The purpose of this lesson is to help us understand how to strengthen ourselves and our family through fasting.
Have the assigned class member present a three-minute review of Gospel Principles chapter 25, “Fasting.”
Fasting helps us recognize our dependence on the Lord. When we fast and pray, we turn away from the things of the world. We open our hearts to learn and accept God’s will for us and for our families. Fasting also emphasizes the earnestness of our prayer.
As we increase the spirituality of our fasting, we can improve our relationships within our families. We can also receive great spiritual blessings of comfort and insight.
How can we enrich our fasting experiences?
When we want to change something in our lives, we must plan, prepare, and practice those things that will bring about change. These same principles will help us improve our fasting.
We can make our fast more meaningful by fasting with a purpose. Many families and individuals prayerfully consider what to fast for before they begin. We might properly fast to (1) bless someone else (see Alma 6:6), (2) receive spiritual strength to overcome a problem, (3) receive inspiration and revelation (see Alma 17:3), (4) ask for help or comfort (see Helaman 9:10), or (5) increase love and harmony in the home.
How would having a purpose for fasting make it easier to fast? How would this purpose increase the meaning of fasting? What are some reasons for which families might fast?
When our children are small, we should not force them to fast. We should talk with them about the purpose of the fast and include them in our prayers as we begin our fast. We can even help them learn to fast by asking them to fast one meal. By the time they are old enough to be baptized, they will be better prepared to observe the full fast. We should be aware of individual health problems and try to find ways family members can fast.
We can help family members who are trying to fast by feeding young children separately. We can change the usual routine and serve food that is easily prepared instead of food that fills the house with tempting aromas. We can prepare the food for the Sunday meal on Saturday, allowing us time on Sunday to study the scriptures, pray, and meditate about the purpose of our own fast. We could use the time to read the scriptures to our children, talk with them, and increase their love of the gospel. If we have suitable activities to fill the time ordinarily spent eating, we will be less concerned about meals missed. If we become hungry during a fast, we should try not to think about food. Instead, we should think of nourishing ourselves spiritually. We do this by “feast[ing] upon the words of Christ” (2 Nephi 32:3). Instead of eating, we should study the scriptures, meditate, exert faith, and continue to pray.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 59:13–15. What should be our attitude as we prepare food to break our fast? How would following the advice given in this scripture increase our spirituality?
We should always begin our fasting with prayer. At that time we can ask Heavenly Father to give us strength to complete the fast. We should express our desire to fast, the purpose of our fast, and its importance to us. We should also ask for help in obtaining the needed blessing.
We should break our fast with prayer, exercising faith concerning the purpose of the fast. If others have been fasting with us for the same purpose, we should all unite in prayer. We should express gratitude for obedient and strong children who desire to enjoy the spiritual blessings of the fast.
What things can we do in our homes to increase the spirituality of fasting for all family members?
When we have trials we often need additional strength. Priesthood bearers often fast to increase their ability to use priesthood power. When we seek priesthood blessings, we can apply this same principle by fasting. Elder Matthew Cowley told the following story about the power of parents fasting:
“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” (Miracles, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [18 Feb. 1953], 8).
Display visual 6-a, “Esther, despite danger to her own life, went fasting before the king.”
A righteous woman, through obedient living, can bless not only herself and her family but also an entire nation. Such a woman was Esther, whose story is told in the Old Testament. Esther, a Jewess, found favor with the Persian king and became his wife. In the same country was a powerful man named Haman, who was a bitter enemy of Mordecai, Esther’s cousin. Because Mordecai refused to bow down before him, Haman made a plan to kill all of the Jews. When Mordecai heard this tragic news, he sent word to Esther, asking her to go before the king and seek his protection. Esther explained the law, saying, “Whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days” (Esther 4:11). Mordecai replied that if Esther did not act, everyone would be killed, including her own family.
Esther realized her responsibility. She answered, “Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). Esther, despite danger to her own life, went fasting before the king. The king held out his sceptre so she might approach, sparing her life. Because she had put her life and this problem into the hands of the Lord, she was spared. The king proclaimed that the Jews could defend themselves and survive. (See Esther 5:2; 8:10–11.)
How did the fasting of Esther and others help her gain strength and courage? What situations in your life would require strength and courage? How would fasting help you?
Spiritual strength from fasting comes through obedience and faith. As we fast and pray, exercising our faith, we can be blessed with the increased power we need. As we fast, the strength of our testimonies will increase. We will have a desire to share them at fast and testimony meeting. As our children hear and feel our love of the gospel, they will also grow spiritually.
Examine how you prepare for fasting and what you do on fast Sunday. Try to increase the spirituality in your home. Remember how important attitude and preparation are to a successful fast.
Before presenting this lesson:
Study Gospel Principles chapter 25, “Fasting.”
Assign a class member to give a three-minute review of Gospel Principles chapter 25.
Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.