Lesson 31: Continue in Prayer and Fasting

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 1, (2002), 109–11


Objective

Each young man will desire to fast with greater purpose.

Preparation

Materials needed:

  1. 1.

    Scriptures for each young man.

  2. 2.

    A screw and a screwdriver.

  3. 3.

    Pencils for marking scriptures.

Suggested Lesson Development

Fasting Is a Tool the Lord Has Given Us

Object lesson

Display a screw. Discuss with the young men how useful a screw is by itself.

  • What is needed to make this screw useful? (A screwdriver.)

Show the screwdriver and point out that in order for both items to be useful, they must be used together.

Story

Explain that we also have spiritual tools to help us. Ask the young men to listen to the following story and to identify the spiritual tools used by the people in the story.

“While I was serving as a stake mission president at one time, the missionaries were meeting with a very good man who was not a member of the Church but who was married to a fine Latter-day Saint sister. This good brother wanted to join the Church, but he was addicted to tobacco. He had tried to quit many times but he said he couldn’t; he was just too weak.

“There were six stake missionaries who had met with him over a considerable period of time but who were unable to help him develop the strength to quit smoking. Finally, under the influence of the Spirit, we asked him if we could fast with him that he might overcome this weakness. He considered the offer and agreed to our proposal. We asked him then if he would carry out the fast for two days. He agreed, so the fast went forth. Six stake missionaries, the smoking brother, and his wife fasted.

“At the completion of the fast, we all met in his home and knelt with him in his living room, each praying in turn. The prayers were essentially the same; they were, that the Lord would take from this brother his desire to smoke. He was the last to pray and then he arose and announced, ‘I have no desire to smoke.’ He hasn’t smoked unto this day. Since that time he has served in the bishopric of his ward and … in a stake [Young Men’s presidency]. He is today a stalwart in the faith, a real servant of the Lord. The Lord literally took from him his weakness and made him a tower of strength instead” (Hartman Rector Jr., in Conference Report, Apr. 1970, pp. 140–41; or Improvement Era, June 1970, p. 103).

  • What are the spiritual tools used in this story? (Fasting and prayer.)

Explain that fasting is a tool to develop self-discipline, as the convert in the preceding story did. However, it can also be used for many other reasons.

Sincere Prayer Should Accompany Fasting

Discussion

  • What is the difference between fasting and just not eating?

  • How can we receive the greatest benefits from fasting?

Explain that in order to receive the greatest benefits from fasting, we should pray sincerely as we fast. Many great things have taken place because righteous people fasted and prayed in faith.

Scripture and discussion

  • What examples in the scriptures do we have of people fasting and praying?

Have the young men share examples from the scriptures of people fasting and praying. After briefly discussing the young men’s responses, have the class turn to Alma 17. Explain that Alma the Younger had been journeying in the land of Gideon when, to his great joy and astonishment, he met the sons of Mosiah as they traveled toward the land of Zarahemla. Have a young man read Alma 17:1–4. The young men may want to mark parts of this scripture.

Refer to Alma 17:4 and discuss what the sons of Mosiah had been doing during the fourteen years since their last meeting with Alma.

Explain that in the next few verses the sons of Mosiah report their activities to Alma. Have another young man read Alma 17:9–10.

  • What preparations did the sons of Mosiah make in order to be successful missionaries? (They fasted and prayed much.)

  • Why did they fast and pray? (So the Spirit would be with them.)

Story

Explain that in 1850, Lorenzo Snow had an experience much like that of the sons of Mosiah. He was laboring in Italy as a missionary, trying to open that country to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“He was somewhat shy and self-conscious, but spiritually, he was a giant. One family who had befriended him had a critically ill child. In fact, Elder Snow realized that only through sincere fasting, mighty prayer, unswerving faith, and through the power of the priesthood could that three-year-old child be saved. He knew how much the healing of this boy would mean to the people in this small Italian village.

“Climbing with his companion to a place of seclusion on the foothills of the Alps just above the village, in the spirit of fasting and prayer, he earnestly petitioned and pleaded with the Lord for six long, anxious hours for the privilege of using divine power to heal that little boy. Finally, the answer came; the reply was yes, he would be granted the privilege.

“As a humble servant of the Lord, he walked down the mountainside with perfect faith that the dying child’s life would be spared. The boy was then given a blessing and a promise that he would live. A few hours later when Elder Snow and his companion returned to the home, they found that the child was greatly improved and was well on the way to recovery. Elder Snow realized that his fasting and prayer had reached the throne of a benevolent Heavenly Father. He remarked to the grateful parents: ‘The God of heaven has done this for you’ (See Eliza R. Snow, Biography of Lorenzo Snow, pp. 128–29)” (Henry D. Taylor, in Conference Report, Oct. 1974, pp. 18–19; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, p. 15).

Discussion

  • Why do we know that President Snow’s prayer was sincere?

  • Why do you feel the Lord would counsel us to pray as we fast?

  • What benefits might fasting add to prayer?

As the young men respond to the questions, bring out the following points:

  1. 1.

    As we turn from worldly things, we can concentrate on spiritual matters. If we eliminate worldly things from our lives, fasting will have a greater spiritual effect.

  2. 2.

    Fasting can make us feel more humble and more dependent upon our Heavenly Father.

  3. 3.

    Heavenly Father is pleased when his children show their faith through fasting and prayer.

Fasting and Prayer Bring Great Blessings

Adviser presentation

Explain that God worked great miracles through the sons of Mosiah and Lorenzo Snow because they sought his help through fasting and prayer. Fasting and prayer can also help each of us as we seek to know and do the Lord’s will. We, like the righteous men in these examples, can fast for special blessings.

Stories

Relate the following experiences.

Story One

A small ward in Warrensburg, Missouri, spent many years meeting in the base chapel at Whiteman Air Force Base. Because they wanted to have their own chapel to meet in, the bishop called for contributions to the ward building fund. Thousands of dollars were collected, and the bishopric set out to acquire the land to build the chapel on. Every place they went, the land was not available. For months the bishopric searched unsuccessfully for land.

Knowing that a special blessing was needed, the bishop asked every ward member eight years of age and older to fast and pray on a particular Sunday. Early the next Monday morning, a local physician, who was not a member of the Church, went to see a member of the bishopric at his work. “George,” he said, “I hear your church needs some land.”

The doctor drove him to a beautiful piece of land that was the perfect size and location for the chapel. Not only did he find a suitable piece of land for the new church, he gave the ward the land free of charge. Indeed the Lord had blessed the Warrensburg Ward! The funds already collected for the land could now be applied to the building costs. Today a beautiful chapel stands on that piece of land, and it is a constant reminder of the great blessings that come through fasting and prayer.

Story Two

A deacon living in a small ward felt very much out of place coming to priesthood meeting by himself. The priests, although only two in number, met and decided to fast and pray for more deacons to come into their small ward so that the one deacon in the quorum wouldn’t be so alone.

The events that followed resulted from that effort. In October, two deacon-age young men were baptized; in November, two more were baptized; and in December and January, two deacons moved into the ward, making a quorum of seven. The priests quorum also received new members. Two priest-age young men were baptized in January. These young men now have a testimony that fasting accompanied by prayer really works, and they have developed a new love and strength by applying this gospel principle in their lives.

Discussion

Help the young men apply this principle to their own lives by discussing the following questions:

  • What are some special blessings you might fast to receive?

  • How can fasting help you solve your problems?

  • How might fasting help you make decisions?

  • How could fasting help you overcome temptations?

  • What temptations might you fast to overcome?

  • Do you feel you would have more self-discipline through fasting? Why or why not?

  • How can fasting help you feel better physically?

  • Why would fasting help you to be closer to your Heavenly Father?

Quotation

“This law of the fast can also be a kind of schoolmaster. If we can learn to live it effectively, it will help us to keep every other law better because of the power and faith that will be generated in us as a natural consequence of our living this important law!” (Sterling W. Sill, “The Law of the Fast,” Ensign, July 1974, p. 11).

Conclusion

Testimony

Testify of the power that prayer and fasting can have in our lives. Share your knowledge that the Lord loves each young man and holds for each a special place in his kingdom.

Challenge

Challenge the young men to fast the next fast day for a special reason—to help them accomplish something in their lives or to help someone else.