A man whose son was possessed by an evil spirit had gone to some of the disciples of Jesus for help, but they were unable to cast out the evil spirit. Then, Jesus arrived and rebuked the evil spirit such that it immediately came out of the child. Afterward, the disciples ask Jesus, “Why could not we cast him out?” (Matthew 17:19, Mark 9:28) Jesus tells them that unbelief is a barrier and that faith is a requirement. But then He adds:

“This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)

So, in this particular case, prayer alone is not enough. Faith, though a requirement, is also not enough. In this case, in order to possess the power from God to overcome an evil spirit, preparation through prayer and fasting is required.

When Jesus began His ministry, He knew that He would be facing the devil and his demons on many occasions, so He prepared Himself through fasting and prayer for forty days! At the end of that time, the devil came and tempted Him to turn stones into bread, but Jesus was able to withstand the temptation to follow instructions of the devil rather than the word of God. He said to the devil, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

Desiring to receive power from God to withstand the evil one is one reason for fasting and prayer. But there are many other reasons why we might choose to participate in fasting and prayer. Here are a few from the scriptures:

To Be Used by God

While Moses was on Mt. Sinai, he fasted for forty days. At the end of that period, God used him to write upon tablets “the words of the covenant, the ten commandments” (Exodus 34:28).

For Souls to Come to Christ

Alma directed the members of the Church to “gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and mighty prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God” (Alma 6:6).

To Receive Insight from the Lord

The disciples of Jesus in America were unable to come to agreement on what name to call the Church, so they “united in mighty prayer and fasting.” Jesus then showed Himself to them and told them to name the Church after Him (See 3 Nephi 27:1-7).

For Things to Work Out Favorably

Queen Esther needed to speak to the king about sparing her people (the Jews) but the law forbade her to approach the king without being summoned. She arranged for all of the Jews to fast and pray for three days such that the king would be open to speaking to her. (See Esther 4:16.) On the third day, Esther entered the king’s chambers without being summoned, and the king permitted her to speak, and she was able to successfully present the case for the Jews to be spared.

If we think about the types of things that we typically pray for, it would appear that just about all of them can fit into one of the categories listed above. Based on that, it can be concluded that fasting and prayer is beneficial at any time, for any purpose.

So, make sure to have a regular frequency of fasting and prayer as part of your regimen of serving God. You don’t have to fast for forty days at a time, but make sure that you are participating to some extent. It could be the one extra thing you need to do in some cases to move the arm of God.

This article has undergone ministry review and approval.



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