Lesson 13: Fasting

Aaronic Priesthood Manual 2, (1993), 44–47


Objective

Each young man will realize that genuine fasting can bring him great spiritual power and increased blessings from the Lord.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Materials needed:

    1. a.

      Scriptures for each young man.

    2. b.

      A pencil and a piece of paper for each young man.

  2. 2.

    Study carefully Isaiah 58:6–10.

  3. 3.

    If the Family Home Evening Video Supplement (53276) is available in your area, prepare to show segment 15, “The Law of the Fast.”

Note

Fasting is a word that causes many different impressions and feelings in a growing teenage boy. At a time when his appetite is growing, he may find it difficult to observe the fast properly. Emphasize the positive aspects of the fast. The young men should understand the relationship between prayer and fasting, and they should understand that they can improve in observing the law of the fast.

Suggested Lesson Development

A Proper Fast

Quiz

Give each young man a piece of paper and a pencil. Have the young men number the papers from one to ten. Explain that they are going to have a short “true-false” quiz to see how much they know about fasting.

True or False

  1. 1.

    Fasting should always be for twenty-four hours.

  2. 2.

    Fasting should always be accompanied by prayer.

  3. 3.

    Fasting can have many purposes.

  4. 4.

    Fasting is good for the spirit but bad for the body.

  5. 5.

    Fasting is a commandment.

  6. 6.

    Fasting is the complete abstinence from food only.

  7. 7.

    Everyone over eight years of age should fast regardless of health.

  8. 8.

    Fasting makes prayer more meaningful.

  9. 9.

    Prayer makes fasting more meaningful.

  10. 10.

    Fasting is easy.

Have each young man correct his own paper. Keep comments brief. The correct answers are as follows:

  1. 1.

    False. Sometimes it is not possible to fast for a full twenty-four hours (see Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1939], p. 244).

  2. 2.

    True (see Gospel Doctrine, p. 238).

  3. 3.

    True (these will be discussed in the lesson).

  4. 4.

    False.

  5. 5.

    True (see D&C 88:76).

  6. 6.

    False. Fasting is abstinence from food and drink (see Gospel Doctrine, p. 243).

  7. 7.

    False (see Gospel Doctrine, p. 244).

  8. 8.

    True.

  9. 9.

    True.

  10. 10.

    Either true or false depending on how accustomed a person is to fasting.

Explain that a proper fast Sunday observance consists of abstaining from food and drink for two consecutive meals, attending fast and testimony meeting, and giving the bishop a generous fast-offering contribution to help provide for the needy. Of course, we can also fast at times other than fast Sunday.

Miracles Can Occur through Fasting

Scripture story

One time a man brought his son, who was possessed by an evil spirit, to Jesus. The man explained that he had taken his son to Jesus’ disciples but that they could not cast the evil spirit out. After Jesus had cast it out from the boy, the disciples came to him and asked privately, “Why could not we cast him out?” (Mark 9:28).

  • What did Jesus say to his disciples? (Have one of the young men read Mark 9:29 for the answer: “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”)

Story

“[A wealthy young bishop in Honolulu] was called one day from the Queen’s Hospital to come and bless a boy who had polio. A native sister had called him. He was her bishop, and she said, ‘Bishop, come up here, my boy is stricken with polio, and I want you to come up here and administer to him and bless him.’ All day she waited for him, and the bishop never showed up. All night he never showed up, the next morning he never showed up, but early in the afternoon here he came. She turned loose on him. She called him everything she could think of. ‘You, my bishop, I call you and tell you my boy is here stricken with polio. And you your own boss, you have your cars; you have a beautiful yacht; you have everything you want; and your time is your own; and you don’t show up. You just come now after a whole day.’ After she had finished and couldn’t think of anything more to call him he smiled and said, ‘Well, after I hung up the receiver yesterday, I started to fast, and I’ve been fasting and praying for twenty-four hours. I’m ready now to bless your boy.’ At five o’clock that evening the boy was released from the hospital entirely cured of his polio. ‘… This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.’

“Now I doubt very much if he had gone up there the day before that would have happened. I think that prayer and that fasting were needed” (Matthew Cowley, Matthew Cowley Speaks [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 150).

Story

Explain that the following story tells about some parents who were inspired to bring their son to a General Authority for a blessing.

“A little over a year ago a couple came into my office carrying a little boy. The father said to me, ‘My wife and I have been fasting for two days, and we’ve brought our little boy up for a blessing. You are the one we’ve been sent to.’

“I said, ‘What’s the matter with him?’

“They said he was born blind, deaf and dumb, no co-ordination of his muscles, couldn’t even crawl at the age of five years. I said to myself, this is it. ‘This kind cometh not out save by fasting and by prayer.’ I had implicit faith in the fasting and the prayers of those parents. I blessed that child, and a few weeks later I received a letter: ‘Brother Cowley, we wish you could see our little boy now. He’s crawling. When we throw a ball across the floor he races after it on his hands and knees. He can see. When we clap our hands over his head he jumps. He can hear.’ Medical science had laid the burden down. God had taken over” (Matthew Cowley, Miracles, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [Provo, Utah, 18 Feb. 1953], pp. 7–8).

  • How have you seen miracles come through fasting?

  • How have you been blessed by fasting?

Explain that not all fasting needs to result in a miraculous healing. There are many other reasons for fasting. In fact, most people fast for reasons other than for healing the sick.

Fasting Is More than Going without Food

Chalkboard and discussion

Write the word prayer on the chalkboard, and have the young men list as many purposes for which a person might pray as they can.

  • Would this same list apply if we erased the word prayer and wrote the word fasting?

Explain that first efforts at fasting can be difficult and frustrating. It may just seem like going without food and drink. However, it is possible to gain real satisfaction through learning about and having spiritual experiences with fasting.

The best way to learn the gospel is to live it. At first, most children and young people fast simply because their family does it or because they think it is the right thing to do. They may not have thought about why they should deny themselves food and water for a day. In fact, some people go around all day on fast Sunday feeling sorry for themselves and wishing that the day were over. Explain that these kinds of thoughts and feelings are normal. However, as we continue to live the law of the fast as we should, it will become more meaningful.

  • What are some things you can do to make your fast a meaningful experience? Write meaningful fast on the chalkboard, and record the young men’s answers. Be sure the following points are considered.

  1. 1.

    Have a purpose in fasting.

    Explain that unless we fast with a purpose, our fasting is nothing but hunger. If the only object is to go without food, then food is what we concentrate on. On the other hand, if our fasting has a purpose, even a simple one, the purpose becomes the focus of our attention.

    • What is the difference between fasting and not eating? (Fasting is voluntarily giving up food and drink to humble ourselves and draw nearer to our Heavenly Father.)

    Scripture activity

    Assign each young man one or two of the following scriptures. Allow a few minutes for them to read their assigned references. Each one contains a purpose for fasting. Have each young man tell what reason his scripture gives for fasting. You may want to write each reference and brief statement on the chalkboard. Use this list as you discuss what purposes the young men could have in fasting.

    2 Samuel 12:15–16 (For help to heal the sick.)

    Isaiah 58:6–7 (To help the poor.)

    Acts 13:2–3 (For help to perform ordinances.)

    Mosiah 27:22–24 (For help to repent.)

    Alma 5:46 (For revelation and a testimony.)

    Alma 6:6 (To help nonmembers.)

    Alma 17:3 (For revelation and help to be a better priesthood holder.)

    Alma 17:9 (For help to be a better missionary.)

    Alma 45:1 (To worship and to express gratitude.)

    Helaman 3:35 (For greater humility and faith in Christ.)

    Helaman 9:10 (For strength in times of sorrow.)

    D&C 88:76 (To obey a commandment of the Lord.)

    • How has fasting for one of these purposes helped you?

  2. 2.

    Combine prayer with fasting.

    • What is an alloy? (A combination of metals that makes an end product stronger than any of the original components by themselves.)

    • How has fasting and prayer in combination helped you become stronger?

    Quotation

    Explain that adding fasting to our prayers could be compared to an athlete’s getting his second wind.

    “Athletes often speak of gaining a second wind or receiving additional strength after they have given all they could. A basketball player, for example, who plays until he’s extremely tired may either slow down or he can continue to play hard even though it may be extremely difficult for a time. If he chooses the latter and continues to play hard, he may gain his so-called second wind. This additional strength doesn’t come, however, until the player puts forth all he can give, plus a little more” (John H. Vandenberg, “Fasting,” Improvement Era, Feb. 1969, p. 71).

  3. 3.

    Bear your testimony.

    This can be done in a fast and testimony meeting, to a friend or your family, or in a personal journal.

  4. 4.

    Spend time pondering important things.

    We should recount our blessings, review our righteous goals, and make plans for improvement.

  5. 5.

    End the fast with prayer.

Conclusion

Quotation and discussion

Elder Thorpe B. Isaacson stated: “Fasting consists in the complete abstinence from food and drink. Fasting, with prayer, its companion, is designed to increase spirituality, to foster a spirit of devotion and a love of God, to increase faith in the hearts of men, thus assuring divine favor; to encourage humility and contrition of soul; to aid in the acquirement of righteousness; and to teach man his … dependence upon God; and to hasten along the path of salvation those who properly comply with this law of fasting” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1962, p. 67).

Ask the young men the following questions:

  • To what degree are we to abstain from food and drink when we fast? (Completely.)

  • What is the companion to fasting? (Prayer.)

  • How has fasting increased your spirituality and faith?

  • How has fasting helped you become more humble?

  • How has fasting helped you learn your dependence on God?

Conclusion

Challenge

Challenge the young men to choose a specific purpose for fasting and to make prayer an important part of their experience the next time they fast.