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Every diesel has an electric solenoid that shuts the fuel off when you turn the key off. I suspect that is your problem but I don't know where it is exactly on a Ford. It should be mounted on or near the injector pump.
when you turn on switch u should hear fuel pump kick on for few seconds if no sound check for power at connection that connects to sending unit. you have to have someone turn switch to see if light tester lights up for first 2 to 3 seconds. If you have power to that point problems in a bad fuel pump.
It sounds like you are talking about a diesel engine as gas engines are self priming. Lift pump or primer pump may be defective. Check for loose fittings or lines and damaged o-rings at filter housing. Sounds like you are sucking air somewhere.
change the filter first. IF the pumpwas bad it wouldnt start at all. It could be going bad but the only way to really test it is to pull your gas tank and at that rate you may as well replace it.
you could have a clogged injector causing the lack of fuel as well. you can try injector cleaner, Lucas is my personal preference I use it at every fill-up. 4-6oz per tank of gas depending on your tank size.