Jehovah's Witnesses are Christians, so like other Christians they recognize the role prayer and fasting have had in Christian and pre-Christian history. But Witnesses do differ from some groups in terms of the importance that they place on prayer and fasting -- and how regularly they engage in either practice.
Prayer of the Past
Much can be learned about prayer from Jesus Christ, whom Jehovah's Witnesses view as their Savior and King. Jesus prayed on multiple occasions, either aloud or silently, to express a multitude of feelings, such as thankfulness, grief and stress. Jesus even gave instructions about how to pray and what to pray for, as recorded in the writer Matthew's gospel, in the sixth chapter. And more than once Jesus told his disciples, "carry on prayer."
Fasting of Former Times
Jehovah's Witnesses also acknowledge that Jesus fasted and gave instructions to his disciples about how to fast. But the Witnesses also say that Jesus, while known as a man of prayer, was not known for fasting, and that he never commanded his disciples to fast -- although some of his disciples did fast, particularly after Jesus died. Sometimes the early Christians both fasted and prayed at the same time.
Relevance to Witness Life
The Witnesses believe prayer is extremely important and is essential for having a personal relationship with God, but they don't put as much importance on fasting as they do on prayer. However, their members are not prohibited nor necessarily discouraged from fasting, as long as they do so out of a pure motive -- to focus their energies on the spiritual and not make showy display of the fact that they're fasting.
Particular Concerns on Fasting
Even though Witnesses recognize fasting's place in Christian history and its possible benefits to people, they also offer warnings. They cite the apostle Paul who wrote about how some who treated their body severely did so out of fake humility. And Jesus Christ also warned about some first-century Jewish worshipers who fasted to make a show; and in so doing, wrongly felt superior to others. But the Witnesses make clear their belief that no amount of fasting -- or even praying, for that matter -- can "earn" someone a righteous standing before God.
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