From Cordell and Janice Vail

07 Dec 2003

Copyright 2003 by Cordell Vail, all rights reserved

A weekly email gospel message for the descendents of Ammon and Winona Vail

Fasting and Prayer

I thought because we are all fasting and praying for a blessing for Grandma Vail today that it would be appropriate to share some thoughts on fasting and prayer.

For me to truly understand fasting and prayer, I had to come first to a realization that we are not fasting "FOR" someone. We are fasting for ourselves to help us feel more humble and more in the spirit of prayer. What we are doing is PRAYING for people not fasting for them. To me that is a very important principle. I will have to admit that at first when I was young (at BYU) I had the attitude that I would fast every week until God gave them what I wanted. One time after fasting for 12 days about something, as I was standing in my trailer house on a Saturday morning feeling disappointed that I still had not received what it was that I wanted, I heard a very clear voice in my mind that said, "Cordell you cant blackmail me into giving you what you want by not eating". I was stunned. But I knew exactly what the Holy Ghost meant by those words. I was not trying to be humble and submissive and ask for what was right. I knew what I wanted and I was determined to get it because I knew the Lord could give it to me if He would. That changed my whole perspective on fasting and prayer. So after that I started to call what I had been doing "FASTING BLACKMAIL". I fear that still sometimes when I want something so bad that this is often the spirit of my fasting. I hope that I have finally come to realize now after all these years that fasting is to help us attune our self with the Lord. Then when we feel that spirit of humility and spiritual attunement with the Lord, the Lord then acting on OUR FAITH, can blesses us according to our faith and His will.

If we are fasting to try to help someone then it is the prayers we offer and faith we exert, not the fasting that can then actually bring us answers to our prayers. This is the case when we are fasting so we can pray for some one who is inactive in the church for example or in grave danger. I know from experience that fasting and then accompanied prayers and fait can in fact send a feeling to the person in answer to our prayer. I felt that powerfully from my family and friends both in Finland and in Vietnam (and many other times as well). But when we do pray for someone, then according to the laws of God, that person must act upon those feelings they receive from the spirit, according to their own free agency. That was the case where Alma the Older and the Elders of the Church fasted and Prayed Alma the Younger. They did not fast for Alma and the Sons of Mosiah, but rather because of their fasting were able to pray in faith, asking the Lord to help them. In answer to those prayers an angel went to Alma the younger and the Sons Of Mosiah and gave them a choice. But he did not take away their free agency. We must be ever mindful that, as we fast to gain the humility and spiritual insight to pray that we then pray to ask for what the Lord would have done not what we want. That is the true power of united prayer.

It is my feeling then, that fasting is to help us increase our own faith. It helps us to feel the feelings of humility and sacrifice. The building of our own faith then helps us to come to the point where we have sufficient spiritual insight to ask and expect then in righteousness to receive an answer is the power of prayer and is what fasting is all about. That is why I hesitate to ever say that I am fasting for someone.

For some fasting is easy and can extend beyond two meals without physical harm. For others it is very difficult. The actual frequency or length of the fasting is a very personal matter and really has very little to do with food or length of time. It has only to do with what it takes for us to obtain a state of faith and humility. That is possible for a person to do even if they are required to continue to eat food while they fast (for example someone who is pregnant or is diabetic). Fasting often makes people have headaches. I heard an inspiring thought from President Boyer, the President of the London Temple in a talk I heard there on the way home from my mission in Finland. He said if you are fasting and start to be sick and can not go to the fridge and get a small glass of orange juice or eat a small bowl of soup so you wont be sick and then go on fasting then you do not understand fasting. I also have noticed in the beautiful promises that come from fasting in Isaiah 58 , that the word "FOOD" is never mentioned. I love to read that chapter an just contemplate the possibility of those blessings being a part of my life.

Fasting is such a personal thing to each of us that we must be very careful in asking others to fast in the same way or for the same length of time as we fast. We each have to fast in our own way. We must be careful that we not dictate to them HOW TO FAST. Rather we need to teach them the principle of the fast and let them then use it as a tool to help them increase their faith and power of prayer in their lives.

Here are some of my favorite quotes on fasting and prayer and the blessings that come from paying fast offerings:

Jacob 4:6
Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.

Alma 6:6
Nevertheless the children of God were commanded that they should gather themselves together oft, and join in fasting and might prayer in behalf of the welfare of the souls of those who knew not God

Galatians 6:2
Bear ye one anothers burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ

D&C 29:6
And, as it is written--Whatsoever ye shall ask in faith, being united in prayer according to my command, ye shall receive. (Notice here it is united in PRAYER but of course there are several in the Book of Mormon that include FASTING and PRAYER)

D&C 50:29
29 And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done. (That is some promise... but also some conditional clause !!!!)

D&C 88:63-65
63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
64 Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you;
65 And if ye ask anything that is not expedient for you, it shall turn unto your condemnation.
(And there is the important point.... not to ask the Lord to take away their free agency)

(I love the word WHATSOEVER!!!!! That is a very big word. There are of course many other scriptures listed in our book on fasting and prayer)

President Marion G. Romney,
Welfare Services Meeting,
Held in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square
Saturday, 7 Apr. 1973, 7:30 a.m.

“Let us not forget (helping the poor and needy), brothers and sisters, in this age when the matter of living from the labors of somebody else is almost universal. IT WON'T LAST. When you get more idle than there are workers, there won't be enough to go around. We must be builders of character in our distribution as well as our production....WHEN we make all of these work (the three welfare programs of the Church), brothers and sisters, as they should, to the blessing of those who give and the glorification of those who receive, WE WILL BE READY FOR THE COMING OF THE SAVIOR....”


President Marion G. Romney,
Conference Report, Apr. 1974 pages 176-180

“We ought, and we must do better. If we will DOUBLE OUR FAST OFFERINGS, we shall increase our own prosperity, both spiritually and temporally....”


President Spencer W. Kimball,
Conference Report, Oct. 1974, pg. 184.

“Sometimes we have been a bit penurious and figure that we had for breakfast one egg and that cost so many cents, and then we give that to the Lord. I think that when we are affluent, as many of us are, that we ought to be very, very generous....I think we should be generous and give, instead of the amount we saved by our two meals of fasting, perhaps, much, much more - TEN TIMES MORE - where we are in a position to do it. I know there are some who couldn't.”


President Spencer W. Kimball
Conference Report, Oct. 1977 pg. 126.

“If we give a generous fast offering, we shall increase our own prosperity both spiritually and temporally.”


Pres. Marion G. Romney,
Ensign, July 1982, pgs. 2-4.

“One of the important things the Lord has told us to do is to be liberal in our payment of fast offerings. I would like you to know that there are great rewards for so doing--both spiritual and temporal rewards. THE LORD HAS SAID THAT THE EFFICACY OF OUR PRAYERS DEPENDS UPON OUR LIBERALITY TO THE POOR.(See Alma 34:28) ....Givers must give out of a righteous heart and with a willing spirit. Receivers must receive with thankfulness and gladness of heart....We should all give some attention to the matter of fasting. WE HAVEN'T REALLY CALLED ON THE LORD SO THAT WE CAN REACH HIM INTIMATELY IF WE DON'T FAST OCCASIONALLY, AND PRAY OFTEN. Many of our personal problems can be solved by so doing ....Pay an honest tithing and a generous fast offering if you want the blessings of heaven. I promise every one of you who will do it that you will increase your own prosperity, both spiritually and temporally. The Lord will reward you according to your deeds.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ And here is my most favorite story about fasting of all time:

"The determination of the early American settlers to live the lives of practicing Christians, brought some rather amazing blessings.

In October of 1746, France assembled the largest fleet ever to be sighted from American soil and headed for Boston to avenge the defeat at Louisburg. There was no hope of matching the fleet either in cannon fire or manpower, so the Governor assembled what men and resources he could and then called for a universal day of fasting and prayer. One writer says, "ever where men observed it, thronging to the churches. In Boston the Reverend Thomas Prince from the high pulpit of the Old South Meting house, prayed before hundreds. The mourning was clear and calm, people had walked to church through sunshine. "deliver us from our enemy!" the minister implored. "Send Thy tempest, Lord, upon the waters to the eastward! Rise Thy right hand, Scatter the ships of our tormentors and drive them hence. Sink their proud frigates beneath the power of Thy winds!"

"He had scarcely pronounced the words when the sun was gone and the morning darkened. All the church was in a shadow. A wind shrieked around the walls, sudden, violent, hammering at the windows with a giant hand. No man was in the steeple - afterward the sexton swore it - yet the great bell struck twice, a wild, uneven sound. Thomas Prince paused in his prayer, both arms raised, "We hear Thy voice, O Lord!" he thundered triumphantly. "We hear it! Thy breath is upon the waters to the eastward, even upon the deep. Thy bell tolls for the dead of our enemies!" He bowed his head; when he looked up, tears streamed down his face. "Thine be the glory, Lord. Amen and amen!"

"&.All the province heard of this prayer and this answering tempest. Governor Shirley sent a sloop, the Rising Sun, northward for news&.she brought news so good it was miraculous - if on could believe it&. The whole fleet was nearly lost, the men very sick with scurvy, or some pestilential fever. Their great admiral the Duc d"Anville, was dead.

"A week later the news was confirmed by other vessels entering Boston from the northeastward. D'Anville was indeed dead; it was said he had poisoned himself in grief and despair when he saw his men dying round him. Two thousand were already buried, four thousand were sick, and not above a thousand of the land forces remained on their fleet. Vice-Admiral d"estournelle had run himself through the heart with his sword. The few remaining ships, half-manned, were limping off to the southwestward, headed it was thought for the West Indies.

"Pestilence, storm and sudden death - hew directly and with what extra-ordinary vigor the Lord had answered New England prayers!

"The country fell on its knees& A paper with d'Anvill's orders had been found, instructing him to take Cape Breton Island, then proceed to Boston - 'lay that Town in Ashes and destroy all he could upon the Cost of North America; then proceed to the West Indies and distress the Islands."

JOHN ADAMS by Catherine Drinker Bowen
Grosset & Dunlap, N.Y. 1950

NOTE: Nothing in any of these Sunday Sermons is intended to represent the official doctrines of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are strictly instructions and teachings from Cordell and Janice Vail to their family.

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