Friday, April 10, 2020

Why you can't fast your way into getting what you want....

On the 7th of April, 2020, President Russell M. Nelson joined the Catholics on Good Friday by asking for a worldwide fast to "prayerfully plead for relief from this global pandemic." He also invited anyone not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to join.

Since then, people have been going to Facebook to declare "I will follow the prophet!" and with memes like this one, suggesting that fasting will bring the outcome we all want.

Unfortunately, this meme is a perfect example of why 256 character soundbytes can't effectively communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This particular meme was something said in a very specific circumstance regarding a very specific situation. It does not follow that it applies to something like fasting away a pandemic.

There is a growing trend among the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to virtue signal in lieu of bearing testimony.

Virtue signaling is similar to a peacock displaying his feathers. It's a sign to everyone around you that YOU are righteous, true, loyal. But true loyalty doesn't require a display. Bearing testimony, in contrast, is not focused on the believer, but on God and how we can serve Him. For example:

"I will be fasting because President Nelson asked me to!"
"When we fast, the Lord will bless us by lifting the COVID-19 pandemic."
"I have struggled with fasting before, but when I have humbled myself to fast in supplication, my heart has been softened to His will and I have been better able to serve those in need."
In the first two, the focus is on declaring personal righteousness and faith in a specific outcome that is dictated by our sacrifice. But God is not a vending machine. He is not a tame lion, and we don't know what He will do. In the third, the focus is on changing ourselves to be ready for whatever God has in mind, be that a specific outcome or not. THAT is the type of blessing that can be gained from fasting, but only if we fast and pray humbly.

After my husband left me, life was rough. I had little money and no sense of security. In an effort to make things get better, I began strict obedience to every possible good principle. Subconsciously, I believed that in a life where I had lost all control, I could control something by absolute obedience.

But obedience to God can not be a transaction. He does not dispense blessings based on our faithfulness. For all my obedience, I am still single with broken covenants in a life I would not have chosen for myself on any level. For all my anguished striving for perfection, I am still judged as unrighteous by those whom God has seen fit to bless as they walk the "covenant path."

How many people, with incontrovertible proof that God blesses as He wills, and not due to our exactness in obedience, would still love and serve him? Yet, eventually, if we want to be His disciples, that is exactly what He asks of us. Devotion, not because of blessings He gives us, but because we know who He is.

When He promised that He "is bound" when we do what He says, it was in regards to a very specific covenant made with very specific people. It means that when we make covenants with Him, the blessings attached to that covenant will come.

It does NOT mean that we can pray our way to getting what we want, like my teenaged daughter when she cleans the house so I will turn on her internet.

Prayer and fasting is a process by which we focus our minds and hearts in order to change ourselves, not in order to cajole God into granting us blessings.

When we pray and fast, let us do so with an attitude of humility, focusing on how we can change our hearts and actions to submit to God's will, and to be enlightened in ways we can help.

This pandemic WILL end. They always do. The outcome is already certain. The only thing we can change is who we are at the other end of it.


  1. Wonderful Inspiring and educational and just wonderful!

  2. This is not the first article I've read here, and even though it's been a while, I find myself once again thinking, this feels honest, courageous, intelligent and very insightful. Making it a point to come back here more often. Thank you for sharing your thought provoking and inspiring insights.

  3. SilverRain. You articulated something I have come to understand over the years. God will do what He knows to be best in most cases when our prayers for whatever cause ascend to Him. My wife and I pray nightly for an end to the current pandemic. I pray nightly asking God to heal my wife of the problems she has with her degenerating hip. Neither petition has been granted. It is not something I question the Lord about. I learned a few years to pray, then wait on the Lord and listen. A few years ago there was a situation which arose
    that my wife prayed about fervently then hired a lawyer to help achieve our desires, which we felt (and still do) were right and proper. We did not wait on the Lord and it went badly for us as our lawyer absconded with our money. That actually was a blessing because an event occurred which led to the fulfillment of our desires, a lot quicker than if the lawyer had pursued the legal path.

    However when I was burned very badly in November of last year and was not expected to live, there were a lot of people praying. I felt something or someone holding me as I came out my induced coma and I was lifted up alive. I am convinced that those prayers were heard and answered by the Lord. I was not healed but I am alive to let the natural healing process work as well as it can.

    I guess that there is a purpose under Heaven for me still being here. It just may be that I have pray to the Lord to spare me so that my wife will not be alone.

    Large numbers of very faithful people die every year despite prayers and blessings. I do not know why the prayers are not answered. And I do not know why.

    And so it was in the days of Jesus. He healed some, as did the Apostles later, but a lot more died all around them.

    It takes a lot of faith to keep on going in this life when bad things happen to oneself or loved ones when prayers do not help. I started to say courage and faith, but I am not a very courageous man.

    Thanks for your insights.


  4. Well, it is now September. I wish we could say this worked, but we probably won't hear about this fast for a while.

  5. One thing that you might find interesting is the origin of the couplet about obedience and exact obedience:

    According to Tanner Skousen, the phrase in question was spoken at an MTC talk given by Wendy Watson Nelson (not Elder) in May of 2011.

    Elder Nelson’s use of the same phrase shows up in a talk there four months later and then again in an MTC talk given in 2013.

    But it seems that the phrase did not originate with them.

    Sister Nelson used it a second time in a Boulder Colorado Stake Fireside on Feb. 3, 2013.

    According to an article written about that talk Sister Nelson said that the phrase came out of a conversation between a mission president and a missionary. And it was the young missionary who coined the couplet. You can read more about that here:

    So why is this couplet still being bandied about in regards to the gospel?

    I think this is another case of a catchy phrase being picked up because it’s catchy and arresting and then getting out of hand.


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