time for, say, a quickie bedtime prayer (I’m generally too tired to pray effectively at night anyway…).

    One thing I’ve found helpful is, from time to time to fast on a different day than the “scheduled” fast Sunday (either in addition to or instead of), on a day that I can concentrate on my fast more.

  2. robf said

    When I was a zealous youth, I used to fast every Friday. On my mission, I frequently fasted weekly as well. There have been occasional periods where I have fasted every day, only eating the evening meal, and I have genuinely felt that this has helped me clear the clutter of my own mind and lifestyle in a way that has helped me see important things more clearly. Too much fasting? When does it become fanaticism? Or a crutch, like too many priesthood blessings?

    BTW, I think your seminary teacher was paraphrasing something taught by David O. McKay. While I think there is a lot of truth here, what should be the relationship between the “pray always” attitude and the Enos-like extended pouring out of the heart to God?

  3. Robert C. said

    Thanks for the David O. McKay citation, robf.

  4. Matthew said

    In my own experience fasting is less susceptible to complacency than many other forms of worship. It isn’t as though my body gets used to fasting once a month and doesn’t bother reminding me that it would much rather have food. I assume we mean the same thing by complacency, something like, forgetting the purpose of the worship and just going through the motions. I see fasting as almost an antidote to religious complacency.

    In terms of how much to fast. I don’t know. In the few times that I have fasted more than once a month I’ve found it very helpful. On the other hand, I worry that too much fasting might lead to some form of fanatacism.

    (Interestingly I can’t think of any scriptures which warn against fanatacism. But my experience is that there is such a thing and it isn’t good.)

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