From a Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit:
Remember His disciples who had been following Him, who were His faithful followers, those disciples couldn't fix this boy. Those disciples had given up everything to come and follow Him. They knew much more than this man. But their knowledge did them no good.
Jesus healed the boy. After the incident the disciples came to Him and said, "Why could we not cast him out?" Christ answered them and said, "This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting."
Why do you have to be afflicted by prayer and fasting, if you're a follower of the Lord, in order to get to the point you can accomplish this? Because you don't fall prostate, crying out with tears from a broken heart and a contrite spirit. If this man, in this condition, can say, "I believe, help thou mine unbelief." If this man can do this and have the Lord on his behalf work a miracle, you too can believe enough, you too can accomplish what you desire, you too can come to Him.
Matthew covers the same incident. This is Matthew chapter 17, beginning at verse 19: "Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting."
Faith as a grain of mustard seed is what the Lord said they needed. The defect does not consist in the absence of faith in the Lord. The defect is the arrogance and hardness of the heart that prevents you from crying out, in the realistic and anguish of your heart, looking to God who is trying to bring you to Him. That depth of humility, that status of being someone who is utterly harmless, that condition in which you present no threat to the righteous, you are harmless as a dove, and you seek only the betterment of others. That is who God is, and what you must become in order for God to be able to redeem you to be like Him. That involves you voluntarily changing to be that person, by your submission to Him. Because there is no reason to give to the proud, the vain, and the warlike, the ability to torment and to afflict others because they have authority from God. There is every reason to give authority only to someone who would ultimately be willing to give the rain to fall on the righteous and the wicked, and to make the sun shine on both the righteous and the wicked. They can be trusted with the power of God, because the power of godliness consists in this kind of a heart. And in this kind of heart God, can accomplish anything.
From The Second Comforter, Chapter 5
Christ touched upon the subject of getting answers to inquiries. He taught us to “ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matt. 7: 7–8.) Just before these promises about getting answers, He taught in the same sermon: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Id., 5: 6.) There is a direct relationship between “hunger and thirsting” for an answer, and the required “desire” to receive an answer.
Once again, the Book of Mormon’s plain superiority in explaining these connections comes through. Alma the High Priest taught: “Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.” (Alma 5: 46.) Here “fasting and praying for many days” is related to “the spirit of revelation which is in me.” The concept of “hungering and thirsting”72 and receiving answers to prayers are tied together here in a plain explanation of the path. When Alma the Younger met the Sons of Mosiah after years of separation, he observed: “They had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God. But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught they taught with power and authority of God.” (Id., 17:2–3.) This principle of asking and receiving on the one hand, and the spirit of prophecy and revelation on the other are directly related. Without an inquiry, you are not able to receive.
One brief comment on fasting: You may not be able to hunger and fast for many consecutive days. Not all of us are Gandhi. But if you reduce your caloric intake, live with “fasting” while still eating enough to subsist, you can subordinate the flesh to the spirit while still eating and maintaining health. And, most of all, you can do so without calling attention to yourself since fasting should always be a private matter. Sometimes it does take days to receive an answer. Do not abandon the powerful tool fasting can provide to you because you cannot fast for many consecutive days. Instead, “fast” while eating enough for subsistence, and you will find you can accomplish the same things without jeopardy to health. Many of us eat too much anyway, and reducing food may be a boon to physical as well as spiritual health. (Emphasis Added)
I wonder if this has anything to do with the revelation to Hyrum “he shall receive counsel from my servant Joseph, who shall show unto him the keys whereby he may ask and receive” (D&C 124:95)
Blog post reply to comments:
Fasting in the form of abstaining from all food and drink may not be practical for the elderly, those who are diabetic or ill. For some, refraining from food and drink is possible without any danger to their health, but if they choose to do so for more than a day, then eating once in the evening allows the fast to continue the next day. For someone unable to fast, but who can surrender some part of their diet–abstaining from all sweets, for example–it can serve the purpose. Underlying the idea of the fast are two things. First, submission to God. Second, aiding the poor. (Isa. 58: 6.) You can accomplish those purposes even if the "fast" you choose has nothing to do with food. However, our appetite for food is one of the most direct ways to discipline the will of the body. Remember though, it is your thoughts, not your belly, where the real battle is fought.
From The Second Comforter, Chapter 5
When the Lord came to visit the Nephites, the Father introduced Christ three times before the audience gathered in Bountiful could recognize the words He spoke. This voice was described in these terms: “It was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear it to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.” (3 Ne. 11: 3.) This is the Father’s voice. They had heard it before. It reminds anyone who hears it of their primordial existence, when as a spirit being you dwelt with Him. He is familiar to your spirit, because your spirit came from Him. Yet here in mortality, you have not yet seen Him. And so you are both familiar with Him and will recognize Him the instant you hear His voice again, and you are a stranger to Him because in the flesh you have not yet seen Him. That underlying spiritual familiarity with the Speaker is what caused the Nephites to “quake” to their “very soul.”
There is a veil to the flesh. This veil causes the spirit within us to forget what went before. But our spirits retain awareness of this Being. It is the longing for Him which makes mankind search for what is missing in their souls. It is why men resort to hero worship, and want celebrities and people who are ‘larger-than-life.’ We long for this Being whose seeming lack of presence has left us all incomplete here in mortality.
You may not be able to see Him here without first developing the faith to rend the veil, but you can still feel Him here anytime you are willing to do so. There is no veil to your feelings. Fasting helps in the process because it weakens the flesh, and thereby strengthens the spirit within. Similarly, as we grow old and infirm, the veil of this flesh draws thinner and our spirits are freed, in a measure, to greater promptings of the spirit.
This perfectly mild voice is generally not heard when it is in competition with the distractions, noises and offenses of daily life. You need time apart where you can listen. You will recollect Christ was often found apart, praying and meditating during His ministry. If Christ needed time for contemplation, prayer, and pondering, then how much greater need do we have to do the same?
From The Second Comforter, Chapter 9
To be most meaningful, sacrifice by one person should bless and benefit another person. When Isaiah taught the highest principles and aspirations of the law of the fast, he linked it to blessing others. This is exactly what the Church’s fast offering program allows the Saints to do. Isaiah wrote:
Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? (Isa. 58: 3–7, emphasis added.)
Here He is teaching the difference between meaningless sacrifice as a hollow religious observance, in contrast to relieving the suffering of others through your fasting (and sharing abundance). Helping and blessing others is the highest form of sacrifice. When you act to relieve the burdens of others, you are acting as Christ would. You are rising to another level of living where angels themselves dwell. You are becoming a “type” of Christ. It is not merely asking yourself “what would Jesus do?” but rather it is doing what Jesus did and commanded you to do. Action in conformity to commandments brings light into your life. You follow His path and you will be walking up that same mountain in which you, too, will be transfigured.
From The Second Comforter, Chapter 18
The Lord attempted to point the Saints toward understanding what He was providing to them in D&C 88: 119: “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.” The house was to be a seven-fold blessing to the Saints: 1) prayer; 2) fasting; 3) faith; 4) learning; 5) glory; 6) order; and 7) God. This list of seven, ties the mind back to the original list of seven in the creation. The number seven is a symbol of completion, perfection or the entirety of the matter. The Temple is, therefore, a complete, perfect and entire presentation of the Lord’s Gospel. This list, too, is a progression from one degree to another in grace, light and truth.
- Prayer prepares you to enter into the right frame of mind to receive these things.
- Fasting prepares your spirit and subdues the flesh.
- Faith grows from the prayer and fasting which precedes it and prepares you to learn.
- Learning in the highest sense comes from faith, fasting and prayer.
- This brings to you the “glory of God” or in other words “intelligence” or “light and truth.” As you receive further light and truth, you gain an appreciation for the order of heaven and earth.
- This order requires a ceremonial orientation and understanding.
- All of which prepare you for the presence of God, or the Second Comforter.
This seven-fold list is, therefore, a perfect whole and complete description of the Temple’s purpose.
From The Second Comforter, Chapter 20
We need more of those who say, “I know,” and testify, “I have seen,” and proclaim, “He lives!” Though authoritative declarations of doctrine may be limited to a single presiding office, the great confirming testimonies of witnesses of our Lord should be spread far and wide among us, as should the great abundance of the gifts of the Spirit. You need to join the chorus of witnesses and seek for and obtain the gifts of the Spirit. You need to become the greatest, most inspired, and Spirit-filled version of yourself. You were sent here to do that, and you rob your fellow Saints when you fail so to do.
The overwhelming majority of us will, ten minutes after death, regret we did not do more with this second estate. Our regrets will be because we did not seek more earnestly, pray more devoutly, fast more frequently, and gain a greater measure of truth and light than we gained here. Change that for yourself.
Blog post: Trust in Man:
Because if we had to rely only on something as flimsy [sarcasm] as the Holy Ghost to choose we would be forced to fast and pray, be humble and penitent to solve this terrible dilemma for us; working out our salvation with fear and trembling before God. (Philip. 2: 12.)
"Nevertheless they [the more humble part] did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God." (Helaman 3:35)
From Online Etymology Dictionary
fast (v.) "abstain from food," Old English fæstan "to fast" (as a religious duty), also "to make firm; establish, confirm, pledge," from Proto-Germanic *fastan "to hold fast, observe abstinence" (cognates: Old Frisian festia, Old High German fasten, German fasten, Old Norse fasta "abstain from food"), from the same root as fast (adj.).
The original meaning in prehistoric Germanic was "hold firmly," and the sense evolved via "have firm control of oneself," to "hold oneself to observance" (compare Gothic fastan "to keep, observe," also "to fast"). Perhaps the Germanic sense shifted through use of the native words to translate Medieval Latin observare in its sense "to fast." The verb in the sense "to make fast" continued in Middle English, but was superseded by fasten. Related: Fasted; fasting.
From blog post: Forty is a symbol
The number 40 appears in a several different places in the scriptures, almost always in the context of purging or purification. When the Lord destroyed the wicked at the time of Noah, He caused it “to rain upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.” (Genesis 7:4.) When Moses met with the Lord on the Mount, he was in the presence of the Lord “forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:18.) When Israel proved unprepared to inherit the promised land, the Lord left them in the wilderness for forty years. (Deuteronomy 8:2.)
Elijah was fed by an angel before being sent into the wilderness. After the meal, Elijah “went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.” (1 Kings 19:8.) In preparation for His ministry, the Lord likewise “fasted forty days and forty nights.” (Matthew 4:2.) That preparation culminated in angels ministering to the Him. (Matthew 4:11.)
In these examples, it is not a man volunteering or choosing to afflict his soul for forty days. The period of purification is imposed by the Lord. We do not get the choose to be purified through suffering for a period of forty days, or forty years, or any other amount of time. However, if the Lord chooses to purify a soul, and that suffering does last for forty days, you can take it as a sign that the purification was given of God.
I know people have tried to voluntarily afflict themselves for forty days. I think an effort like that shows a poor understanding of how God deals with man. We wait on Him. We submit to Him. Then He alone chooses.