Chapter 12: Prayer and Fasting

Doctrines of the Gospel Teacher Manual, (2011), 41–45


Introduction

  1. Examine with the students Alma 17:3, which shows that combined prayer and fasting were essential ingredients in the success of the sons of Mosiah. Because the four had prayed much and fasted much, they obtained important results. What were these results? Could we achieve these same results? The results included the following:

    1. 1.

      They had the spirit of prophecy.

    2. 2.

      They had the spirit of revelation.

    3. 3.

      They taught with power and authority of God.

  2. Read the following statement by President Brigham Young: “If I did not feel like praying, and asking my Father in Heaven to give me a morning blessing, and to preserve me and my family and the good upon the earth through the day, I should say, ‘Brigham, get down here on your knees, bow your body down before the throne of him who rules in the heavens, and stay there until you can feel to supplicate at that throne of grace erected for sinners’” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 46).

    Ask the students what President Young’s statement means to them. Among other things, it teaches an excellent lesson on communication. Nothing is more critical in the relationship of two or more people, including a family, than keeping the lines of communication open. What if we only talked with our loved ones when we felt like it? It is equally important to avoid barriers between ourselves and our Heavenly Father.

Ideas for Teaching

  1. A.

    Prayer has been a part of the gospel plan from the beginning.

    1. Exile from the Garden of Eden meant spiritual death for Adam and Eve (see D&C 29:41), for they were cut off from the presence of the Lord. They began their spiritual recuperation by calling upon the name of the Lord. The Lord answered them and told them to “call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore” (Moses 5:8). Point out that for Adam prayer constituted the first step toward building a relationship with God, and it has been a vital part of gospel living since that time (see Moses 5:12; 6:4–5, 51).

  2. B.

    God has revealed why we should pray to him.

    1. How often should we pray? Has the Lord stipulated the frequency of prayer? Write on the chalkboard the following scriptures, and ask the students to examine and summarize each message. The students could be divided into groups to read the scriptures.

      Would our lives be different with prayer an element in all of our decision making?

    2. Examine Chalkboard 1 with the students, and testify that one sign of true maturity is being able to accept wise counsel and direction in making decisions. Such counsel enhances, rather than detracts from, the exercise of agency.

    3. Prayer, which is the key to revelation, opens the floodgates that enable God to respond to the myriad needs of his children. We ask, and we indeed receive. Read Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s statement in Supporting Statements B on page 33 of the student manual: Prayer is “essential if men are to be saved; there is no salvation without prayer” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 581). Ask why this statement is true.

  3. C.

    The scriptures tell us what we should pray for.

    1. Doctrinal Outline C on page 32 of the student manual provides a scriptural base for what we might include in our prayers. Ask the students to respond to specific items under the headings listed on Chalkboard 2. Allow the students to make their own lists, including the items listed on the chalkboard. Refer also to Supporting Statements C on page 33 of the student manual and to Alma 34:19–27.

    2. Using the story of Enos in the Book of Mormon is a most effective way to teach lessons on prayer. One concept illustrated beautifully by the story of Enos is the manner in which prayer can focus attention not only on our own needs but also on the needs of others. Draw a chalkboard sketch showing how Enos began praying over his own concerns (see Enos 1:2), only to have his concerns enlarge to embrace his brethren (see v. 9) and finally his traditional enemies, the Lamanites (see v. 11). Point out that the introspection fostered in prayer often enables us to face our attitudes toward others.

  4. D.

    The Lord has told us how to make our prayers more meaningful and efficacious.

    1. We are commanded to pray to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. Read the scriptures listed in Doctrinal Outline D 1 on page 32 of the student manual.

    2. Improving the effectiveness of prayer requires us to identify the barriers that may stand between us and God. Ask the students to identify barriers they encounter when they pray. A simple chalkboard sketch, such as Chalkboard 3, may help the students visualize the barriers as a wall between themselves and God. Discuss how the barriers can be removed. Supporting Statements D on pages 33–34 of the student manual suggest ways to counter these barriers to successful prayer.

    3. True communication includes listening as well as speaking. Discuss with the students the importance of listening during and after prayer. (See Supporting Statements D on pp. 33–34 of the student manual.) The following are part of true listening:

      1. 1.

        Be sensitive to the ways God communicates (such as feelings, flashes of ideas, and impressions).

      2. 2.

        Allow time during and after prayer to receive answers.

      3. 3.

        Be aware that God answers in his own way, in his own manner, and in his own time.

  5. E.

    Fasting should sometimes accompany prayer.

    1. What does fasting have to do with effective prayer? Point out that fasting is an act of discipline and humility. It is also a witness that we accept the maxim proclaimed by Jesus that “man shall not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). It suggests, as well, our dependence upon God to provide us with the nourishment necessary to survive, whether it be physical or spiritual. In Supporting Statements E on page 34 of the student manual, some of the benefits of fasting are pointed out in statements by Elder McConkie (see Mormon Doctrine, p. 276) and President Spencer W. Kimball (see The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 98).

Conclusion

Prayer is the purest form of communication. It is an emotional and a verbal bridge across the chasm that often separates us from God. As with any form of communication, we need to adjust the fine tuning to clarify the signal and improve the reception. The aspects of prayer discussed in this chapter will provide the tools necessary to improve our prayers.