“They Had Given Themselves to Much Prayer and Fasting” – Alma 17:3

It’s easy to think of fasting as an event. It has a defined beginning—when we stop eating—and a defined end—when we start eating again. Many of ua also mark the beginning and the end of the fast with a prayer. But in describing the spiritual growth experienced by the sons of Mosiah during their fourteen-year mission, Mormon talks about fasting as a process:

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.

Alma 17:3

This past general conference, President Russell M. Nelson reminded us of this scripture when invited us to fast a second time for relief from the effects of COVID-19:

Tonight, my dear brothers and sisters, in the spirit of the sons of Mosiah, who gave themselves to much fasting and prayer, and as part of our April 2020 general conference, I am calling for another worldwide fast. For all whose health may permit, let us fast, pray, and unite our faith once again. Let us prayerfully plead for relief from this global pandemic.

Opening the Heavens for Help,” General Conference, April 2020

The message I got from President Nelson’s invitation was this: Fasting isn’t transactional. We don’t fast for a defined period so that God will give us a commensurate blessing, like earning a paycheck. Fasting is an activity which brings us closer to God so that we can receive His blessings. And fasting on a regular basis can have a cumulative effect of bringing us closer and closer to Him. No wonder the prophet Amaleki advised us to:

Come unto Christ…and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.

Omni 1:26

And no wonder Mormon describes the spiritual growth of the Nephites in about the year 37 B.C. this way:

They 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

Today, I will remember the importance of consistent fasting and prayer. Instead of thinking of each fast as an isolated event, I will strive to see fasting as part of an ongoing process of spiritual growth and growing closer to God. I will strive to “give myself” to fasting and prayer, so that those activities will more fully represent my desire to offer my whole soul as an offering to God.

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